A significant change has occurred in Maskwacis that sees its education changed for the better.
On Nov. 29, the chiefs of the four nations in Maskwacis signed a historic agreement that amalgamates education under one authority. For some elders, this is a dream come true since the 1970s and for school administrators it bridges the funding gap for First Nations students and sets them up for success.
Called the Maskwacis Education School Commission (MESC), all students in Maskwacis will be taught under this new program and funding will come from one roof.
For acting superintendent Brian Wildcat, the hard work of the past eight years ensures students not only get funding on an equal level to non-Indigenous students but also ensures that Cree culture is infused in the curriculum.
As many band members as possible were consulted with in Maskwacis to ensure Treaty rights were not missed out, said Wildcat. On top of that a new funding program with the federal government is expected to be reached soon.
“Really the key of this and purpose of this was for us to find a way to improve educational results,” said Wildcat. “And achievement of students in Maskwacis.”
He feels putting resources together ensures a better process for students and is expected to improve exam and graduation results.
“Through the consultation with the elders in the community it’s been made very clear to us that the system we’re creating is based on Cree culture and language,” said Wildcat, adding that is part of the agreement with the federal government.
There are four clear principles included in the agreement: positive relationships and connectivity, preserving and encouraging the Cree language, building the system based on the Cree way of living, and First Nations and Indigenous thought throughout the system.
Wildcat is excited to see balanced funding coming to MESC. “The funding right now is annual, one year at a time, and 30/35 per cent of our funding is proposal driven. It’s not guaranteed like the province.”
This funding stretches over seven years, which is the term of the agreement. Wildcat adds that it provides compensatory funding to cover the gap in past funding models.
MESC board chairperson Nina Makinaw, also a councillor with the Ermineskin Cree Nation, is excited for what this change will bring to Maskwacis students. She believes the funding hadn’t seen significant change since the late 1980s.
Makinaw also looks forward to seeing what Cree educators will bring to the table. “We’re able to develop a Cree-based education system and we have the capacity here in Maskwacis.”
MESC vice-chairperson Mario Swampy, also a councillor with the Samson Cree Nation, is excited with this change. He feels there’s lots of work ahead for Maskwacis but is pleased with this first step.
“We’re truly looking at an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, these are my Treaty partners and these are some of the collaborative efforts that we’re embarking on that is going to see both sides succeed,’” said Swampy.
He suggests the collaboration between Maskwacis and the federal government on MESC is a positive dialogue between two nations.
The four chiefs, Samson Cree Chief Vernon Saddleback, Montana Cree acting-Chief Brad Rabbit, Louis Bull Cree Chief Irvin Bull and Ermineskin Cree Chief Craig Makinaw were on hand to sign.
There were two documents to sign: the Maskwacis Cree declaration on education and the delegation agreement. The latter is where each Maskwacis nation confirms MESC as the education authority.