Yukon’s First Nation Faculty Board brings tradition to the classroom in inaugural 12 months

The Present22:25Yukon’s First Nation Faculty Board brings tradition to the classroom in inaugural 12 months

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

Leah says she’s nervous to satisfy her new instructor — however one thing else is new on the college this 12 months, as properly.

Eight colleges within the Yukon, together with Leah’s, have formally joined the First Nation Faculty Board — the primary of its sort in Canada — after a historic referendum vote final January. Now in its inaugural college 12 months, the purpose of the board is to offer Indigenous individuals extra say round training and convey cultural information into the classroom. 

College students of any background can attend. As with all Yukon elementary colleges, the First Nation Faculty Board colleges will proceed to observe British Columbia’s curriculum — however with a further goal to return to land-based, conventional studying that pulls from neighborhood knowledge-holders and elders. In doing so, the purpose is to empower and affirm a way of identification within the college students. 

“I am hopeful,” Wallingham instructed The Present host Matt Galloway of the brand new adjustments. “I hope that she’ll be outdoors so much. Studying about this place we dwell in, the setting and the traditions that Indigenous individuals 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 Faculty, considered one of eight colleges within the Yukon that joined the First Nation Faculty Board. (Lauren Wallingham)

‘The soldiers we did not see’

It is an expertise many Indigenous individuals have not had within the Canadian public college 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, mentioned she hopes to see change. 

Arguments for the institution of a First Nation-led college 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 major participant in bringing the college board to fruition, mentioned she has excessive hopes for what this may imply for Indigenous college students. 

“I feel the largest factor is confidence and being OK figuring out who you’re,” Bennett mentioned of the brand new program. 

She describes her grandmother secretly educating her classmates Indigenous language after college. 

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

Takhini Elementary Faculty is pictured in April, 2021. The Whitehorse college is considered one of eight that joined the First Nation Faculty Board. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The following step towards reconciliation

The First Nation Faculty Board is the following step towards reconciliation, mentioned Melissa Flynn, the interim director. Flynn notes the up to date college system in Canada strays from the community- and family-based training that’s conventional to Indigenous studying. 

“We had our personal methods of figuring out and being. How we taught youngsters and the way they realized from multigenerational individuals of their lives,” mentioned Flynn. 

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

“I feel reality and reconciliation is a accountability and a problem for everyone who lives in Canada,” Flynn mentioned.

“So that is actually thrilling to deliver individuals collectively. It isn’t 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 college board is a ‘actually thrilling’ alternative ‘to deliver individuals collectively’ in reconciliation efforts, says Melissa Flynn, the board’s interim director. (Melissa Flynn)

Bennett mentioned she recollects college students recognizing pictures 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 Faculty Board was a technique of communication, mentioned 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 de facto essential,” Flynn mentioned.

A collaborative effort

At Takhini Elementary Faculty, music and French instructor Dorothy Williams weaves by way of 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 robust connections with neighborhood 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 an everyday First Nations drumming group in her class led by a neighborhood member. She mentioned she additionally desires to discover conventional Indigenous songs in her classes — however that might 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 neighborhood members and elders for music is extraordinarily essential.”

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

“We have challenged the academics to consider how to hook up with neighborhood and the way to hook up with land wherever they’re at of their school rooms and their classroom actions,” mentioned Flynn. 

This consists of area journeys, finding out Indigenous literature, and bringing knowledge-holders and elders into the classroom. As for non-Indigenous Yukoners, Flynn says the faculties might be inclusive of all cultures.

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

And because the college 12 months will get underway, neighborhood eyes are on the First Nation Faculty Board to watch its degree of success. Groups from the eight colleges have been introduced collectively earlier than the college 12 months started to debate plans and expectations for the brand new framework.

“I feel there is a degree of pleasure. I feel there is a degree of worry of the unknown,” Flynn mentioned of the academics and workers.

Making ‘good errors’

Bennett displays on her grandmother educating her the right way to bead.

“I keep in mind my very first piece. It was slightly orange necklace. I needed to take it aside, I feel six or seven occasions as a result of I made a mistake, and my grandmother would say, ‘good mistake’ … I realized the right 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 educating her to bead as a toddler, and hopes that mentality for studying will carry over within the new college board. (Submitted by Melanie Bennett)

That is the mentality Bennett mentioned she hopes might be adopted in school rooms. Trying towards the long run, she mentioned her largest hope is that these colleges will assist form robust neighborhood members. 

“What actually issues is which you can get up and say ‘I’m’ — and title the place you are from,” Bennet mentioned.

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

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

Written by Brianna Gosse. Produced by Ben Jamieson and Elizabeth Hoath. 

Hafidah Rosyid

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