Forging a deal to better education

Institutions sign indigenous blueprint

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The public school system banded together Friday in an extraordinary commitment to reconciliation and indigenous education.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/12/2015 (2596 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The public school system banded together Friday in an extraordinary commitment to reconciliation and indigenous education.

The Manitoba School Boards Association and nine universities and colleges signed the Manitoba indigenous education blueprint to work together to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

During the next five years, they will transform Manitoba into a global centre of excellence for indigenous education, research, languages and culture.

Photos by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Education Minister James Allum (third from left) and the heads of educational institutions sign the indigenous education blueprint (below) at the University of Manitoba Friday. Nine institutions and the Manitoba School Boards Association have committed to indigenous education excellence as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“This country is in a process of transformation,” declared Wab Kinew, associate vice-president for indigenous relations at the University of Winnipeg. “Education has gone from being a tool of division, to being a tool of reconciliation.”

Elder Harry Bone told a huge gathering at Migizii Agamik — Bald Eagle Lodge on the University of Manitoba campus that the organizations were carrying out the original treaties by bringing people together in reconciliation.

Few specifics have been developed.

Indigenous language, culture and history will become part of curricula and classrooms, where indigenous intellectual traditions will influence the ways of teaching.

The education system will dedicate itself to increasing access, participation and academic success to indigenous people.

Indigenous students will attend if they know they will be welcomed and respected, said U of W student Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie. “Education is the key to the success of our decolonization efforts,” she said.

Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology student Jenna Lynn McIvor told the assembly she hopes to return home to Sandy Bay First Nation and open a repair shop for sport vehicles.

She had first wanted to be a veterinarian, but the supports weren’t there for her as a lone indigenous person at university several years ago, she said: “I was ill-prepared for post-secondary education.”

Education Minister James Allum said he is extremely honoured to be the minister “at the very front end of a renaissance of indigenous culture in this province.”

U of M president David Barnard said it is critical to have school boards involved with the youngest children in the system: “engaging them early forges a path for lifelong learning.”

“It’s an obligation we not only recognize, but embrace,” Red River College president Paul Vogt said.

‘This country is in a process of transformation. Education has gone from being a tool of division, to being a tool of reconciliation’

— Wab Kinew, the U of W’s associate vice-president for indigenous relations

Vogt acknowledged “the large spirit and monumental work” of Justice Murray Sinclair in heading the commission on residential schools. While all of Canada has embarked on reconciliation, Vogt said, “Manitoba is the epicentre. Murray Sinclair is one of ours, he walks among us.”

School Boards Association chairman Ken Cameron said words are inadequate to express the remorse and contrition educators feel for residential schools.

Deborah Young, U of M’s indigenous lead for academic achievement, was moved by the words of students who spoke Friday. “This is something I’ve been dreaming of since I joined the U of M,” Young said.

The next steps include action items such as establishing a steering committee of all signatories, creating a website and hosting an education conference.

Signing the agreement were: Assiniboine Community College, Brandon University, Canadian Mennonite University, the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, the Manitoba School Boards Association, Red River College, University College of the North, the University of Manitoba, the Université de Saint-Boniface and the University of Winnipeg. The areas covered by the blueprint can be found at: wfp.to/education.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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