Tipi raisings, ribbon skirt workshops, and language classes highlight Sask. Rivers report on Calls to Action progress | Spare News
The Saskatchewan Rivers Schools Department continues to make progress in fulfilling some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) appeals.
Superintendent Jennifer Hingley and Indigenous Perspectives Counselor Jodi Letendre updated the board on the school department’s progress during Monday’s regular meeting. There are two reports each year, one in June for the full year and the semi-annual report on Monday.
The department has been tracking efforts to respond to these calls since 2017. Director of Education Robert Bratvold says progress is encouraging.
“Staff are requesting different types of support because they have some confidence in making sure these indigenous types of knowledge and learning are present in their classroom,” Bratvold said.
“Now they want to dig deeper and get different types of support, that’s really reassuring.”
Since the TRC published its report in 2015, Sask. Rivers has increased his focus on teaching indigenous languages. They have also focused on giving teachers more opportunities to learn about Indigenous culture through professional development. This includes things like tipi rearing and bow skirt workshops.
Letendre said school staff are now using these experiences to provide practical examples of Indigenous worldview and culture in their classes.
“We have to be careful not to appropriate these cultural and traditional activities, but they are concrete. You can have direction and guidance from elders and knowledge keepers and have things happening, activities happening in schools to support staff and student learning that really make sense and not theoretical and philosophical and what ifs. They’re specific and clear, and that’s really helpful,” Bratvold said.
“We also need to delve into some of the deeper things – that knowledge and ways of knowing and understanding and worldviews. Sometimes these concrete things can lead to these discussions and thoughts that go deep into beliefs.”
Hingley said Letendre and trainer Theresa Thorenson did important work in Prince Albert’s schools.
“They have been very busy this fall directing this work and responding to the calls and also responding to our staff’s desire to do this really well,” Hingley said.
In response to TRC appeals for child welfare, the department has applied for and received funding to help implement the Jordan Principle. Jordan’s Principle helps ensure that all First Nations children living in Canada have access to the products, services and support they need, when they need them.
The Jordan’s Principle mentoring program has expanded to include over 30 mentors working in schools to support First Nations students through funding.
Earlier this year, mentors helped distribute Prince Albert Grand Council jackets and food baskets, and participated in various professional development projects throughout the year.
Response to the culturally appropriate curriculum call included the overhaul of the Won Ska Cultural School, where course choices will reflect land-based learning opportunities and cultural connections with a cross-curricular approach. This approach came from the Council of Elders and what they saw as the needs of Won Ska as a cultural school. Curriculum work is being done by Bratvold, Patricia Bibby, Hingley and Letendre and the school’s team to create a new land based and cultural curriculum.
Also, the literacy, math, and high school learning models all have an indigenous worldview embedded in them.
The call to protect the right to indigenous languages has expanded within the department and Letendre thanked the board for their support on the matter.
Recent moves include the establishment of the Cree language program at the John Diefenbaker School through 2nd grade and the establishment of a partnership with Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) to launch a Michif language and culture program at the St. Louis and Queen Mary School, which continues to this day,
The department also established an Indigenous language learning community in the fall of 2021. The group supports Cree and Michif teachers in the department and language keepers in early years and high school, a Dakota teacher and language keeper and EA in Wahpeton, and a Cree teacher at Muskotag.
“For the indigenous language learning community, we also had school departments that joined us, so we had it
Prairie Spirit, we had Saskatoon Public Teachers, (and) Isle La Crosse came along,” explained Hingley. “It was a really great learning opportunity and the laughs with the elders and the laughs in the room and everyone telling stories and speaking the language just resonated throughout this entire floor.”
Letendre also mentioned the flag-raising ceremony in October as part of the call to include Aboriginal perspectives in education and thanked the board for it, although it was not included in the memo itself.
“It’s just a really strong statement in truth and reconciliation and the journey we’re on and the comments from the community, people who have passed by have certainly noticed.”
Another growing aspect is the Council of Elders and other elders who provide guidance and work directly with students. As part of the call to build capacity for intercultural understanding and mutual respect, the first cycle of four whistle ceremonies was completed. The Division held an Autumn Festival and Whistle Ceremony in Wesmor in November and a Winter Whistle Ceremony is planned for February 2023 at Princess Margaret.
Another step is for the indigenous worldview to be embedded in experiential play-based learning in department-wide classrooms and shared throughout early years professional development and experiential play-based learning throughout professional development.
Other areas covered during the meeting include justice, professional development and training for civil servants, education for reconciliation, and sport and reconciliation.
The department has also supported KidsFirst, helped schools access Catholic family services, and worked with the Prince Albert Early Years Resource Center to meet calls for the development of culturally appropriate parenting programs.
“There’s been a lot of really positive signs, really positive activity,” Bratvold said. “The activities are important, but in terms of ways of knowing and worldviews and notions of pre-atonement truth (and) understanding the truth of our history, these are sometimes a bit more difficult, but really highlighted in this report.”