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Director of NAIITS to be honored by Acadia Divinity College
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The Board of Governors, Senate, and Faculty of Acadia University, Wolfville, NS conferred on Rev. Dr. Terry LeBlanc a Doctor of Divinity Honorary May 10, 2015.

Terry is Mi’kmaq and Acadian in his 43rd year of marriage to Bev. He is the father of twin daughters and one son. Jeanine (married to Dan) and Jennifer are actively involved in the Indigenous community through their educational studies, vocations and churches. From his residence in the Philippines, Matt directs a community development framed ministry to Indigenous youth and young adults that is active in various regions of the globe including through his colleagues and fellow staff in Canada.

The founding Chair and current Director of Indigenous Pathways, and Director of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS). Terry also oversees iEmergence and My People, both of which are focused on building capacity with Indigenous people. In addition to 37 years of grassroots work in the Native North American and global Indigenous context, Terry has taught at various colleges, seminaries and universities. Reflecting his commitment to Christian education from an Indigenous perspective, Terry also serves as a sessional or adjunct faculty member at George Fox University and Evangelical Seminary, Acadia Divinity College and Tyndale University College and Seminary.

Author of numerous articles, theological papers and assorted book chapters, Terry has won several awards for his varied writings. In June 2010, for his work on the creation of NAIITS, Terry became the 28th recipient of the Dr. E.H. Johnson Memorial Award for Innovation in Mission.
Indigenous Peoples & Christian Higher Education: a Consultation
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Over 25 people from nine institutions took part in a follow-up session to an initial symposium that took place at Booth Univ. College in Winnipeg, MB, in May 2013. This second event was sponsored by NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community, and CHEC (Christian Higher Education Canada). Its focus was on the development of cooperativeways of supporting Indigenous students in their pursuit of distinctive, Biblically sound, and academically rigorous programs of study, respectful of Indigenous worldviews.

Highlights from the symposium include a commitment to:

  • Develop a vision statement guiding efforts at greater Indigenization on CHEC campuses;
  • Create a web-based platform for sharing online courses and other resources with an Indigenous focus; and
  • Explore the creation of a Circle for Indigenous Studies to benefit joint programs being developed by NAIITS in cooperation with CHEC schools and other campuses.

Terry, LeBlanc, Executive Director of NAIITS, was encouraged by the emergence of concrete steps that would build on the work NAIITS is already doing in cooperation with CHEC members. CHEC’s Executive Director, Dr. Justin Cooper, expressed appreciation for the cooperative spirit present during the meetings as well as the commitment to move forward in cooperative efforts in Indigenous education.

NAIITS currently offers three graduate programs with an Indigenous focus In cooperation with existing Christian institutions: an MAIS with George Fox University and Seminary, an MTS (I) with Tyndale University College & Seminary, and a PhD with William Carey University. Also under development are two new programs in asset-based community development with an Indigenous focus: a BA program with Providence University College, and an MA program with Acadia University and Divinity College. CHEC includes 35 accredited Christian colleges, universities and seminaries across Canada, serving over 17,500 students.

For more information see www.checanada.ca/projects for a summary and for an overview of these programs.
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He was known for his quiet scuttling of the Meech Lake Accord in the Manitoba legislature in 1990 – an agreement that, if passed, would have left Indigenous peoples out of Canadian history once again. But, Elijah Harper was also well known – perhaps most widely known – for his deep commitment to family, and friends, for his gentle manner of speaking, and for his amazing passion for reconciliation of the peoples in Canada.

Elijah left this part of the journey of life Friday May 17th from complications due to diabetes. Elijah Harper was our friend – he was my friend.

On many occasions in a host of different venues throughout the country and around the world, I had opportunity to watch Elijah present the best possible image of Indigenous people living in reconciliation with non-Indigenous people in Canada. And, whether we were in Taiwan, New Zealand, Africa, or here at home, he was always the same – passionately committed to Indigenous rights, and to seeking to realize those rights within a strong Canada. His vision was of a nation of nations founded on spiritual healing for all.

In pursuing this vision, Elijah became a great spokesperson and powerful ambassador – not just for Canadian Indigenous people, but also for Jesus. He will be missed on this side of life’s journey.

Our prayers go out for Elijah’s widow, Anita Olsen Harper, and the rest of the Harper family. Our thoughts are also with them as they wrestle through the next weeks and months without him.

Journey well my friend!
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The breadth and depth of support Idle No More has attained is powerfully evident. Many thousands of people—elders, youth, professionals, traditional people and Christians—have convened in hundreds of rallies in many locations, now around the globe. We were recently in Portland, Oregon for our annual board retreat and joined several hundred people for a rally held in the city's central square.

Idle No More is a grassroots response to Native Canadians' sense of, "Here we go again." The movement is a pent-up response to policies and practices of governments, past and present.

Though the attitudes conveyed in the 1969 White Paper (which, among other things, proposed the rejection of land claims and the assimilation of First Nations people into the Canadian population with the status of other ethnic minorities rather than a distinct group) resurrected by the current government play prominently, the attitude has been the same with governments of all stripes and times.

Duncan Campbell Scott's 1920 appeal, rooted in the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 to "kill the Indian in the child," has been replaced by: "kill the idea of communal land and livelihood the Indian has," thus continuing the centuries-old agenda of legislated assimilation "for our benefit."

Bill C-45 and Bill C-38 (the federal omnibus budget), replicate the "we know what's best for you" attitude of previous Canadian governments. This is the very approach that implemented the residential school system for which Primer Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008.

Clearly the problems faced by First Peoples in Canada are not unique. Indigenous peoples in the Philippines, North East India, New Zealand, and Australia, to name a few, face the same social consequences of colonization—high suicide rates, addiction problems, violence, community implosion, poverty, and more. This should alert any thinking person to the fact that equivalent problems across such wide geographic and ethnic diversity are rooted in and result from similar circumstances.

We applaud the dedication of Chief Theresa Spence, but as she makes clear, the movement is not about a hunger strike; it is about just treatment and respect. When the dignity of a people is subjected to relentless pressure to conform to foreign values; when agreements are pushed aside time and again with contempt; when division among First Nations is introduced to ensure economic prosperity for others, it is like the abusive spouse who, having apologized, repeats the abuse yet again.

When Christians hear the word "treaty" they must recognize that the Old Testament perspective of "covenant" is invoked in Indigenous people's understanding. These are not business contracts, promises that can be set aside when a signatory defaults, changes her mind, or in the case of recent and infamous business fiascos, bankrupt the company. Nor can these treaties be unilaterally legislated out of existence.

As Christians, we ought to be clear: the rule of law is wholly inadequate for governance if justice is absent. Omnibus legislation is not the place to deal with treaty–related issues let alone the other important considerations within its many pages that impact all Canadians. Such an approach is the stuff of U.S. politics, and provides adequate evidence that government claims of concern for "all Canadians" are vacuous.

For every one of us the call is clear: let's be #IdleNoMore.

This article was written for ChristianWeek by the Indigenous leadership of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies: Terry LeBlanc (Mi’kmaq/Acadian), Adrian Jacobs (Cayuga), Wendy Peterson (Metis) Shari Russell (Saulteaux), Ray Aldred (Cree), Richard Twiss (Lakota), Randy Woodley (Keetoowah) and Andrea Smith (Cherokee).


This article has been published in Christian Week here.
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“The partnership created with this agreement will focus on the delivery of Theological education for Native North Americans and other indigenous peoples using instructional approaches and materials developed by NAIITS,” said Terry LeBlanc, founding chair, now Executive Director of NAIITS.  The first offering in the new partnership will be an MA specializing in intercultural studies that is slated to begin January 2011. LeBlanc, a Mi’kmaq from Canada, made it clear that the program features several innovative approaches to theological education and leadership development stating, “The program is deeply rooted in Native thought and reflects Native concerns.”
The courses will be written, directed and taught by an outstanding faculty of international Native scholars. Each course will incorporate Native worldview and values. The entire program is built around an andragogical approach that allows adult students to exercise greater creativity and flexibility as they learn in unique cultural and social contexts. “Finally, there is a program of study that is uniquely designed for us,” observed one student considering her enrollment. “It’s just brilliant!”

Randy Woodley, Distinguished Associate Professor of Faith and Culture and Director of Intercultural and Indigenous Studies at George Fox, pointed out that, "Since its inception ten years ago, NAIITS has delivered seven symposiums on theology and mission, published six journals (the seventh is going to print as this is written) and facilitated opportunities for graduate and post-graduate study for a number of Native students in partnerships with various seminaries.” As a NAIITS board member, Woodley will serve as a liaison between the two organizations. Woodley, a Keetoowah Cherokee, says “There is a lot of excitement about this partnership, with both parties having prayerfully undertaken their roles in light of several centuries of misunderstanding and broken treaties between our two communities.”

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From her perspective as a College and Seminary instructor of many years, Board member Wendy Peterson said, "When NAIITS existed simply as a dream, we longed for this day. Along the journey, it remained a distant dream that seemed to me to be just beyond reach. I commend the hard work of those who have kept the vision of Indigenous scholars serving Jesus in a new way, for the enrichment of all."

Responding to the question of NAIITS’ purpose in all of this, Richard Twiss, Lakota and Vice-Chairman of the NAIITS Board of Directors observed, "Our vision for NAIITS has been to see Native men and women journey down the road of a living heart relationship with Jesus Christ in a transformative way – one which does not require the rejection of their God-given social and cultural identity."

“This partnership will enable the seminary to extend its reach to people for whom theological education would otherwise not be an option,” said Chuck Conniry, Vice President and Dean of George Fox Evangelical Seminary. “Our relationship with NAIITS promises to enrich the culture of our institution and make us all better teachers and scholars.”

LeBlanc and Conniry after signing
Shari Russell, Saulteaux and officer in the Salvation Army, has been on the board of NAIITS for about four years in total – her first stint was two years. Taking a year off to focus on some ministry demands, she soon yearned to be back. NAIITS was on the cutting edge of some things in education she wanted to be part of – so she called and said, “I’m ready to rejoin the board – do you have a vacancy?” NAIITS did and Shari has been back for just over a year. Unable to stay for the signing ceremony, Shari observed from Winnipeg that “This first agreement with George Fox is monumental, it affirms my intuition about the path ahead for all of us!”
Ray Aldred, Cree professor of Theology in Calgary, Alberta and incoming Chair of the NAIITS board, pointed out “Since our first symposium ten years ago we have hoped that something like this might emerge.” “This is the first time a distinguished group of Native North American men and women scholars – who are also ministry practitioners – have created such an innovative approach to theological education!” Ray and Terry were integral in the creation of the study program framework with contributions to the finished work coming from Randy Woodley and Richard Twiss.

Asked what further plans NAIITS has for Native North American education, Terry LeBlanc referenced conversations with several other institutions of higher education – both North American and European – which, if brought to the same conclusion as the Fox agreement, would provide NAIITS the ability to offer undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies programs of various types in partnership with a variety of institutions. Seeking to minimize overlap in study offerings, each institution will be invited to take a specific focus. Whereas this first partnership with George Fox has created a degree in Intercultural Studies it is hoped that other partnerships, if successful, will focus their attention on Community Development studies, Anthropology, Biblical Studies and other aspects of Mission Studies.

According to LeBlanc, the NAIITS community is interested in filling a long-standing void for biblical, theological and missiological education delivered in cultural and social context that is clearly evangelical while simultaneously committed to holistic mission with Native North American and other indigenous peoples.

Student applications for the new MA program will be available upon final approvals with links on both websites (http://www.georgefox.edu/admission/index.html and http://www.naiits.com). For more information about this new degree offering, contact Anita Keith, NAIITS coordinator, at Suite 428, 35 - 2855 Pembina Highway, Winnipeg MB R3T 2H5 (office@naiits.com, www.naiits.com) or Terry LeBlanc, Executive Director, North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (terry@naiits.com).