By Karen Kelly
Photos by Ainslie Coghill

Carleton University and the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun (NND) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on Indigenous and Northern studies, post-secondary education, research and access for learners during a virtual ceremony on Sept. 9, 2020.

Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon was joined online by Chief Simon Mervyn, who was in the Yukon.

President Benoit-Bacon Antoine

President Benoit-Antoine Bacon

“Carleton University is deeply honoured by the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation’s invitation to be a partner in education and research and we very much look forward to learning together in the spirit of our Kinàmàgawin strategy,” said Bacon.

“Carleton University is committed to co-creating and sharing knowledge with Indigenous Peoples to shape a better future for everyone, and I want to thank Chief Mervyn and everyone involved in bringing this important partnership to life.”

Chief Simon Mervyn

Chief Simon Mervyn

Mervyn shared the community’s history and discussed the importance of the 1973 document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. He also emphasized that the First Nation will lead the choice of areas of research, the choice of researchers, involve local people, and be a repository for the research results.

“Today, we celebrate a partnership that will promote the advancement of higher education, research, and training in ways that are beneficial to us, our students and the university,” said Mervyn. “Together, we will build educational and training opportunities that reflect our culture, language and knowledge.”

The virtual event included traditional music and an introductory prayer. It was moderated by Prof. Kahente Horn-Miller of Carleton’s School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies. She explained the agreement was rooted in the 40-year relationship between Prof. Christopher Burn of Northern Studies, his students and the people of Na-Cho Nyak Dun. Burn studies the effects of climate change with people in the region.

Prof. Christopher Burn, Prof. Kahente Horn-Miller and President Bacon

Prof. Christopher Burn, Prof. Kahente Horn-Miller and President Bacon

“This agreement is all about sustainability,” said Burn.

“I think this is one area where we may make a helpful contribution together. With your intimate and traditional knowledge and our abstract approach, together we will enjoy every step of the journey.”

Burn expressed his appreciation for the opportunity his students will have to work with Mervyn, his staff and the welcoming community of Mayo, Yukon.

The research and learning partnership will draw on both traditional Indigenous knowledge and non-Indigenous knowledge to inform and enrich research and teaching. Projects will be designed by—and attributed to—both parties.

The parties will also respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and NND’s Self-Government Agreement.

This Memorandum of Understanding will be in effect for an initial seven-year term with the possibility of renewal.

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