What We Learned

Dozens of stories were told during this four year project in response to the question; ‘What are your stories about postsecondary education?

Stories were shared in talking circles, individual and family conversations, and narrative films, created in collaboration with project filmmaking partner, Our World. Many participants agreed to share their story on this website to inspire, teach and engage others to envision a different future for Indigenous education in Quebec. See the Final Report and Community Reports.

While each story is unique, Common Experiences emerged across nations.


  • Co-create new stories about postsecondary education to inspire and support Indigenous students to pursue their academic goals
  • Strengthen community-college/university ties
  • Advance the academic institutional decolonizing processes
  • Provide recommendations and calls to action around:
    • making the school environment more welcoming for Indigenous students
    • making programs more relevant to both Indigenous students and the needs of their communities
    • advocating for more student support centres at postsecondary institutions
    • calling for more teacher training and striving to eradicate racism at school

Central to our approach has been relationship-building:

  • Across Nations
  • Between communities and educational institutions
  • Among students, researchers and families.
Our process has led to the creation of a community of educators, students, emerging and established scholars committed to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners in Quebec. This includes sharing our stories with the world, in communities and classrooms, among students, families, teachers and educational leaders.

Common Themes

Across many stories shared during the FPPSE, participants expressed a desire for better educational opportunities in their home communities. A major hurdle to their success is being away from sources of love, support and tradition: family, community, ceremony, traditional food, and the land.

Similarly, although appreciative of support networks that exist in some institutions and the growing number of Indigenous faculty, many participants found themselves battling homesickness and feelings of loneliness, lack of belonging and isolation. Many struggled daily in the duality of western academia’s expectations versus their traditional ways of knowing and being.

Often situated in classes that tokenize them, with teachers asking them to teach others in the class on Indigenous realities, participants expressed the stress of this burden and a need for training of non-Indigenous teachers and students on historic and ongoing colonization.

There was an overwhelming awareness of academic unpreparedness, especially related to language, reading and writing skills. Many students faced challenges dealing with western expectations and navigating city life.

In light of these difficulties, many students were optimistic for the future of education and underlined the importance of their own knowledges and values. They called for more Indigenous content and pedagogy such as land-based learning.

Many participants expressed concern about losing their own culture and language while trying to adapt to another. Some students offered reassurance that no Indigenous student should have to choose, and shared ways to learn from the best of both worlds: ancestral and western knowledges.


Since this project began, many of the recommendations expressed in the stories are playing out in institutions and communities which will have a profound impact on Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners. For instance, Concordia First Peoples Studies classes are now taught by all Indigenous faculty. Students in nursing and other faculties are pressing their departments to include Indigenous perspectives and content in the curriculum. Northern students will soon have the option to stay home to study, as their communities begin creating in-community college programs, enacting self-determination in post-secondary education.

Yet the vast education gap between First Peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians remains. In Quebec, 25% of non-Indigenous people have university degrees, only 8% of Indigenous people do. Almost two-thirds (64.7%) of the non-Indigenous population aged 25 to 64 had a postsecondary qualification in 2011 compared to 45% First Nations and 28% Inuit living in Inuit Nunangat. Of these, only 5% of First Nations living on reserve and 5% Inuit obtained a university degree (Statistics Canada, 2011). Participants’ stories give voice to the challenges and experiences behind the statistics.

To support the transfer of knowledge of the stories shared in this project, and address the vast education gap, we call for action from post-secondary educators, administrators, community organizations and policy makers. The future vision expressed by over 100 First Nations, Inuit and Métis storytellers put forward concrete recommendations for change:

FUTURE VISIONS across Nations

  • Post-secondary in community so students have the option to study at home
  • More Indigenous institutions, programs & meeting spaces
  • More Indigenous teachers, staff, leadership
  • More Indigenous students
  • Stronger bridges between community & academic institutions
  • Increased traditional knowledge-based learning in all disciplines
  • Mother Tongue courses & accreditation
  • Make French language learning an option
  • Childcare and Family support
  • Better access to and support in science and math based programs
  • Training for teachers to better understand Indigenous students’ contexts and better address sensitive topics in class
  • More transition programs


  • Post-secondary education in the North
  • Access to country food
  • Preparation for post-secondary & southern living
  • Inuit leadership & governance in and outside of Nunavik
  • Inuit teachers
  • Accreditation for Inuktitut language
  • Increased student enrolment
  • Additional support for transition from College to University
  • Access to science and math prerequisites in community
  • Support for students with children


  • Indigenous campus events
  • Cross cultural activities
  • Traditional arts/culture programs
  • Indigenous content by Indigenous teachers
  • Accessible scholarships and bursaries
  • Indigenous mental health supports
  • Catch up with other regions in terms of decolonizing and indigenizing in institutions (Quebec is behind) 


  • Cree control of education
  • Postsecondary in Cree communities
  • Toolkit of community needs
  • Men’s wellness programs
  • Indigenous students’ supports
  • Land-based learning
  • Exemption from French
  • Childcare/parents’ support
  • Access to science and math prerequisites in community
  • Honour goose break and other cultural events. Students should not be penalized for missing school to attend goose break; other college students can miss school for religious holidays.


  • Access to elders
  • Cultural safety faculty training
  • Spaces for knowledge exchange
  • Improved college preparation
  • Arts and filmmaking programs
  • Make French language learning an option
  • Land-based learning
  • Indigenous people in leadership in post-secondary institutions

Final Report

Final research findings report

2016 – 2021


Presentation of Preliminary Results to Community Advisory Boards October 24, 2019

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