A new agreement to deliver "reconciliation in education" will focus on the development of programs, services and opportunities to revitalize the presence of First Nations culture and language in Saskatoon Public Schools classrooms.
The five-year agreement between Saskatoon Public Schools and Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) was signed June 28 and will take effect September 1, 2019. It expands upon a long-standing relationship that established a foundation for addressing the culture, language and needs of First Nations students. A joint leadership group for co-governance of urban Indigenous education will be established as a result of the new partnership.
"For more than 13 years, Saskatoon Public Schools and the Saskatoon Tribal Council have been working together with the common goal of improving educational outcomes for Indigenous students," said Ray Morrison, board chair for Saskatoon Public Schools.
"Today's signing marks the evolution of this partnership as we recognize the important role First Nations' governments play in education. This partnership will help us build deeper language and cultural learning opportunities for students, as well as enhanced support for families moving between our communities. Public education must be accessible to all and meet the needs of the community. Through our partnership with the Saskatoon Tribal Council, we can realize this goal."
The working group will initially target program delivery at Mount Royal Collegiate and Confederation Park Community School, as well as special projects at the University of Saskatchewan and City Centre.
Confederation Park is home to the Nêhiyâwiwin Cree Language and Culture Program for prekindergarten to Grade 8 students. Guidance from STC supports learners in the division's collegiates, particularly at Mount Royal where students have transitioned from the elementary Cree program. This has allowed students to continue their studies of Cree language and culture, expand opportunities for exploration, and affirm their identity
"There is mounting evidence every single day the significant, crucial impact education has had on Indigenous peoples in Canada," said STC Tribal Chief Mark Arcand.
"We view education as a tool of empowerment. Making space for First Nations voices in education is a necessary step and this agreement will be another tool for reconciliation through education. Transformations of systems happen when there are positive, mutually beneficial relationships that are rooted in respect and recognition."
The agreement will build connections between the school division and each of the seven STC First Nations. As students and families move between communities, it will allow for open communication and the ability to provide support to ensure smooth transitions. Over time, work will be done to develop innovative programming and facilities grounded in land-based education to best support culture and language lessons.
The partnership will help guide the school division's work to realize goals set out in its response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action.
"Our partnership with STC will help us realize these commitments by building our capacity for language, culture, and land-based learning, as well as affirming the identity of Indigenous students," Morrison said. "We are committed to building strong relationships between First Nations families and our schools."