by Phil Ambroziak

The future of education is looking bright for Indigenous students in Saskatchewan’s north.

This is how representatives from the University of Regina’s faculty of education, Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band feel in the wake of a new Indigenous teacher education program. Rooted in Indigenous cultures and languages, as well as land-based pedagogy, the U of R, GDI and LLRIB have partnered to establish the four-year, Bachelor of Education program known as Northern Saskatchewan Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NSITEP). The program is aimed at a addressing the need for more teachers, especially Indigenous teachers, in Saskatchewan and came about in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call for Action report.

“NSITEP – developed and offered in partnership with the Gabriel Dumont Institute and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, and located on the territory of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band – demonstrates how the faculty of education and the University of Regina are committed to more fully realizing their relational obligation to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples,” explained Dr. Jerome Cranston, dean of the U of R’s faculty of education. “NSITEP recognizes the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples, places a premium on learning within community, and is an attempt to better balance the typically asymmetrical relationships that have historically existed.”

NSITEP will focus on Indigenous world views and will prepare a new generation of Indigenous teachers equipped to build on the strengths of Métis, First Nations, and Inuit students, families, and communities, while also addressing their unique needs.

“Gabriel Dumont Institute is very pleased to be a part of this important initiative to expand educational opportunities in the North,” noted Dr. Earl Cook, Métis Nation–Saskatchewan education minister and chair of the GDI board of governors.

According to LLRIB chief Tammy Cook-Searson, the new program is important because effective teachers have a huge positive impact on the lives of First Nations youth.

“Indigenous students are more empowered when they see themselves reflected in the curriculum, study resources, and in their teachers and school administrators; and all students are better off when diversity is embraced in schools,” Cook-Searson remarked.

The first cohort of 26 Métis and First Nations students have been accepted into the NSITEP program and began their studies last week. Among them is Pinehouse resident Olivia MacDonald.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher but life just kept getting in the way,” MacDonald told Northern Pride. “Now is the time. This is a wonderful opportunity for me. It’s still very early, but the program is cultural based. This is very important to me and to my fellow students with an Indigenous background. We want to be able to impart this on the youth we will some day teach.”

MacDonald went on to say any sort of cultural teachings can be of great benefit.

“There’s also the importance of our languages too,” she added. “This is going to be exciting.”

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