Saskatchewan. Rivers describes recent efforts to respond to TRC calls to action
List includes partnerships to deliver cultural programs and the addition of Indigenous language classes
Putting more emphasis on teaching Aboriginal languages and making room in the calendar for more Aboriginal festivals and days of remembrance are just two of the things the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division is doing to try to meet the calls for education from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). action.
Saskatchewan. Rivers Director of Education Robert Bratvold provided an update on the school division’s efforts to respond to calls from the TRC during a school board meeting Monday. The TRC released its calls to action in 2015, and the school division has been tracking efforts to respond to those calls since 2017.
Bratvold said the division needed to be upfront about what the call to action was and what action was taken.
“It is important to recognize and recognize racism and inequality, repression and colonialism. It is important to recognize this strictly, but it is not enough,” he said. “We need to take steps to correct this. We have to be actively anti-racist, anti-oppressive, we have to actively respond to calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and so that’s what we continue to do.
The division applied for and received funding to help implement Jordan’s Principle in response to the TRC’s calls to action on child welfare. Jordan’s Principle helps ensure that all First Nations children living in Canada can access the products, services and supports they need, when they need them. It is named after Jordan River Anderson, a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba.
The division also supported KidsFirst, helped schools access Catholic Family Services and worked in partnership with the Prince Albert Early Years Resource Center to respond to calls to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs.
The division’s biggest step has been its language programs, which were created in response to calls to protect Indigenous language rights and teach them for course credit. Recent steps include partnering with Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MNS) to create a Michif language and culture program at Queen Mary School and St. Louis Public School. The division also established an Indigenous Language Learning Community in the fall of 2021. The group supports the division’s Cree and Michif teachers and language guardians in early childhood and high school, a Dakota teacher and guardian of language and EA in Wahpeton and a Cree teacher in Muskoday.
A Fall Party and Pipe Ceremony was also held in November 2021 at Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI) and a Winter Pipe Ceremony is scheduled for February at Queen Mary.
The division will also celebrate a Ribbon Skirt and Ribbon Shirt Day in March.
“I’m so proud of the team — the people who do the work in the classrooms every day and aren’t on a bulletin board somewhere,” Bratvold said. “They do things with kids, for kids with families to support families. I’m really, really proud of the work the team is doing.
Bratvold thanked the Indigenous Perspectives team of Jodi Letendre and Shea Pilon under Superintendent Jennifer Hingley for helping with the process.
“The board has been very clear about the importance of this work in its strategic planning and in its conversations with the administrator and in the directional guidance it provides directly at the board level,” said Bratvold. “Our senior administration team is working on this, (from) consultants and coaches, to principals (and) staff, and it’s not just teaching staff, it’s teaching assistants and support staff.”
Other areas discussed at Monday’s meeting include justice, professional development and training of civil servants, education for reconciliation, as well as sports and reconciliation.
Bratvold has highlighted the work of the board itself through its actions by participating in events and also setting direction in the division.
“I’m grateful that this matches the passion and importance I would place in this area of our work,” he said.