Indigenous Prison Arts & Education Program (IPAEP)

Photo credit: Dorian Geiger, 2012. Inspired Minds class with Cree author Tomson Highway

The Indigenous Prison Arts and Education Project (IPAEP) is a new initiative in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. The IPAEP makes post-secondary education more accessible to incarcerated people, supports prisoner advocacy, and facilitates creative arts programming inside prisons. IPAEP is currently offering three established programs:

Inspired Minds: All Nations Creative Writing

Inspired Minds (IM) is a creative writing program for men and women who are incarcerated in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Over the past 10 years, we have offered IM classes at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, Pine Grove Correctional Centre, and the Edmonton Institution. Each IM class runs for eight weeks and takes place once a week, usually for an hour and a half. Classes are generally small (8-10 participants max) and are facilitated by professors and/or graduate students. There is no tuition and anyone who is interested can attend.

Classes provide participants with the opportunity to learn about and practice different modes of storytelling, including oral tradition, poetry, short stories, autobiography, songs, and visual art. Participants strengthen creative and critical thinking skills through in- and out-of-class readings, discussions, and exercises. The program also aims to provide an important outlet for participants to express themselves and their experiences.

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Bedtime Stories

The Bedtime Stories program is part of the Inspired Minds program. The program is offered in two ways. The first way is less time and resource intensive, as the fathers record themselves reading an existing children’s book, which is then sent to their child with a backpack, stuffed animal, and a set of pyjamas. In the second option, the men participate in a weekly creative writing class for three months, where they write their own story for their children. The story is then illustrated by local volunteers (or other men in the program) and delivered with a backpack, stuffed animal, and pyjamas.

Walls 2 Bridges

The Walls to Bridges (W2B) program creates educational partnerships between institutions of higher learning and correctional systems. This program brings together college or university students (campus-based students) with incarcerated men and women (non campus-based students) to study as peers in semester-long college/university level courses. Not only does W2B dismantle educational barriers, but by creating a community of learners from both the prison and the outside community, walls are transcended and inclusive knowledge networks are created. Non campus-based students and campus-based students attend weekly classes together within the prison setting in which all students read a variety of texts and write papers. In the final month of class, students collaborate on a class project, defined in large part by what is meaningful to the student group. Examples of class projects that have been completed are needs assessments, poetry books, zines, anthologies, policy recommendations and community forums.

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For further information about IPAEP programs, please contact:

Sarah Auger, Project Coordinator:

Humanities 101 - Affiliated with IPAEP

Humanities 101 offers FREE university-level, non-credit courses that recognize multiple ways of knowing and learning. There is a new course each semester and classes are one evening a week on the University of Alberta campus. Humanities 101 prioritizes those who have not had access to post-secondary and who cannot otherwise afford to attend classes. Humanities 101 recognizes the knowledge that comes with lived experience and there are NO requirements or previous education required, you come with everything you need.

Included in the course is food, all supplies and materials, student ID card, bus tickets, and any other costs associated with the course (for example, field trips). There is a certificate upon completion.

For more information, to register, or to see what the upcoming courses are about call us at 587-709-5472 or email us You can also check out and participate in last year’s class that happened over the radio at



Nancy Van Styvendale is a white settler scholar, Associate Professor, and Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Native Studies. She is Director of the Indigenous Prison Arts & Education Project (IPAEP), and a co-founder and coordinator of Inspired Minds, a creative writing program for incarcerated people in Saskatchewan and Alberta. She is member of Free Lands Free Peoples, an Indigenous-led, anti-colonial penal abolition group focused on public education and prisoner justice in the prairies. She does community-engaged research in the field of Indigenous literatures, with particular commitments to Indigenous prison writing; penal abolition; arts-based programs in prison; and community-engaged/community-based education. 

Contact Dr. Van Styvendale:
Ph. (780) 492-1915


Sarah Auger is a PhD Candidate in Educational Policy Studies with a specialization in Indigenous Peoples Education. Her doctoral research examines Indigenous art as pedagogy. She holds an M.Ed. in Educational Policy Studies (2012) and a B.A. in Native Studies (1999). Sarah is a citizen of Mikisew Cree First Nation, Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, where her father’s family resides. Her mother’s family is Métis from Lac Ste Anne, Alberta. She is also a beadwork artist who has maintained a long-standing personal and professional interest in Indigenous prison art.