First Nations Executive Education - Smudging - Sandro Echaquan

In recent years, top universities in Canada and the U.S. have been rolling out programs that are designed to better incorporate First Nations students into various learning pathways or that focus on so-called “Indigenous” knowledge.

The content of these programs is developed and adapted by academics on the faculty of these institutions of higher learning. Each brings a fresh and necessary perspective that contributes to the evolution of an overall body of knowledge and to what we refer to as “reconciliation.”

But at First Nations Executive Education (FNEE), through which an array of upskilling programs is offered to First Nations leaders, we have opted for a different approach.

The entire FNEE school has been created by and for First Nations. It is in this spirit of constructive collaboration, rather than adaptation of existing content, that FNEE is playing a key role in training development, leveraging all the resources at its disposal.

Self-determination and economic reconciliation of Indigenous peoples

FNEE is backed by a strong, equally represented pedagogical team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous trainers, guided by the traditional values of sustainability and the circular economy. Each of the programs aims to cultivate a positive attitude toward development, for both leaders and the communities they represent, a critical element in self-determination and economic reconciliation for First Nations.

Drawing on the latest management tools, participants in FNEE programs serve as catalysts for change, leading communities on a path to success and positioning them as central actors in large-scale endeavours.

In the words of John Martin, Chief of Gesgapegiag and the Chief Responsible for Education with the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, when FNEE was announced, this new school is adding an essential level of training for community leaders:

“FNEE utilizes a unique client experience to contribute to broadening management competencies by giving participants the opportunity to step back and see the bigger picture. We need to enhance the professional capacity of our senior managers and leaders. Our success moving forward will depend on the quality and effectiveness of our leadership at every level.”

He added, “It is important to remember that we are coming from a place of being subjected to 400 years of colonization and exclusion, not to mention colonial policies that have set out to strip away the rights of First Nations and First Nations people. This has left a devastating legacy on our communities, our economies and our capacity building.”

The co-creation process

Another innovative feature that sets FNEE apart is its team of trainers. Each of the courses is built jointly by instructors from Executive Education HEC Montréal and First Nations leaders who are recognized experts in their respective economic development or political fields. This is an important distinction as it puts issues specific to First Nations front and centre of the learning process.

Pairs of trainers work together to establish content aimed at fostering and developing better management and business practices within First Nations communities. These co-created curricula embrace a leadership style that is rooted in a collaborative mindset. Participants thus equipped are empowered to stimulate and enhance business success and management of services.

Taking a rightful place in the economy

The concept underlying FNEE is based on greater involvement of Indigenous peoples in the economy. The objective is therefore to guide First Nations leaders so that they can then contribute to the growth of their respective communities, encouraging them to take their destiny into their own hands and ushering in positive change for all of their members.

Flexible open-enrolment programs

FNEE programs have been developed to take the professional realities of participants into account. As a result, courses are delivered in blocks of consecutive days, some in First Nations communities, some virtually and others in Montreal.

Each cohort is made up of participants who share similar issues and challenges. Expert trainers instil a spirit of sharing that is conducive to developing participants’ skills and imbuing them with new knowledge they can apply in their day-to-day operations.

All this makes FNEE an invaluable credential and a meaningful step forward in the career path of any First Nations leader.