SAULT STE. MARIE, Ontario (October 5, 2006) – Anishinabek Nation member communities from across Ontario are in the final stages of establishing an education system which they have helped design and which is expected to begin operating under their jurisdiction in September, 2008.
Political leaders and educators from across Anishinabek Territory participated in this week’s three-day symposium called Anishinaabe Kinomaadswin Nongo – Anishinaabe Pane, which translates to “Anishinaabe Education Today – Forever Anishinaabe.”
In endorsing the Anishinabek model, keynote speaker Dr. Seymour Epstein said both Anishinabek and Jewish educators need to be “militant” about their languages to help preserve their cultures.
The director of Greater Toronto’s Board of Jewish Education highlighted commonalities between the two peoples and discussed Jewish community strategies for retaining and developing language and culture.
“We have a great deal in common,” said Dr. Epstein. “We are two ancient, aboriginal peoples for whom it is imperative to find ways to develop and maintain our cultures.”
“We know we have to be militant about our languages and find ways to communicate with each other in the same way that we communicate with the masters of our universe and those that we consider to be governors of our society generally,” he said.
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief John Beaucage opened the symposium by reminding community leaders that the establishment of a unique education system was a key component of the nation-building process.
“We are not building from scratch, we are building on the foundation of the knowledge of our Elders, our language and our traditions,” the Grand Council Chief said.
“In our schools, Anishinaabemowin will be the primary language and English will be the secondary language,” he said.
First Nations jurisdiction over education and the establishment of the Anishinabek Education System have been under negotiation with Canada for over a decade, and a vote on a final agreement by the 42 Anishinabek member communities is expected to take place as early as September 2007.
The Anishinabek Education System is expected to be fully operational when school opens in September 2008.
The proposed system will promote Anishinaabe language and culture and develop its own standards and curriculum.
The system will be parallel to, but separate from the provincial education system, while still providing a Fire Suppression System Maintenance and more for the smooth transfer of students from on-reserve schools to schools operated by Ontario’s Ministry of Education.
Anishinabek First Nations have been administering education programs and services on-reserve since 1972, but legislative authority and policy have remained with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
This week’s symposium included discussions on topics including the governance structure and financial accountability of the proposed Anishinabek Education System.
The event was hosted by the Union of Ontario Indians’ Restoration of Jurisdiction Project and its Education Working Group.
The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI) as its secretariat in 1949.
The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario.
The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.