Unique partnership creates Canada’s first urban reserve devoted to education

By Greg Campbell Posted: February 14, 2019 12:05 p.m.

Chief Michael Starr of the Star Blanket Cree Nation receives congratulations from The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, on the creation of Canada’s first urban reserve devoted to education. Behind them are (left to right) Dave Button, Vice-President (Administration) of the University of Regina, Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
Chief Michael Starr of the Star Blanket Cree Nation receives congratulations from The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Indigenous Services, on the creation of Canada’s first urban reserve devoted to education. Behind them are (left to right) Dave Button, Vice-President (Administration) of the University of Regina, Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. Photo: External Relations

The atrium of First Nations University of Canada was full yesterday morning for a historic signing ceremony. The crowd was there to witness the signing of a partnership agreement that officially grants urban reserve status to First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv). The partnership between Star Blanket Cree Nation, First Nations University of Canada, University of Regina, Government of Saskatchewan, Government of Canada, City of Regina and CIBC creates Canada’s first urban reserve specifically for the advancement of education. The new reserve is called atim kâ-mihkosit, which translates to Red Dog.

“A big part of this for FNUniv is the legislative rights and opportunities it brings,” said Vice-President (Administration) Dave Button, who signed the partnership agreement on behalf of the University of Regina. "It's also huge symbolically as it deals with identifying lands as part of the long-standing Treaty Land Entitlements."

On June 21, 2003, FNUniv’s predecessor, the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC), officially changed its name to the First Nations University of Canada. When SIFC first opened its doors in the fall of 1976, it had nine students and offered programs in Indian Studies, Indian Languages, Indian Teacher Education, Social Work, Fine Arts (Indian Art, Indian Art History) and Social Sciences.

The quest for urban reserve status was started by Chief Cliff Star of the Star Blanket Cree Nation in 2002. Since then, FNUniv has grown to average annual enrolments of 3,000 and 30,000 learners have made the institution part of their educational path. 

“We’re very pleased with this development,” said Button. “It doesn’t change our academic relationship with FNUniv at all. The fact that it builds and enhances one of our federated partners makes it good for us as well.”