New Tribe

erin freeland ballantyne 4web.jpg 

In March of 1971, 57 politicians, native leaders and academics began talking about a "University of the North".

It was intended to be a grass roots university, about the north, for the north. They discussed how a university north of 60 should teach, who would pay for it, where it should be. They debated for 14 years. In fact, they talked so much they killed the idea and the University of the North became the University that never was.

The idea of a university north of 60 lay dormant for nearly 40 years and then along came Erin Freeland Ballantyne.

29 years old, first Rhodes Scholar from the Northwest Territories, first Rhodes Scholar to have a baby at Oxford; driven, determined and indefatigable.

Two years ago she launched Dechinta - Dechinta means bush in Dene. It's a fly-in university - 25 minutes out of Yellowknife on Blachford lake.

Dechinta is a school for all races and all ages. Its classroom is the land with a little conventional instruction thrown in. Both McGill and the University of Alberta give academic credits for a session at this University of the Bush.

It's very small and Dechinta is still scrambling for money and wobbly on its feet but this summer the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine stopped by and hung out for a few hours.

Jennifer Kingsley taught a writing course last year at Dechinta. This summer she went back. Here is her documentary New Tribe.

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