By Brittney Pastion of CFWE-FM
The chiefs of the four nations of Maskwacîs signed a First Nations education agreement with the federal government on May 18.
“This is really an historic day here in Maskwacîs,” said Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott who was on-hand. She said this what people had been asking for for decades—local First Nations control of First Nations education.
The formal signing marked the start of the four communities—Ermineskin Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe, Montana First Nation and Samson Cree Nation—coming together within an education authority to control and design a curriculum for their schools.
Brian Wildcat, superintendent of the Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission (MESC) schools, said the agreement was a long time coming.
“This is a positive change for the community… This agreement is going to give us an opportunity to make a big difference with the work we’re doing with local curriculum…with building our language and culture into the schools and to help up more with student achievement.
The Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission will run the area’s 11 schools and will continue on creating education that is rooted in Cree culture, traditional practices, with an infusion of language. More than 2,300 students will be taught under the new authority.
“What we're doing here is exercising our treaty right to manage our own education system.”
“I guess the fear was that we were signing away our rights. But we’re not. We’re actually affirming them,” said MESC Chair Nina Makinaw.
The goal is to eventually write a Maskwacî- curriculum, but the education authority is starting off with a land based curriculum, said Wildcat. In the short term, the Alberta curriculum will be in the school system, and the first step will be infusing Maskwacîs Cree culture, values and worldview into the Alberta curriculum in all courses.
Wildcat says the commission has put together a strong administrative team and he’s expecting quick results.
“We are poised and ready to make some improvements here, and I feel confident that that’s going to happen,” said Wildcat.
Maskwacis is located 100 kilometres south of Edmonton.