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Manitoba school reps ink indigenous education deal

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

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This article was published 19/12/2015 (2598 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

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

The Manitoba School Boards Association and nine post-secondary universities and colleges signed the Manitoba indigenous education blueprint — working together to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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

“This country is in a process of transformation,” said 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 AgamikBald 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 yet to be developed.

But the scope of the blueprint is indeed awesome.

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

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

Indigenous students will come, 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.

Signing the agreement were Assiniboine Community College, Brandon University, Canadian Mennonite University, Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, Manitoba School Boards Association, Red River College, University College of the North, University of Manitoba, Université de Saint-Boniface and the University of Winnipeg.

“At Brandon University, close to 15 per cent of our students self-identify as indigenous,” said BU registrar and vice-president of student services, Tom Brophy.

“It is one of BU’s priorities to reflect their contributions to our university and society, and the partnership formed through this agreement will help all institutions in the province to strengthen this relationship.”

BU president Gervan Fearon, who signed the document on behalf of BU, said “the Indigenous Education Blueprint was inspired by the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“This is the result of tremendous effort and co-operation from across the province’s education system, and also signifies our ongoing desire to work collaboratively to support the educational goals of aboriginal groups.”

The ceremony also included an address by BU Aboriginal Student Council president Adrienne Thomas, who spoke to the group about the importance of this initiative from an indigenous student perspective.

“It shows a commitment not only from BU, but other universities and colleges across Manitoba,” Thomas said. “I feel that it’s being implemented at the right time, following the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s final report this week. I think it’s important for us to keep the momentum.”

Indigenous education has been a priority at BU for decades. The university launched the Program for the Education of Native Teachers (PENT) in 1971, and four years later became the first university in Western Canada, and only the second nationwide, to introduce a native studies department.

The university has also developed a department of visual and aboriginal art, built the He Oyate Tawapi ceremonial room and opened the Indigenous Peoples Centre to support students educationally and socially.

“Brandon University has always been one of the more progressive universities in reaching out to aboriginal students,” said Leah LaPlante, vice-president of the Manitoba Métis Federation Southwest Region and chair of the Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council.

“They have the history, with programs like PENT, and this is just taking it that large step further.”

James Allum said he is extremely honoured to be education and advanced learning 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 life-long learning,” Barnard said.

MSBA chair Ken Cameron said words are inadequate to express the remorse and contrition that educators feel for residential schools.

Next steps include action items such as establishing a steering committee with all signatories, creating a collaborative website and social media platform and hosting an indigenous education conference.

A list of the 10 areas of indigenous education covered by the blueprint can be found at news.umanitoba.ca/history-made-manitobas-education-sector-unites-to-advance-indigenous-education/.

More on BU’s indigenous engagement can be seen at brandonu.ca/indigenous.

» The Brandon Sun, Winnipeg Free Press

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