A final major agreement for Maskwacis Education Schools Commission (MESC) sets the stage for First Nations cultural learning in Maskwacis.
A special ceremony was held June 20, which followed another recent agreement with the federal government, at the Ermineskin Junior Senior High School. Among the attendees were chiefs and councils along with Alberta Education Minister David Eggen.
For MESC superintendent Brian Wildcat, this most recent agreement is an important step for Maskwacis. “It’s significant on many levels,” he explained, adding that he feels it is an important step for other First Nations across the country.
“We’re creating our own education system but also I think it’s significant for all schools in Alberta because the work that will happen, we will be able to contribute and inform the development of curriculum for all schools.”
Figuring out a way to work with the four First Nations on Maskwacis is not an easy task as reserves are considered a federal jurisdiction, and as such, provincial governments tend to stay away from discussing funding or other agreements.
Wildcat praised Alberta’s government for having a desire to connect with First Nations. This is a first step.
“It allows us to have conversations with the Alberta Government to access supports and services that other Alberta schools and other Alberta children have been able to benefit from,” said Wildcat, stating that First Nations students were typically unable to access these services.
Student assessments and curriculum will be developed by MESC and Alberta Education to meet the needs of students in Maskwacis, which will help inform the province. Some funding support is included in this agreement.
For Eggen’s part, there was always an issue of inequity of provincial schools and reserve schools. “We’ve been looking for ways of getting around that, still with the integrity of nation to nation responsibilities for the federal government to provide education.”
Eggen says discussions havecreated additional funding from the federal government and communication lines between Maskwacis and Alberta Education have opened up.
“Now we can get down to business of improving education outcomes here in Maskwacis,” said Eggen.
When asked about how the province was able to side step the federal jurisdiction, Eggen said it took some political will and negotiation.
“The federal government knew the funding was inadequate,” explained Eggen.
“Somewhere between the two we found a way to move forward.”
He is pleased to see a culture-based learning system will be developed that will provide some knowledge to Alberta Education and to MESC students while also giving students fundamental math and English learning.
This agreement sees a shift in power and intention, added Eggen, who said there are many eyes on MESC to see how this framework will shape First Nation students’ education.