First Nations University of Canada to attain full autonomy through partnership with Mastercard Foundation

Submitted by Candice O'Grady Jaqueline Ottmann, President, First Nations University of Canada at the donational announcement

NC Raine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Eagle Feather News

The First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) has partnered with the Mastercard Foundation in order to improve education and enable full academic autonomy. 

Announced on June 14 at the FNUniv campus in Regina, the Mastercard Foundation EleV Program has donated $22.3 million over the next five years. 

“It’s historic for the First Nations University of Canada, in that the university has never received a donation this large from one foundation or donor,” Jacqueline Ottmann, FNUniv President told Eagle Feather News. “This is something to celebrate.”

The donation will support four targeted areas: the creation of a national Indigenous economic prosperity institute that will track the calls to Indigenous prosperity; supporting the National Indigenous University Senior Leaders’ Association, which has the potential to impact post-secondary funding and supports for Indigenous students across the country, said Ottmann; creating innovative Indigenous programming as well as organizational and unit reviews; and to fulfill FNUniv’s journey toward becoming fully autonomous.

“The vision that Indigenous leadership and community members had for this university, even prior to 1976 when it was established, was always for us to be fully autonomous,” said Ottmann.

In order to prosper, Ottmann said that FNUniv needed a partnership as a federated college with the University of Regina (U of R). Following this donation, FNUniv will no longer be federated college of the U of R.

“That vision and that desire to be fully autonomous has never left the visionaries and the people who helped create this incredible institution,” she said. 

According to the university, more than 1,000 students will complete new programs and 6,000 individuals will benefit from access to internships, mentorships, and career opportunities. 

“Indigenous post-secondaries, like (FNUniv) deliver better learning outcomes and Indigenous students reach higher levels of academic achievement and success. These outcomes lead directly to community economic development, cultural revitalization, and Indigenous prosperity,” said Justin Wiebe, Lead, Innovation and Strategic Growth at Mastercard Foundation.

“This is the kind of work that the Mastercard Foundation EleV Program wants to support, amplify and get behind. We believe everyone should be supporting Indigenous-led approaches to systems change and innovation,” he said.

FNUniv is modelling solutions for a prosperous future, said Wiebe, rooted in Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture.

“It is showing a different way of doing education that can serve as a model for schools and communities across the country and beyond,” he said.

“FNUniv works because it is rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing, which provides Indigenous students with a strong cultural and academic learning environment.”

What this means for students, said Ottmann, is the confidence that the institution will thrive into the future with strong programming and Indigenous knowledge systems that drive everything they do. 

“We are the First Nations University of Canada, so our reach is not only provincial but national,” said Ottmann. “With the support of a national association, that’s what this donation allows us to do.”