Three School District of Mystery Lake (SDML) schools are among 33 across the province that will host the elders and knowledge keepers in schools pilot project, Education Minister Cliff Cullen announced in Thompson Dec. 14.
Wapanohk Community School, École Riverside School and R.D. Parker Collegiate will be the Thompson schools participating in the initiative, which is receiving $275,000 from the province and will run for about eight weeks, starting in mid-January and ending in March. The 30 other Manitoba schools are spread across 10 other school divisions, including Frontier School Division and the Flin Flon School Division.
“This pilot project affirms our commitment to truth and reconciliation at all levels by increasing school divisions’ capacity to develop and strengthen respectful relationships with elders and knowledge keepers,” said Cullen. “We know how important the knowledge keepers are for their communities and Thompson is certainly a big part of that.”
The money for the program will go directly to participating elders and knowledge keepers, said initiative co-ordinator Shawna Nagler. The participants will be selected through consultation with schools and local Indigenous community members.
“This is a beautiful opportunity to make sure that what we create at the end of this is reflective of the needs and expertise of all the different divisions,” Nagler said.
The schools selected to take part in the program are a mix of those with experience and knowledge in including Indigenous worldviews and content across the curriculum and those with less, said education deputy minister Dana Rudy.
“Thompson does have a very strong presence around land-based education and elders and knowledge keepers so the idea would be to build on the strengths that Mystery Lake school division brings to the province and to learn from the division as well.”
Incorporating Indigenous knowledge and practices into the education system is not simply a matter of creating one course, said SDML co-superintendent Lorie Henderson.
“The School District of Mystery Lake has been on the Indigenous and northern education journey for many years,” Henderson said. “Indigenous education is for everyone, both in the public and independent schools and for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. We know that this is all of our responsibility on our journey towards reconciliation. Indigenous education is all-encompassing it can not be taught in isolation and it can not be taught from a textbook. It is through our elders, our grandparents, our relatives and community members that we learn. They are our language teachers, our relationship to the past and our traditional knowledge keepers. Through this opportunity, we’ll be able to add to our learning experiences of our staff and students. We look forward to the sharing of work across the province with other schools and our provincial partners.”