Certifying Land Managers in Aboriginal Communities

by James Pepler

The College of Agriculture and Bioresources is dedicated to creating Certified Land Managers within Aboriginal communities through the Indigenous Peoples Resource Management (IPRM) program.

The IPRM is an intensive 12-month certificate program that offers students a wide breadth of skill development in a multidisciplinary way, and students come from all over Canada for certification. “We get students from Newfoundland to British Columbia … it’s a very diverse population,” says Associate-Dean Academic Murray Drew. “They come here to network and get hands-on experience.”

Originally the program was developed by Aboriginal land managers themselves. They measured what they did, explored the issues and suggested a curriculum based on the skill set needed. 

The first part of certification is the IPRM program, which takes place at the U of S. Six courses are taught during three two-week periods. These modules include administrative and contract law, soil and environmental sciences, and business management courses. Finally, students must take a presentation-based capstone course.

During the weekends of these visits to campus, the students are immersed in hands-on experiential learning through travel and field trips. Many of the students are mature learners and are taught study, research, and other student support skills. 

The second part of certification consists of six courses through the National Land Managers Association. Upon completion, each student becomes a certified land manager in Canada. 

The sharing and spreading of knowledge is one of the outcomes of the program. Candice Pete, director of the IPRM program indicates that “the benefit is that (students) are taking the skill and knowledge back to their home community.”

The college is dedicated to increasing the number of Aboriginal students in the program moving into the third planning cycle. Pete and Drew have met with many Aboriginal communities across Saskatchewan, post-secondary advisors from bands, and staff at the U of S in order to refine the program. The goal is to redesign the program “based on the needs of the community” says Pete. “Are there other areas like governance and economic development that are needed from the program?”  

Drew explains that in order to make the IPRM program a continued success for even more students, it must suit the present and future needs of the Aboriginal communities. “We are trying to open it up and keep it as relevant as it can be.”