By Michael Oleksyn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
PRINCE ALBERT, SASK- An increased focus on teaching Indigenous languages, and making room on the calendar for more Indigenous festivals and days of remembrance are just two of the things Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division is doing to try and meet the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) education calls to action.
Sask. Rivers education director Robert Bratvold delivered an update on the school division’s efforts to meet the TRC’s calls during a school board meeting on Monday. The TRC published their calls to action in 2015, and the school division has been tracking efforts to respond to those calls since 2017.
Bratvold said the division has to be upfront about what the call to action was and what the actions that were taken were.
“It is important to acknowledge and recognize racism and inequities and suppression and colonialism. It’s important just to strictly acknowledge that, but that’s not enough,” he said. “We need to take action to correct that. We need to be actively anti-racist, anti-oppressive, we need to be actively responding to the calls the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made and so that is what we continue to do.”
The division has applied for and received funding for to help implement Jordan’s Principle in response to TRC calls to action on child welfare. Jordan’s Principle helps ensure all First Nations children living in Canada can access the products, services, and supports they need, when they need them. It’s named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba.
The division has also supported KidsFirst, helped schools access Catholic Family Services, and worked in partnership with the Prince Albert Early Years Resource Centre to address calls to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs.
The division’s biggest step has been their language programs, which were created to address calls to protect the rights to Aboriginal languages and teach them for course credits. Recent steps include establishing a partnership with Metis Nation-Saskatchewan
(MNS) to create a Michif Language and Culture Program at Queen Mary School and St. Louis Public School. The division has also created an Indigenous Language Learning Community in Fall of 2021. The group supports Cree and Michif teachers in the division and Language Keepers in early years and high school, a Dakota teacher and Language Keeper and EA at Wahpeton and a Cree teacher at Muskoday.
There was also a Fall Feast and Pipe Ceremony hosted in Nov., 2021 at Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI) and there are plans for a Winter Pipe Ceremony in February at Queen Mary.
The division will also be celebrating a Ribbon Skirt and Ribbon Shirt Day in March.
“I feel so proud of the team_the folks who are doing the work in the classrooms every day that aren’t on a bulletin list somewhere,”
Bratvold said. “They are doing things with kids, for kids with families to support families. I’m really, really proud of the work that the team is doing.”
Bratvold credited the Indigenous Perspectives Team of Jodi Letendre and Shea Pilon under the guidance of Superintendent Jennifer Hingley for helping the process along.
“The board has been really clear about the importance of this work in their Strategic Planning and in their conversations with admin and in the directional guidance they provide right from board level,” Bratvold said. “Our senior admin team works on this, (from) consultants and coaches, to principals (and) staff, and it is not just teaching staff it’s educational assistants and it’s supports staff.”
Other areas covered during Monday’s meeting include, justice, professional development and training for public servants, education for reconciliation, and sports and reconciliation.
Bratvold highlighted the work of the board itself through their actions attending events and also setting directions in the division.
“I am thankful that it aligns with the passion and importance that I would place with this area of our work,” he said.
Michael Oleksyn is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the PRINCE ALBERT DAILY HERALD. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.