Yukon’s First Nation College Board brings tradition to the classroom in inaugural yr

Yukon’s First Nation College Board brings tradition to the classroom in inaugural yr

The Present22:25Yukon’s First Nation College Board brings tradition to the classroom in inaugural yr

Lauren Wallingham and her daughter Leah stroll on a wooded path from their residence in Whitehorse to Takhini Elementary College, the place Leah is starting Grade 2. 

Leah says she’s nervous to satisfy her new trainer — however one thing else is new on the faculty this yr, as properly.

Eight colleges within the Yukon, together with Leah’s, have formally joined the First Nation College Board — the primary of its variety in Canada — after a historic referendum vote final January. Now in its inaugural faculty yr, the aim of the board is to provide Indigenous folks extra say round training and produce cultural information into the classroom. 

College students of any background can attend. As with all Yukon elementary colleges, the First Nation College Board colleges will proceed to observe British Columbia’s curriculum — however with an extra intention to return to land-based, conventional studying that attracts from group knowledge-holders and elders. In doing so, the aim is to empower and affirm a way of id within the college students. 

“I am hopeful,” Wallingham advised The Present host Matt Galloway of the brand new adjustments. “I hope that she’ll be outdoors so much. Studying about this place we reside in, the setting and the traditions that Indigenous folks have.” 

A woman and her two daughters sit on a slide in a school playground, looking to the camera. She is holding both girls on her lap.
Lauren Wallingham and her daughters Rae, left, and Leah, proper. Leah is beginning Grade 2 at Takhini Elementary College, one among eight colleges within the Yukon that joined the First Nation College Board. (Lauren Wallingham)

‘The soldiers we did not see’

It is an expertise many Indigenous folks have not had within the Canadian public faculty system — and that is one thing Melanie Bennett, government director of the Yukon First Nation Training Directorate and member of the Tr’ondёk Hwёch’in First Nation, stated she hopes to see change. 

Arguments for the institution of a First Nation-led faculty board have been largely fuelled by a 2019 report from the auditor basic of Canada, which highlighted a deficiency in assist for Indigenous and rural college students within the territory. 

Bennett, who was a main participant in bringing the college board to fruition, stated she has excessive hopes for what it will imply for Indigenous college students. 

“I believe the largest factor is confidence and being OK realizing who you’re,” Bennett stated of the brand new program. 

She describes her grandmother secretly instructing her classmates Indigenous language after faculty. 

“She taught us stitching however she closed the door and taught us the best way to converse the language on the similar time. These are the soldiers we did not see.”

Takhini Elementary College is pictured in April, 2021. The Whitehorse faculty is one among eight that joined the First Nation College Board. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The following step towards reconciliation

The First Nation College Board is the subsequent step towards reconciliation, stated Melissa Flynn, the interim director. Flynn notes the modern faculty system in Canada strays from the community- and family-based training that’s conventional to Indigenous studying. 

“We had our personal methods of realizing and being. How we taught kids and the way they discovered from multigenerational folks of their lives,” stated Flynn. 

The expertise of Indigenous folks with training in Canada stays fraught as survivors proceed to grapple with the invention of unmarked graves on former residential faculty websites throughout the nation. In July, Pope Francis known as what occurred to Indigenous folks at residential colleges “genocide” — a perception lengthy held by survivors. 

“I believe fact and reconciliation is a duty and a problem for everyone who lives in Canada,” Flynn stated.

“So that is actually thrilling to convey folks collectively. It is not a ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation anymore. Reconciliation to me means everybody shifting collectively who lives on a standard territory.” 

A woman walks along a snowy trail, with a dog and people behind her. She is smiling and taking a selfie.
The brand new faculty board is a ‘actually thrilling’ alternative ‘to convey folks collectively’ in reconciliation efforts, says Melissa Flynn, the board’s interim director. (Melissa Flynn)

Bennett stated she recollects college students recognizing images of historic figures like Sir John A. Macdonald, however not Indigenous ones like Francis Pegahmagabow, a First Nations soldier and politician. She attributes this to Westernized training, which frequently erases Indigenous heritage from its pages.

Establishing the First Nation College Board was a technique of communication, stated Flynn. Members of the Yukon First Nations Training Directorate reached out to Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents to listen to from them. 

“This subsequent step in reconciliation in our territory is actually essential,” Flynn stated.

A collaborative effort

At Takhini Elementary College, music and French trainer Dorothy Williams weaves by her classroom as an ensemble of youngsters holding numerous percussion devices sits cross-legged on the ground. Because the jangle and thump of cheerful music ends in a decrescendo, the scholars break into applause. 

A woman stands in a classroom, with xylophones arranged on the floor.
Dorothy Williams, who teaches music and French at Takhini Elementary, hopes to construct sturdy connections with group members and elders. (Dorothy Williams)

Williams is not Indigenous, and has been tasked with incorporating Indigenous music into her class. Ultimately, she hopes to kind a daily First Nations drumming group in her class led by a group member. She stated she additionally needs to discover conventional Indigenous songs in her classes — however that shall be a collaborative course of.

“Most First Nations songs I can not sing. I haven’t got permission to. So for me to have connections with group members and elders for music is extraordinarily essential.”

The First Nation College Board will assist facilitate these connections, Williams defined. 

“We have challenged the lecturers to consider how to hook up with group and the way to hook up with land wherever they’re at of their lecture rooms and their classroom actions,” stated Flynn. 

This contains area journeys, learning Indigenous literature, and bringing knowledge-holders and elders into the classroom. As for non-Indigenous Yukoners, Flynn says the colleges shall be inclusive of all cultures.

“I hope shifting ahead, the inclusion mannequin of recognizing and celebrating all Yukon college students will come by in what we’re delivering,” she stated. 

And because the faculty yr will get underway, group eyes are on the First Nation College Board to look at its degree of success. Groups from the eight colleges have been introduced collectively earlier than the college yr started to debate plans and expectations for the brand new framework.

“I believe there is a degree of pleasure. I believe there is a degree of concern of the unknown,” Flynn stated of the lecturers and workers.

Making ‘good errors’

Bennett displays on her grandmother instructing her the best way to bead.

“I keep in mind my very first piece. It was just a little orange necklace. I needed to take it aside, I believe six or seven instances as a result of I made a mistake, and my grandmother would say, ‘good mistake’ … I discovered the best way to make good errors.”

A woman sits on a sofa with a child on her lap. There is a cushion made to resemble a camp fire on the table in front of her.
Bennett, government director of the Yukon First Nation Training Directorate, is pictured together with her grandchild. Bennett remembers her personal grandmother instructing her to bead as a toddler, and hopes that mentality for studying will carry over within the new faculty board. (Submitted by Melanie Bennett)

That is the mentality Bennett stated she hopes shall be adopted in lecture rooms. Wanting towards the longer term, she stated her largest hope is that these colleges will assist form sturdy group members. 

“What actually issues is that you would be able to rise up and say ‘I’m’ — and title the place you are from,” Bennet stated.

Lauren Wallingham has the same hope for her daughter, Leah. 

“It may be their regular, which I am actually enthusiastic about.” 

Produced by Ben Jamieson and Elizabeth Hoath. 

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