First Nations education authority celebrates first year of independence

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

A year after signing a historic agreement with the Canadian government, Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council Education Authority (KTCEA) released its first official annual community report.

The report is peppered with Cree syllabics and Roman orthography, the two ways two write Cree. This is in keeping with its vision – “excellence in Indigenous education – nîhiyaw kiskinohamâkîwin nakacîwin.”

“We kicked off the 2019-2020 school year with a historic signing of a Regional Education Agreement with the Government of Canada,” says KTCEA chair, Loon River Chief Ivan Sawan in the report. “This agreement means that we have control over the education of our children. We are beginning to see the benefits to our students through programs and services offered across all of our schools.”

“KTCEA member First Nations have worked collaboratively for over two decades to provide better education services and opportunities for students,” says the report. “A number of important partnerships and agreements were established over the past eight years that enabled KTC First Nations to begin moving forward with the vision of a single education authority that would provide high-quality education to KTC students”

“Education was and continues to be seen as key to ensure nîhiyâwîwin [Cree] ways thrive and to leave a strong legacy in place for present and future generations,” says the report. The education authority started as a partnership in 2012 and took various steps to becoming an education authority. KTCEA provides “Kindergarten to Grade 12 education for approximately 1,050 students located in six First Nations schools within a geographic territory of approximately 8,200 square kilometres.”

One highlight in the report was the release of the KTCEA Elders Speak App, which is a Cree language app.

The schools also offer Cree language classes.

The report includes results from a Cree language survey with 447 responses. In the survey, 48.5 per cent said that they speak Cree, 71.4 per cent said they understand Cree, 91.5 per cent said their parents speak Cree, but only 14.3 per cent said that their friends speak Cree outside of school.

Some other highlights in the report had to do with student accomplishments: 12 students graduated, 15 received credits in robotics, and there was a 20 per cent increase in Grade 1 students “reading at a higher level.”

Also, 91 students took part in Equine Assisted Learning.

“Animals can offer an extraordinary amount of emotional support and can be used therapeutically to help students,” says the report. “Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is a mental health intervention facilitated by trained counselors. EAL helps students build confidence and coping skills and address trauma, stress, and emotional control.”

EAL was incorporated in land-based learning camps.

“KTCEA provides land-based learning programs and outdoor educational experiences that incorporate and transfer nîhiyâwîwin language, beliefs, attitudes, and skills,” says the report. KTCEA offered this at schools, in the community, and in camps. It held seven land-based learning camps for students in Grade 4 to 12, these happened before the camps were suspended because of COVID-19. It also established an Elders Advisory Committee to support these camps.

There were also highlights regarding staff – 55 per cent of staff were from Kee Tas Kee Now nations, 17 KTCEA employees enrolled in a masters degree, and 91 per cent of teaching staff stayed on, compared to 72 per cent in 2018-19.

KTCEA includes Loon River, Woodland Cree, Lubicon Lake Band, Whitefish Lake and Peerless Trout First Nations. These First Nations are all north of Lesser Slave Lake off Highway 88, 750 and 986.

Editor’s note: unless otherwise indicated, all information is from Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council Education Authority (KTCEA) Community Report 2019-2020.

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