Phase 1: The Dream

Phase 2: The Goals

Phase 3: The Plan

Phase 4: The Helpers

Phase 5: Working Together

Phase 6: Development

Phase 7: Bringing Everything Together

Phase 8: Review and Implementation


Message from the NNCEA Director

of Education 2017-2018

Being the Director of Education for the Nisichawayashi Nehetho Culture and Education Authority Inc. is an interesting, exciting, and extremely honourable position to be in. This message contains some useful information that will guide me as I do the job. It contains background information on our education system and aspirations for the future.

The work in our school system is enormous. Despite impeccable odds and obstacles, our educational system has progressed and the momentum will continue! In record time and with much resourcefulness, the Education Authority has changed and evolved immensely. Dedicated community leaders/members and staff, present and past, as well as our funders/external resources deserve acknowledgement for all their contributions.

I believe every First Nation (FN) has the ability to manage and control its own affairs with the integrity to make the needed adjustments/transformations. However, transformations take courage; time; planning; leadership; adequate funding; immense resources and a unified will and effort by all educational players. Our school system is a ”work in progress”. Improvements are made day to day, year to year. Your participation, as we move forward, is definitely required and definitely needed. It’s time for parents and community members to play an active role in the educational future of the children.

The Canadian public, federal and provincial governments; Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal leaders; individual First Nation’s; internal/external resources; school personnel; parents and students are all primary players in the movement towards providing a quality education for our students. A proactive approach is desirable. ”Wetatoskemitowin” or working together has to be! Additional research and data collection, efforts and actions by all is vital for our continued success. Compared to many school systems, our educational system is relatively ”young”. Our education system has gone through various times and various phases and this history is important!

The horror of the residential school and church run day school that many experienced have been well-researched, well-documented and well-publicized. It is well-known that the assimilation of Aboriginal Peoples was purposely done by the Federal Government of Canada. On June 11, 2008 the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephan Harper, made an official statement of Apology to Survivors of Indian Residential Schools in the House of Commons. The government’s efforts to educate Aboriginal Peoples did not succeed and has resulted in a legacy of damages. The effects of this historical trauma have contributed to the devastation that is prevalent in our communities today and will take generations to heal.

With the release of various documents such as The Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (AJI, 1991), The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP, 1996) and Truth and Reconciliation of Canada Report (TRC, 2015), the federal government has ackowledged and apologized for their role in matter and have now ”opened the door” to reconciliation. The 94 calls to action, if and when implemented will help us as we begin this journey of reconciliation. Like the the Honorable Senator Murray Sinclair recently stated ”EDUCATION is what got us here, and EDUCATION is what will get us out”. Significant dollars has been allocated to First Nations education systems across the land. This will provide some needed financial relief. We must ensure that we get our portion to make the educational improvements. It is imperative for us to ”rise above” all that has happened and all that has changed and keep going.

Before the highway opened up in the mid 1970’s, Nelson House or Nsichawayasihk was an isolated, fly-in community. In the early 1980’s, there were a few amenities or conveniences. In the majority of households, there was no electricity/hydro, running water, regular phone service, television or technological services whatsoever. The population was much smaller with a few necessities like a small nursing station, a few homes and businesses, a Hudson’s Bay store, rough roads, and many people lived off of the land. The only people who had access to the luxuries were teachers and nurses. Gestetners (precursor to the Xerox machine were the best thing invented at that time!) Even though the people in the community had few possessions/ luxuries, they seemed to live happy, productive lives.

In 1982, this is how it was on the reserve. Classes were held in long, trailer units as the previous school was destroyed by fire. This is how it was, in general, when Indian Control of Indian Education (ICIE) began at Nelson House. Like other First Nations, we began our educational journey without the basic amenities, luxuries, supports and structures in place. As most people know, First Nation school system budgets are substantially lower than those of provincial school system budgets. Given the situation, the First Nation school systems have done reasonably well.

The advent of Indian Control of Indian Education (ICIE) also known as ”local control”, Indigenous Control of Indigenous Education (ICIE) and First Nations Control of First Nations (FNCFNE) came into existence for a reason. Many educators/people are unaware of the relevance and importance of ICIE because it has not been promoted. This needs modification.

Aboriginal leaders, of the day, at that time, united to take a strong stand on ”local control”. They knew that the federal government’s efforts to educate First Nations (FN) children were disastrous. So, the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood (now known as the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, AMC) stated their position in a paper entitled Wahbung; Our Tomorrows (1971) and the National Indian Brotherhood (now known as the Assembly of First Nations, AFN,) created the national, comprehensive document on Indian Control of Indian Education (1972). This landmark policy was officially recognized and adopted by the Government of Canada on February 2, 1973.

The policy laid the foundation for First Nations (FN) to take responsibility for education systems on the reserve. The document secured the need to have FNs input and parental involvement in the process as well as the provision of numerous recommendations. Education is a Treaty right that must be retained! The opportunity to create a better education system for our children was made available and still exists. We cannot lose sight of this opportunity/responsibility.

In December, 2016, the School Board went through a Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) exercise. At the root of the exercise, the School Board, expressed that our children need to be proud of who they are, where they come from so they will know where they want to go. By the time our students graduate from our more culturally appropriate system, it is anticipated that they will know and be proud of their ancestry, the language and culture and have a holistic educational experience so they can succeed in life and live healthier lives. This plan was presented at a community engagement meeting held in February 2017 which was well received. As time passes, more information session will happen. This is what the School Board wants to implement:

Our Purpose Needs To Be
’Kita-kistithihtamahk akwa Kita-apacihtayahk Ithinisiwin Kiskinwahamakiwinihk Isi’

’To Acknowledge & Use the Sacredness of Our Language & Culture in the Education System’

This is the dream, the vision
’Soki othatamakiwin Mitho opikihowasowin Miskanow’ Setting a Strong Path for Our Children

These are the goals
’Kita maskawikapawistamak’, ’Nihithowi kiskinwahahamakiwin’, ’Awasisi nihithowi kiskinahamakiwina’, ’Mamawi hopikihawasowin’ To increase & strengthen the Indigenous language & culture

We can start to phase in our language and cultural activities by providing a nurturing environment, year to year. In the end, we can be more happy, more content, more structured/successful and more hopeful for the future!

To achieve this ideal, it will take much time, planning, an atmosphere of cooperation, comradery, commitment, and many resources. The direction for the future has been relayed. The time to alter our course is upon us. To make this happen, we need to work together.

Our school system can be more than it is. The schools need to be ”ours” and not just a duplication of the provincial school systems from which most of us were educated in. Language and culture has to be at the core. The traditional and contemporary has to be balanced. It is up to us to alter the course and set direction for the future now. For sure, ”the fruits of our labour” will not be evident for years but this ideal can be attained if we act now!

Besides this overall plan, other initiatives on the horizon include: a new school (s); celebrating our successes; policy revision; additional human resources; purchasing new buses; getting Elders in our schools/classrooms; land-based education for all; language and culture emphasis and strengthening the language program; phasing in Cree immersion; addressing challenges in a proactive manner; making our schools healthier/happier; bringing in a school year calendar that suits our community; more supports for students with special needs; more professional development for our students, staff and community; community education; parental engagement; more road signage; upgrading the facilities; integration of Aboriginal perspectives; formal education assistant training with UCN; video-conferencing.

Over the years, our school system has advanced. We have: followed the Manitoba school curriculum; maintained our facilities/assets; built partnerships with local/regional/provincial organizations; our own Printshop; computerized report cards/attendance systems; lots of technology is in the classrooms/school: virtual learners; our own fleet and buses/vehicles, modern teacherages; a state of the art security system; on-going professional development; a fair amount of resources; Jack Moore Traditional Program is well used; created a resource booklet on our history and a mini-dictionary of our dialect; our own graduates, some of whom have done real well in the language arts provincials; some long-term seasoned, staff are still here; breakfast/snack/lunch program; annual events that are very successful; Junior Chief and Council; sports program; Mathletics; lots of school committees.

Yes, much has been done. We will never be finished as our educational system will always be a ”work in progress”. We must change as the times change. The lessons learned from yesterday will guide us and steer us in the right direction! We need to ensure that the children of Nisichawayasihk have a firm foundation so they can live a healthy and productive life. The information contained herein will guide us as we transform the school system year to year.

As we move forward, the words of Chris Scribe are insightful ”If you are interested in creating a culturally responsive, Indigenously infused school enviornment that promotes the revitalization of the past for success in the future just follow these simple steps”:

1) Keep it Local
2) Know your elders and knowledge keepers
3) Make believers, out of Non-Believers
4) Ask the right questions
5) Put on your Indigenous lens
6) Never become complacent
7) Stop working on an island
8) Don't be afraid to fail


    L. G Gossfeld-McDonald, B.ED, M.ED

    NNCEA Director of Education

© Nisichawayasi Nehetho Culture and Education Authority Inc