Athabasca University to Address Educational Needs of Indigenous People with New Initiative

January 29, 2002

Edmonton; January 24, 2002 — Harold Cardinal, a legal scholar and an outspoken

advocate and political activist for the rights of Indigenous people, believes

that a lack of access to post-secondary education is severely limiting the career

and lifestyle options of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people across Canada.

"Today, there is a critical need among Indigenous people for increased

access to post-secondary education that is developed collaboratively with the

people it serves. Cardinal, an Indigenous Education professor at Athabasca University,

will be on hand for the launch of the University’s new Indigenous Education

initiative on January 31, at the Provincial Museum, featuring the Canadian premiere

screening of Yolngu Boy, a cutting edge Australian film about Indigenous youth.

"Indigenous Education at Athabasca University is a vital initiative that

signficantly improves access for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people to a

university education, and provides more opportunities for pursuing the learning

and the careers of their choice."

The launch event starts at 6:00 p.m. and is open to the general public. It

includes a reception, entertainment by Edmonton-based Asani — an a cappella

vocal quartet of Aboriginal women – as well as a short ceremony. A grand entry

processional with the White Buffalo Dancers and Drummers will lead participants

into the film screening, with an introduction to be film by Maria Campbell,

Athabasca University’s Honorary Doctor of Letters (2001), the author of Halfbreed,

and a professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students. All proceeds will go to the

Indigenous Education Scholarship Fund administrated by Athabasca University.

The University’s Centre for Indigenous Education addresses barriers that can

prevent First Nation, Metis, and Inuit people from participating in post-secondary

education, and includes Indigenous advisors and elders in its processes, delivery

options, course programming, and curriculum development. "The Centre addresses

the geographical isolation of First Nation, Metis, and Inuit people by creating

learning opportunities facilitated by distance education and decentralized venues,"

says Tracey Lindberg, Centre director. "We work collaboratively with a

number of Indigenous organizations, institutions, and communities, and have

offered programs and courses on-site at Blue Quills First Nation College, Yellowhead

Tribal College, Arctic College, the Sunrise Higher Education Foundation, and

other locations. "This new initiative strengthens our commitment to providing

quality education opportunities for Indigenous peoples and the inclusion of

First Nation, Metis, and Inuit people in our work and strategic direction,"

she says.

Athabasca University offers a growing number of courses in disciplines

related to Indigenous peoples, including Native Studies, Cree Language,

Anthropology, History, Criminal Justice, Literature, Health Administration

and Promotion, and Political Science. The University is Canada’s largest

and fastest growing online and distance education university, with 25,000

current students. Founded in 1970, Athabasca University now offers more

than 500 Individualized Study and Grouped Study courses, bachelor’s and

master’s degrees, university certificates, and diplomas, all through online

learning and other distance delivery methods.

For more information contact

Pam Patten, Communications

(780) 421-2535

About The Film Yolngu Boy

Yolngu Boy is the story of three Yolngu teenagers who embark on an epic journey

through the unforgiving wilderness of Northern Australia. Colliding between

the worlds of rap, football, and street cred – and the oldest living culture

on Earth – the youths draw on ancient bush knowledge, street instinct, and the

bonds of friendship to chase their childhood dream of becoming great hunters

together and to self-determine their futures as individuals and friends.

Yolngu Boy made its international debut at the Telluride Film Festival in September

2000. This Colorado, US event is considered to be the world’s friendliest and

most intimate major film festival (

Yolngu Boy was given three screenings, where it was well received with the director,

Stephen Johnson, receiving a standing ovation. The film has attracted huge international

interest since its release in 2000. It has been selected to screen at a number

of international festivals including: Barcelona International Festival (Spain),

BUSTER Children’s Film Festival (Copenhagen), Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next

Wave Festival (US), Raindance Kids Film Festival (London), Golden Elephant –

12th International Children’s Film Festival (India), and the Cinemagic Northern

Ireland World Screen Entertainment Festival for Young People (Belfast). It won

the People’s Choice award at the 2001 Zanzibar International Film Festival,

and the Bronze Gryphon Award at the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy.

  • Director: Stephen Johnson
  • Screenplay: Chris Anastassiades
  • Producers: Patricia Edgar and Gordon Glenn
  • Director of Photography: Brad Shield
  • Editor: Ken Sallows
  • Cast: Sean Mununggurr, John Sebastien Pilaku, Nathan Daniels

Presented by: Australian Children’s Film Foundation and Burrundi Pictures in

association with Yothu Yindi Foundation, Beyond Films, and Palace Films For

further details, please go to

"Yolngu" essentially means "Aboriginal human being" and,

in particular, refers to people who belong to approximately 16 clans that live

in and around Arnhem Land on the Gove Peninsula at the coastal northeast Australia.

The Yolngu culture is among the oldest living cultures on Earth, stretching

back over 40,000 years. It is only since 1935 that the Yolngu people have had

sustained contact with Europeans, first through Methodist missionaries, then

through contact with WWII service personnel, and, more recently, with the imposition

of multi-national mines on tribal lands. The Yolngu have lived a life rich in

culture and tradition. Intimately connected to the land, Yolngu daily existence

has revolved around hunting, gathering, fishing, and ceremony. Much of that

ancient way of life remains today.

Yolngu people speak a dozen dialects of a language group known as Yolngu matha.

English is very much a second (or lesser) language. Since the 1960s, Yolngu

leaders have been conspicuous in the struggle for Aboriginal land rights. In

1963, provoked by a unilateral government decision to excise a part of their

land for a bauxite mine, Yolngu people at Yirrkala sent to the House of Representatives

a petition on bark (the traditional medium for visual art representation). The

bark petition attracted national and international attention and now hangs in

the national parliament as a testament to the Yolngu role in the birth of the

land rights movement. Yolngu Boy director Stephen Johnson spent his formative

years with the Yolngu people and has an intimate knowledge and understanding

of them and their culture.