On July 12, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek citizen Gail Nootchtai cast her ballot during the community’s ratification vote on the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement. Photo by: Kim Nootchtai.

By Laura Barrios

ATIKAMEKSHENG ANISHNAWBEK—On July 12, the eligible voters of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek voted “yes” to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement with Canada. This “yes” vote means that Atikameksheng Anishnawbek will be part of the Anishinabek Education System.

Atikameksheng was one of 27 communities that had an overwhelming “yes” vote in the first vote in December 2016, but was one of the 13 communities that did not meet the threshold of 25% + 1 “yes” votes. A second vote permitted 12 communities to conduct a second vote without the same threshold as the first vote to affirm the “yes” vote of the citizens.

“It’s one step closer to self-governance,” stated Chief Steve Miller on the successful ratification of the Education Agreement. “Education has always been a major stone in order for our people to advance our interests and our treaty rights. It’s something that’s really important to not only our community, but our children that are in the education system. This is a big step and it’s a step that’s been long coming. The foreign government has forced us into an education system that really didn’t work for us and there are stats on that year after year showing how the education system is failing our First Nations in Ontario and right across Canada. So to have this control and this say on how we want to be teaching our children on all levels of education is something that we embrace.”

The Education Agreement with Canada is the recognition by Canada of the Anishinabek First Nations’ jurisdiction over primary, elementary, and secondary education. The agreement will also provide the funding to operate the Anishinabek Education System (AES), a stand-alone education system parallel to its provincial counterparts.

In moving forward with the Education Agreement, the community will be eligible to sign an additional agreement, the Master Education Agreement, with Ontario. The provincial agreement creates a new relationship between the Anishinabek First Nations and Ontario that supports Anishinabek student success and well-being in the Anishinabek Education System and the provincially-funded education system.

On August 16, 2017, Atikameksheng will be joining other communities that voted “yes” to the Education Agreement in Chippewas of Rama First Nation for the historic signing of the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement with Canada and the Master Education Agreement with Ontario.

“This is a humongous step and ground breaking for what we can do!” expressed Chief Miller.

For additional information on the Anishinabek Education System, please visit the Say ‘Yes’ to the AES website.