First Nations University: the winter of discontent

The Carillon, Vol. 52, Issue 24 | April 15 – May 26, 2010

Background: In 2010, after years of corruption, misspending, and infighting, the provincial and federal governments withdrew funding from FNUniv. The province restored its funding in February, but the federal government would withhold funding until June. Millions of dollars and the future of the university’s unique academic culture, curriculum, faculty, staff, and students were left hanging in the balance.

This seven-page feature, the last under my tenure as features editor, discusses the funding crisis, student activism, political turmoil, the post-2005 staff exodus, the singular contributions of FNUniv to the national academic stage, and the history of FNUniv from 1976 to April 2010.

Returning home: Pete appointed to FNUniv presidency after ouster

“I come from a family of educators. My grandmother left the reserve at 14 to get teacher training and she had to ask for a permit to leave the reserve to become an educator. I often think about her as a 14-year-old, saying to herself, I want something better for my kids than what I had as a residential school kid, and her commitment to go away and become a teacher.”

Dr. Shauneen Pete began a six-month term as president of First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) on April 1, in the aftermath of former president Charles Pratt’s unceremonious termination on March 19. She has been very visible over the past few months, participating in marches and rallies at the provincial legislature, and now hopes that in her new position she may be able to preserve FNUniv for future generations. She reflected on her life as a First Nations mother, student, activist, academic, and administrator in an interview on Friday.

Pete earned her B.Ed. in the Indian Teacher Education Program at the University of Saskatchewan in 1989, and nine years later completed her M.Ed. in Education Administration. During those years, Pete became a mother and was immersed in activism for aboriginal education.

“I never intended to be an activist. I was a single mother and a First Nations person at the University of Regina, and it became really clear that a number of issues needed to be addressed. One was the big post-secondary funding issue; as a student leader, I helped coordinate protests on Indian Affairs, which is actually kind of funny, if you think about where we are now.”

The INAC post-secondary program in place at the time, she said, was insufficient, and women with children were adversely affected as a result. “Education is a way to get out of poverty, so that led to my becoming an activist, because we were struggling as single moms, trying to make a better life for our children.”

After she got her Masters, Pete went to the University of Arizona, and was awarded a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration in 2001. She worked at the U of S for four years after returning from Arizona, and then managed to enter the tenure track at the U of R.

Although her chief focus throughout her academic career was indigenous education, she found it difficult to find a job in the area of administration, so Pete transitioned into studying and teaching about indigenous and gender issues in education. Pete reflected on the friction that she encountered during her time working in mainstream institutions.

“My predominantly white, female, middle-class students experienced that curriculum in different ways. They experienced a great deal of denial, they would minimize issues of sexism and racism in their own lives … They received a curriculum in K-12 that was very limiting, which didn’t expose them to difference.

“I was often the first brown person that ever taught them.”

Pete moved to FNUniv when she was appointed to the position of academic vice-president in the spring of 2007, and during her tenure there fought for recognition of gender issues within the university. She was dismissed in January 2009 on what then-president Charles Pratt referred to as an “internal personnel matter,” at which point she expressed concerns about how the administration was being run.

Pete declined to comment on her departure, except to say that she bears no grudges. “It’s actually reminded me that I need to be a more compassionate person,” she said.

She said that while FNUniv faces numerous challenges, the institution is worth fighting for every step of the way, particularly in the face of strong student activism during the crisis.
“I commend [the students] every day. They didn’t just inspire me – my own levels of activism these past two months – but they’ve inspired my daughter’s activism. I have a 15-yearold in grade 10, and she’s slept over here at the live-in … It’s affected our entire family.

“I believe this is a great, long-lasting school. I have to believe that; otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen to be here.”

Reform and renewal against all odds: Efforts and rallies continue despite funding crisis

While frenzied anxieties over federal funding at FNUniv have cooled slightly so that students can focus on exams, the fact remains that the institution faces disaster without a funding renewal after Aug. 31.

The federal government has left the door open for $3 million so that students can complete their studies up until the end of the summer, but many students are still hopeful that the institution may be saved.

“That was kind of a low blow for the students,” said Cadmus Delorme, vice-president communications for the FNUniv Students’ Association (FNUniv-SA), on the partial funding issue. “The money coming back to us is definitely a positive, but it doesn’t help us out any; we’re asking for something long-term.

“We can’t even apply for it,” Delorme said. “It gets applied for by the University of Regina, which then offers it to us, so it definitely doesn’t help us out any that the federal government is trying to make the public think they’re giving money back, but it’s not as good as it sounds.”

Delorme argued that the federal government’s prolonging FNUniv’s existence is motivated by political expedient rather than a genuine concern for students.

“I think they want us to die slowly,” he said. “There’s probably going to be an election in the fall and they’re trying not to look like the bad guys about this, but I don’t believe that they envision this university as something that Canada needs from their point of view. They’re all the way over in Ottawa, so they get a lot of their information at that level, and they don’t realize how big of a commitment this university is to the economy of the prairies.”

While the FNUniv student live-in has petered down to 18 people after more than three weeks, Delorme said, efforts and rallies will continue unabated.

“We’ve been writing letters nonstop, we have supporters writing letters non-stop, we’ve been preparing our next rally. We’ve been trying to educate the public on how the federal government is not really doing what they’re saying; they’re trying to get off the hook here.”

“The mismanagement is behind us. We have good people working there, the ones who stuck through it all and believe in that place … I definitely believe that we have the experts looking after us, and our staff that have stuck through it all definitely have the students and the best interests of the university in mind, so that’s behind us.”

Aboriginal academy: FNUniv essential for indigenous scholarship

While FNUniv is home to hundreds of students, faculty, and staff, it is also home to a unique academic culture that took 34 years to build and cannot be found elsewhere in Canada. While increasing acceptance and inclusion in mainstream universities remains an important goal, the Carillon spoke with two academics who argue that retaining a separate space for the indigenous academy is essential. Closure, they say, would be disastrous.

“There’s 34 years’ worth of development of programs and of scholars, and it takes a while to attract and develop a cohort of scholars who are specialists in those areas,” said Dr. Joyce Green, a professor of political science at the U of R who specializes in aboriginal-settler relations and the prospects of decolonization.

Green has long been engaged in promoting indigenization at the U of R. “Indigenizing the academy” entails the introduction of indigenous epistemologies, understandings, and narratives into traditional academic culture. Green isn’t alone, and indeed, current FNUniv president Shauneen Pete embarked on a similar project during her tenure at the U of R.

However much racism may be expunged and the academy may become indigenized, Green said, there will always be a need for places like FNUniv. “In a colonial society, the relationship between indigenous and settler peoples is always misunderstood, it’s mythologized … and FNUniv gives students a safe environment to learn about this relationship and therefore be able to say how they want that relationship to be changed.

“That kind of scholarship has been mostly marginal.”

Dr. Blair Stonechild, department head and professor of indigenous studies at FNUniv, agreed, saying that FNUniv’s unique curriculum and culture are valuable in large part due to their separateness.

“Critics tend to say you can have an Indian studies program, you can have aboriginal faculty, you can have an aboriginal chancellor, but it’s not really the same thing as an institution where it’s controlled, run, and owned by First Nations people. That’s the kind of thing that we always felt was different.

“If you’re in a large university, you can indigenize as much as you want, but the fact is that aboriginal students usually want to be among other aboriginal students, which is not to say that indigenizing is bad, but that it’s not the same thing.”

Stonechild pointed out that many students attend FNUniv as a means of healing old wounds from the residential school system, and that closure of the institution would leave many stranded.

“The legacy of the education system is one in which education was designed to destroy aboriginal identity. It openly did that; it was the stated purpose of education up until the 1970s. The point of education since then has been to enhance the identity of the student. If you destroy the identity of the student, then they’re probably not going to come out of the experience feeling very good about it or being successful. [At FNUniv], the reason that we’ve been successful is because we’re responding to that particular need.

“There’s a desire in the human psyche to be in a place where you feel secure and meaningful … and for some people that’s more important than others.”

Green argued that the closure of FNUniv will endanger the heritage of First Nations who can find no hospitable post-secondary institutions. Under these circumstances, Green argued that “beads-and-feathers culture” might be superficially preserved, while the deeper epistemologies, and lingual and cultural heritages, would be lost. The programming and curriculum almost certainly couldn’t be reproduced elsewhere.

“I think there are people who are going to find themselves in terrible circumstances, but on top of that the federal government is not willing to fund indigenous scholarship, which allows people to understand their collective history, and thus be able to define and change contemporary relationships.

“I think that the federal government supports the idea that First Nations individuals can go to any institution they want and get their individual education, and expect them to move on into the world. That is the old recipe for assimilation.”

“We were on the verge of greatness.” FNUniv will never be the same, says former registrar

There has been a massive exodus, often public and controversial but sometimes silent and unspoken, from the halls of FNUniv over the past five years. Over 60 people have been fired, resigned, or retired from FNUniv since the February 2005 firings controversy, representing well over a quarter of the roughly 200 full-time permanent faculty and staff. The vast majority have not returned.

Diedre Desmarais spent 22 years at SIFC/FNUniv, first as a student and later as the registrar, until she was ousted in late 2006. She recalled the institution that she used to call home in an interview with the Carillon.

Desmarais’ Métis background had always marked her as different; she had three sets of friends – white, aboriginal, and Métis – that never intermixed. She sought out a place where she could belong, and entered a political science degree at SIFC in 1984.

“They had the powwow … they had dances, the faculty and students would get together and we would just have a lot of fun … I wanted to be a part of that. I was in a place where there were other people like me.”

But beyond the insular environment of the SIFC, Desmarais and other students often felt uncomfortable in the larger world of the U of R. Northern aboriginal students often experienced culture shock, as did many others who were unfamiliar with city life, said Desmarais. There was also often hostility or contempt.

“It was very shocking for them to be confronted with the racism that is inherent to being in Regina.” Sometimes, she said, they would be the subjects of subtle ridicule or snide comments in the hallways.

Desmarais became the acting registrar in 1992 and soon officially occupied the position while also working on her M.A. in political science. However, the former quickly became all-consuming as enrolment numbers skyrocketed in the middle of the decade.

“We worked our asses off,” she laughed. “We had 1,600 students, we had a number of programs all over Canada, we had international programs … There were stressful times, because we were underfunded and understaffed [but] we worked really hard because we were committed to each other.”

Desmarais said that while there could be heated arguments among administration members, everyone had a sense of perspective. “We had our internal problems … but the Board left us alone, and we did our work.” She said that she had never experienced any serious internal troubles during her tenure as registrar.

Desmarais went on education leave to pursue her PhD in Jan. 2005, a month before Morley Watson, in his capacity as the chair of the Board of Governors, dismissed several administrators, copied faculty and student records from university computers, and removed staff from their offices. Desmarais described this as a “coup” that marked the beginning of FNUniv’s decline.

Desmarais took leave without pay the following year in order to complete her comprehensive exams, and was prepared to return at the beginning of 2007. However, she said, when Desmarais encountered her boss, then vice-president academic Dr. Bernard Selinger, in the atrium, and told him that if there were no other position for her she would simply return to her old position, he simply said that it wouldn’t happen. On the afternoon of Oct. 24, she received a registered letter informing her that she was terminated without cause, and offered a six months’ severance.

At the age of 53, Desmarais had lost, not only her livelihood, but her benefits, medical coverage, life insurance, and was eventually forced to sell her house. She was replaced by Florence Watson, the sister-in-law of Morley Watson, who had replaced finance director Kim Sinclair following the crisis in February 2005.

These days, Desmarais is working on her PhD in political science, with a focus on issues of Métis and aboriginal health, at the U of R. She said that she misses FNUniv but doesn’t feel that she could go back. “I felt like I was banished from my community,” she said.

Desmarais said that she doesn’t know whether FNUniv can recover in the face of funding uncertainties and dropping enrolments creating a vicious cycle. “[Students] are not going to enrol if they think the institution isn’t going to survive, and without enrolment, the state can say: you have no students.”

With the exodus of numerous academics and administrators, she said, a great deal has already been lost. Even if FNUniv recovers, it will never be the institution that it was before 2005. “We were on the verge of greatness,” she said, “but it will never be the same.”

Depoliticizing the board: History researcher says further reform necessary

While FNUniv continues to reform itself in the aftermath of major administrative and Board shakeups, and withers in the heat of the funding crisis, voices from all sides are calling for new measures and fixes. However, according to a researcher of FNUniv’s history, what’s really needed is the revival of older aspirations.

Rob Nestor, an FNUniv librarian who has been writing a thesis on FNUniv’s history, argued in an interview with the Carillon that the continued reform of the Board of Directors is essential to FNUniv’s survival and health. “It’s clear that the only way we can move forward comes back to issues of accountability and a non-politicized board like we’ve gone towards already,” he said.

But this is not a new idea, he said; in fact, it goes back to the founding of the board.

“Even the way the board was first constructed, having chiefs on the board, right from the get-go there was a politicized board. What’s interesting, and the record shows this, is that in those first meetings held to create this new board, a number of the chiefs of FSIN commented about how ‘we need to be serving our communities and not serving on this board.’

“The transition never happened; at those early stages, the chiefs were aware, ‘we’re the only people here right now who can do this, so we’ll take on that responsibility, but really it’s our communities we’re supposed to be serving, and over time it should be phased out as our role.’

“Their role on that board wasn’t necessarily always their only agenda, the only thing on their plate … But certainly, without those boards in the past, we wouldn’t have gotten those buildings built, without people on the board who had those abilities to make the move possible.”

Nestor argued that while the corruption over the past five years was driven more by particular individuals than by any systemic deficit, the way that financial crises have exploded over relatively small problems reveals deep-seated issues that must be addressed.

“Even if [those accused of fraud are] found guilty, it’s a small amount of money. What happened to the institution after that, I think that sort of brings into question the politics of things … certainly these things happen, but other universities don’t spiral into this abyss that we’re moving towards, over the misappropriation, whether it happened or not, of a handful of dollars.”

The first 30 years: a startling success story

“We were considered a big experiment because we went far beyond any other idea at the time; rather than just a university department, we actually had the idea that we could be an institution with a range of programs.”

Blair Stonechild, department head and professor of indigenous studies, has worked at FNUniv almost since the beginning. He started in December 1976, when the institution was still known as the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC), and an aboriginally-run university degree program was considered by many to be a pipe dream. It almost didn’t happen.

The idea had been in the works for a while. The Union of Saskatchewan Indians crystallized from an assortment of aboriginal organizations in 1947, and restructured into the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians in 1958. The organization released a policy paper in 1972, calling for “Indian Control of Indian Education,” the same year that the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College was established.

Dr. Lloyd Barber, then the president of the U of R, was an enthusiastic supporter of the idea, and worked with native leader David Ahenakew to make the dream a reality. In his capacity as Indian Claims Commissioner, Barber had formed relationships with FSIN representatives, while at the same time holding the position of vice-president at the University of Saskatchewan, according to Rob Nestor, an FNUniv librarian who is writing a dissertation on the institution’s history.

“The FSI approached the University of Saskatchewan about some sort of partnership, and Barber lobbied on their behalf, to have this institution created, in order to remedy what Dr. Barber called ‘academic arrogance,’” said Nestor. The lobbying effort failed, but when Barber became the president of the U of R, he saw his chance.

“We have the new University of Regina, he becomes the new president, and he wants to do things differently,” said Nestor. Barber and Ahenakew managed to get momentum going on the project. “They come together and decide that they’re going to create this institution that becomes known as SIFC here in Regina. It will open its doors in 1976 with a handful of students … and then things just expanded from there.”

In 1976, the SIFC was established in a rented space in the Classroom Building, with class sizes in the single digits and an enrolment of roughly 30 in the first year. The college would later move to College West; at one point the faculty offices were located in a mouse-ridden trailer where the daycare centre is today.

“People were skeptical when it started because they thought of things like the black college model in the United States,” said Stonechild, “and a lot of people accused black colleges of being not up to the par.”

But support among First Nations for a separate college with a university degree program was strong, and administration and faculty were successful in negotiating the First Nations’ desires with the demands of academic rigour. “They [FSI] gave us direction on what they wanted for curriculum and that sort of thing; on the other hand, we had to contend with the academic expectations of the university,” said Stonechild.

The fledgling college swiftly developed a unique set of programming, with Indian arts and languages becoming degree programs in 1979. Seven years later, the college would begin offering the world’s first and perhaps only graduate-level degree in Indian Art. Curriculum was also developed in conjunction with native elders for business programs with graduates geared towards reserve administration.

1980s. Federal funding, now the subject of so much controversy, was absent for the first several years of the institution’s history. “During the first six years of the college’s existence … it was actually funded by the province,” said Nestor.

“The federal government didn’t really want to touch us. But around 1982, there were constitutional conferences, there was a lot of political fighting about whether or not the constitution could be repatriated and the First Nations were going to block the constitution.” It was in this tumultuous climate that David Ahenakew succeeded in extracting funding for the SIFC from the federal government. Enrolment numbers continued to climb and there was discussion over establishing a separate space for the institution. However, it wasn’t until the end of the decade that major coordinated efforts were underway. The college’s reputation continued to expand.

1990s. “In the ’90s we were increasingly looked at by other universities as being examples of leading-edge program development, including research, because it seemed like all sorts of other agencies and universities wanted to partner with us,” said Stonechild. “There was much greater acknowledgement of aboriginal self-governing institutions, and this place was always singled out for being an example of an academic institution that was controlled by First Nations.” SIFC’s success during those years, he said, was hailed as a positive example of aboriginal self-determination.

2000s. 2003 was a landmark year for the institution, marking its rechristening as FNUniv and transition to the new building. Provincial and federal governments provided most of the money for the construction of the building, with the rest being fundraised from private sources. While staff, administration, and the federated-college arrangement with the U of R remained the same, FNUniv would not be embedded and concealed within the buildings of the main campus. Spirits were high as Prince Edward led the opening ceremony, and the future seemed bright.

Stonechild and others who remember the first 30 years of SIFC/FNUniv’s success are often at a loss for words when they try to describe how much has changed.

“If you were a student back then and you were looking at the media, you wouldn’t be seeing any stories about corruption or incompetence,” said Stonechild. “Students who have entered the university in the last five years don’t remember the good times, but there were 30 years before that … I think we went off track and we need to get back onto it.”

The first 30 years: a startling success story

“We were considered a big experiment because we went far beyond any other idea at the time; rather than just a university department, we actually had the idea that we could be an institution with a range of programs.”

Blair Stonechild, department head and professor of indigenous studies, has worked at FNUniv almost since the beginning. He started in December 1976, when the institution was still known as the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC), and an aboriginally-run university degree program was considered by many to be a pipe dream. It almost didn’t happen.

The idea had been in the works for a while. The Union of Saskatchewan Indians crystallized from an assortment of aboriginal organizations in 1947, and restructured into the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians in 1958. The organization released a policy paper in 1972, calling for “Indian Control of Indian Education,” the same year that the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College was established.

Dr. Lloyd Barber, then the president of the U of R, was an enthusiastic supporter of the idea, and worked with native leader David Ahenakew to make the dream a reality. In his capacity as Indian Claims Commissioner, Barber had formed relationships with FSIN representatives, while at the same time holding the position of vice-president at the University of Saskatchewan, according to Rob Nestor, an FNUniv librarian who is writing a dissertation on the institution’s history.

“The FSI approached the University of Saskatchewan about some sort of partnership, and Barber lobbied on their behalf, to have this institution created, in order to remedy what Dr. Barber called ‘academic arrogance,’” said Nestor. The lobbying effort failed, but when Barber became the president of the U of R, he saw his chance.

“We have the new University of Regina, he becomes the new president, and he wants to do things differently,” said Nestor. Barber and Ahenakew managed to get momentum going on the project. “They come together and decide that they’re going to create this institution that becomes known as SIFC here in Regina. It will open its doors in 1976 with a handful of students … and then things just expanded from there.”

In 1976, the SIFC was established in a rented space in the Classroom Building, with class sizes in the single digits and an enrolment of roughly 30 in the first year. The college would later move to College West; at one point the faculty offices were located in a mouse-ridden trailer where the daycare centre is today.

“People were skeptical when it started because they thought of things like the black college model in the United States,” said Stonechild, “and a lot of people accused black colleges of being not up to the par.”

But support among First Nations for a separate college with a university degree program was strong, and administration and faculty were successful in negotiating the First Nations’ desires with the demands of academic rigour. “They [FSI] gave us direction on what they wanted for curriculum and that sort of thing; on the other hand, we had to contend with the academic expectations of the university,” said Stonechild.

The fledgling college swiftly developed a unique set of programming, with Indian arts and languages becoming degree programs in 1979. Seven years later, the college would begin offering the world’s first and perhaps only graduate-level degree in Indian Art. Curriculum was also developed in conjunction with native elders for business programs with graduates geared towards reserve administration.

1980s. Federal funding, now the subject of so much controversy, was absent for the first several years of the institution’s history. “During the first six years of the college’s existence … it was actually funded by the province,” said Nestor.

“The federal government didn’t really want to touch us. But around 1982, there were constitutional conferences, there was a lot of political fighting about whether or not the constitution could be repatriated and the First Nations were going to block the constitution.” It was in this tumultuous climate that David Ahenakew succeeded in extracting funding for the SIFC from the federal government. Enrolment numbers continued to climb and there was discussion over establishing a separate space for the institution. However, it wasn’t until the end of the decade that major coordinated efforts were underway. The college’s reputation continued to expand.

1990s. “In the ’90s we were increasingly looked at by other universities as being examples of leading-edge program development, including research, because it seemed like all sorts of other agencies and universities wanted to partner with us,” said Stonechild. “There was much greater acknowledgement of aboriginal self-governing institutions, and this place was always singled out for being an example of an academic institution that was controlled by First Nations.” SIFC’s success during those years, he said, was hailed as a positive example of aboriginal self-determination.

2000s. 2003 was a landmark year for the institution, marking its rechristening as FNUniv and transition to the new building. Provincial and federal governments provided most of the money for the construction of the building, with the rest being fundraised from private sources. While staff, administration, and the federated-college arrangement with the U of R remained the same, FNUniv would not be embedded and concealed within the buildings of the main campus. Spirits were high as Prince Edward led the opening ceremony, and the future seemed bright.

Stonechild and others who remember the first 30 years of SIFC/FNUniv’s success are often at a loss for words when they try to describe how much has changed.

“If you were a student back then and you were looking at the media, you wouldn’t be seeing any stories about corruption or incompetence,” said Stonechild. “Students who have entered the university in the last five years don’t remember the good times, but there were 30 years before that … I think we went off track and we need to get back onto it.”

Decline and fall: corruption and scandals

February 17, 2005. It was a day like any other when FNUniv’s administration offices were stormed and taken over. FSIN vice-chief and FNUniv Board of Governors chair Morley Watson entered the campus with an entourage of security guards and others, suspended three senior administration officials, evicted finance and human resources staff from their offices, and had his own IT personnel copy the central server drive, which contained faculty and student records.

The locks to the offices were changed. The suspended officials – academic vice-president Wes Stevenson, finance director Kim Sinclair, and director of international and special projects Leonzo Barreno – were replaced by former Churchill River Liberal candidate Al Ducharme, Florence Watson (Morley’s sister-in-law), and FSIN employee Danette Starblanket.

Following the events on Feb. 17, President Hampton and university lawyer Don Worme urged the Board to reconsider its actions, but more authority was ceded to Watson. Worme was fired and Hampton left FNUniv after his contract expired.

Vice-president academic Denise Henning publicly objected to Watson’s past and continuing invasions of privacy, but left a few months later. Barreno and Dawn Tato, the acting registrar and campus dean, were fired, while Saskatoon campus dean Winona Wheeler’s position was abolished without notice.

Faculty members were silenced and students who protested were threatened with disciplinary action.

With the confiscated files, Watson conducted a forensic audit that resulted in the departure of 20 senior managers, faculty, and staff; grievances; lawsuits; and declining enrolment. The audit found irregularities of roughly $20,000, for which Stevenson was terminated. The audit was never made public and cost over $300,000. The university was divided into two warring camps; suspicion, paranoia, and distrust were rampant; and FNUniv would never be the same.

June 2006. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) struck a committee to review the university’s handling of the administrative and financial crisis.

April 2007. Because of the firings debacle, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) placed FNUniv on probation, demanding that FNUniv become fully independent from FSIN. The probation was lifted the following year.

May 2008. The Star Blanket Cree Nation voted unanimously to make the property on which FNUniv rests into an urban Indian reserve. While this would have granted FNUniv a number of tax exemptions, it has not yet taken place.

June 2008. Stevenson, accused of defrauding FNUniv of more than $5,000, was officially charged by RCMP. He is still awaiting trial and is also engaged in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against FNUniv.

October 2008. Former accounting officer Janet Lee Kurtz was charged with defrauding and stealing from the university. The following week, the provincial government provided FNUniv with $1.6 million to cover its budget deficit; this was because of a compensation arrangement that required FNUniv professor and staff wages to correspond with compensation packages at the U of R. FNUniv had been hit by years of retroactive commitments.

November 2008. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) censured FNUniv, essentially urging its 65,000 professors and teachers to boycott the school by refraining from working and speaking there. The measure remains in effect.

January 2009. Dismissal of academic vice-president Shauneen Pete.

February 2009. The provincial government withheld $200,000 in funding after an internal report raised concerns about how the university was run.

March 2009. The province restored half of the funding in exchange for the release of particular financial reports.

June 2009. INAC withheld $2.4 million, saying that university officials had to meet various deadlines in the coming months and submit a final action plan by the New Year to release the funds.

October 2009. Guy Lonechild was elected to FSIN’s highest post.

November 2009. Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Murray Westerlund sent a memo to the university’s audit committee outlining a number of concerns, including his exclusion from senior management meetings and financial discrepancies concerning FNUniv President Charles Pratt and Al Ducharme.

December 2009.Westerlund was fired or, according to Pratt, departed on mutually-agreed terms. Westerlund soon filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against FNUniv.

January 2010. Westerlund alleged misspending by FNUniv executives, including Pratt and Ducharme.

February 2010. On Feb. 3, the province suspended its $5 million of annual funding, as of April 1. The following day, the Board of Directors was dissolved. On Feb. 8, the federal government also suspended its $7.2 million in annual funding, as of March 31. A report released by consultants Manely Begay and Associates urged transparency and financial accountability, and recommended not paying board members, clearly established rules, and definitions for fraud, malfeasance, and misappropriation. The report also urged the creation of an impartial board that would not include First Nations chiefs and those with potential conflicts of interest.

March 2010. It was discovered that nearly $400,000 designated for student programming had been spent on general operations. On March 19, Pratt and Ducharme were terminated. Students marched repeatedly on the provincial legislature to urge funding renewal. On March 23, a memorandum of understanding between the U of R, FSIN, and the province confirmed that provincial funding would be restored with money flowing to FNUniv through the U of R. That evening, the FNUniv-SA live-in commenced, and has continued since. On March 30, the federal government announced that it would contribute up to $3 million to allow students to continue their studies until Aug. 31.

April 2010. Shauneen Pete was appointed FNUniv president for a six-month term on April 1. Students are worried, tensions are high, and the future remains uncertain.

Full Feature Credits
Writers: Alex Colgan, Austin M. Davis, Thomas Roussin
Photographers: Jarrett Crowe, Austin M. Davis, Mike Dubois, Peter Mills

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