Tshakapesh Symposium: Preserving Indigenous Culture Through Education

Rio Tinto demonstrates its commitment to First Nations people in a number of ways. For instance, it forges strong ties with various organisations and serves as a key partner for them. As part of the recent Tshakapesh symposium, Rio Tinto established a $30,000 partnership with UQAC, paving the way for other initiatives in support of First Nations communities. These include the research chair on the indigenisation of higher education ($1.5 million over five years in 2021) and the First Nations Culture Pavilion, commonly known as the Centre des Premières Nations Nikanite, ($2.6 million in 2016).

“Over the years, we’ve established several partnerships with Rio Tino, especially in the area of research […],” said Romain Cunat, Partnership Advisor, Vice-Rector’s Office, Partnerships, International and Indigenous Affairs at UQAC. “Its commitment to First Nations has included a major contribution to build the First Nations Culture Pavilion—a meaningful gesture in support of Indigenous students. A year ago, we also announced a major partnership on the indigenisation of higher education […] and, more recently, we received support for the Tshakapesh symposium,” he added.  

The symposium featured some 15 talks and workshops on various themes including the preservation of the Innu language and its transmission to youth, the indigenisation of knowledge, cultural safety in education and the integration of Indigenous history and culture into school curriculums.  The symposium was also an opportunity to highlight the contributions of the many UQAC professors who conduct research with Indigenous communities in the areas of education, language, humanities and social science.

 “The symposium is a way to share best practices on promoting access to higher education. It gives us the chance to seek out innovative and inspiring ideas and discover new ways of improving our programs for First Nations to promote cultural safety, from admission to graduation,” explained Guylaine Malaison, Director, Training Centres and Head of the First Nations Culture Pavilion.

Rio Tinto’s support of the Tshakapesh symposium through the partnership with UQAC reflects the company’s dedication to the development and empowerment of First Nations youth and its commitment to implementing best practices when it comes to integration, listening and adaptation.

“We see our collaboration with UQAC as a springboard that can help First Nations youth pursue their education […],” said Sabrina Tremblay, Director, Relations with First Nations, Quebec Operations at Rio Tinto. “The symposium shed light on the preservation of First Nations culture, language and history as the cornerstone of education and all its facets. It was highly informative for us not only in terms of education but also in terms of best practices in our business. The great meetings we had and everything we learned left us with a sense that we could be part of the solution. Many members of the Rio Tinto team were in attendance.”