An agreement signed between the province, representing Northland School Division, and the Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council provides services to schools in the tribal area but no additional dollars.
“The money is another part of the work that we need to do, to bring the two governments together and see where we can get the extra funding and resources that we’re going to need,” said Peerless-Trout Chief James Alook. On reserve schooling is paid for by the federal government.
The schools on Peerless-Trout First Nation are operated by Northland School Division. However, the schools that belong to the other signatories of the KTKN Tribal Council – Loon River, Whitefish Lake, and Woodland Cree – are all band-operated.
Chief William Whitehead, of the Woodland Cree, said this is not the first time his First Nation has had discussions with NSD over the operation of Cadotte Lake school. In fact, that school was once operated by NSD.
“We’ve been at it for so many years with Northland (and) it wasn’t worth it,” said Whitehead. “But the agreement that we signed here, I know it’s going to work.”
Whitehead points out that presently Woodland Cree pays tuition to NSD for its children to attend NSD schools and must also cover the costs to bus their children there.
“This agreement is going to change everything. Things are going to get better for our children,” he said.
Starting in September, NSD will share education programming, resources and services with the KTKN tribal area schools, as well as instructional support such as leadership and professional development. The agreement also puts a focus on instructional quotas for Aboriginal language and culture, literacy, and numeracy.
“This partnership opens other doors and commits to further dialogue. We will be addressing and discussing the concept of wrap-around services and we will be building an education services agreement which is a move away from the traditional tuition dollars specific agreement,” said Colin Kelly. Kelly was appointed in January 2010 as the official trustee of NSD when then-Education Minister Dave Hancock dismantled NSD’s 23-member corporate board.
Kelly said there is a “significant history” between NSD and KTKN tribal area schools, which face the same educational issues, so “it makes perfectly good sense” to form a partnership to address those concerns.
Collaboration is important, said Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, who took part in the official signing of the document.
Lukaszuk said shortly after he was appointed education minister he met with Aboriginal and Northern Affairs federal minister John Duncan.
“It took us five minutes to agree on the fact that collaboratively we can do better. The fact is … despite best efforts, our Aboriginal children are not benefitting from the world class education that Alberta is renowned for,” said Lukaszuk. “That is why we have decided to put some of our historical differences aside and see how we can deliver education, as partners in education, in a different way.”
However, Lukaszuk did not commit to any provincial funding for the new agreement.