Education EagleBy Tracey O’Donnell

A 2006 education symposium of Anishinabek Nation leaders, Elders, educators, and interested parents endorsed the establishment of an Anishinabek Education System (the “AES”).   Since that time, the Anishinabek Education System structure and functions have been developed and updated through community consultations, education symposiums, Regional Education Council meetings and Grand Council resolutions.

The AES vision statement remains unchanged since 2006.  It reads: “We, the Anishinabek, are responsible to educate our children so that in the generations to follow there will always be Anishinaabe.

Our education system will prepare our citizens for a quality of life based on the highest standards of Anishinaabe intellectual, holistic knowledge that supports the preservation and on-going development of Anishinaabe.”

The development of the Anishinabek Education System is based on the Anishinabek First Nations inherent jurisdiction over education: First Nation control of First Nation education.

The Anishinabek Nation has proposed a system of local, regional and central education structures that will support a culture of learning for First Nations students by, providing culturally-appropriate curriculum, resources and assessments, while maintaining sound financial controls and economies of scale.

These First Nations-based structures are critical to unlocking the First Nations’ student’s potential.  The emphasis on Anishinabek customs, language and ways of learning in the curriculum will benefit schools and students on-reserve.

In addition, the Anishinabek are negotiating with Ontario to support the delivery of the Anishinabek curriculum in  provincial, publicly-funded schools for the benefit of Anishinabek and other students.

The funding to support the establishment and on going operation of the Anishinabek Education System is  part of negotiations with Canada regarding the recognition of Anishinabek First Nation jurisdiction over education. The text of the draft Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement was completed in September 2010 but continues to be negotiated as we move towards completion of the education arrangements with Canada.

The fiscal negotiations have taken years to advance.  After six years, Canada responded, first in December 2012 and again on September 9, 2013 to the Anishinabek proposal tabled in September 2006. Canada’s fiscal offer does not close the funding gap that the Anishinabek Nation identified in 2006 through a gap analysis report. The Anishinabek First Nation Chiefs and Council and education professionals will now review Canada’s fiscal offer, and the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement, at the Special Assembly on Education, November 13 and 14, 2013, in Nipissing First Nation.

In addition to the education negotiations with Canada, the Anishinabek Nation has been discussing the implementation and operation of the Anishinabek Education System with Ontario.  This is not at a self-government negotiations table, but at a separate table.  Ontario is eager to work together with the Anishinabek Nation to advance the education of Anishinabek First Nation students both at home and off-reserve.

Ontario has supported the Anishinabek Nation by providing information that allows the Anishinabek First Nations to identify those areas where the Anishinabek Education System can work cooperatively with Ontario to improve First Nation student achievement.  A Memorandum of Understanding with Ontario was signed in November 2009. Progress has been productive and useful. The province’s readiness to support the implementation of the Anishinabek Education System is apparent. Ontario is now seeking a Cabinet mandate to proceed with the negotiation of a Master Tuition Agreement, among other things.

The Anishinabek Nation is proceeding with its education agenda. The Kinomaadswin Education Body (KEB) was incorporated in 2011 to begin implementation of the Anishinabek Education System. The KEB was incorporated under Ontario’s Corporations Act as an interim measure, until such time as the Education Agreement with Canada might be ratified.

A selection process for representative Directors of the Board of the KEB took place from September to October 2013, with the exception of the Regional Education Council representing the First Nations on Manitoulin Island.

Some Chiefs have indicated that they do not support going forward without further exploration of options.

The Anishinabek Education System was developed to achieve better student success rates and to ensure cultural continuity for Anishinabek. This can be accomplished through sharing resources to provide technical supports, curriculum, professional development, and long-term planning.

Essentially, the Anishinabek Education System is an extension of Ngo Dwe Waangizid, One Anishinaabe Family, the statement of Anishinaabe values and principles.