Following up on their dissatisfaction with School District 57, the McLeod Lake Indian Band and the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation have formed an indigenous education leadership table.
For years, LTFN and MLIB have shared their concerns of systemic racism, which were highlighted in a recent ministry report; what they feel is a lack of accountability; and proof that targeted funding is being spent on what it is intended for. In June 2021, some of these concerns were confirmed by the special advisors report, which made more than 40 recommendations to improve the education experience for indigenous students in SD57.
The two bands are also seeking to each have designated indigenous seats on the board of education.
MLIB Deputy Chief Jayde Chingee states “I think this an opportunity to stand-up and build respect for Indigenous laws and our ways of knowing,” said Jayde Chingee, deputy chief of the McLeod Lake Indian Band. “The foundation of this new table will be Indigenous values and protocols. This will be a great example of an Indigenous-led solution. We have formed the indigenous education leadership table to act on behalf of both our community and LTFN to implement the recommendations outlined in the special advisors report.”
The table will represent both communities at the same level as the SD57 Board of Education and it will work cooperatively and collaboratively with senior administration to implement the recommendations of the report.
“One of the challenges our communities has faced in past years was that we participated on several School District 57 advisory committees that operated internally and made recommendations to senior staff and occasionally to the board of education,” said Chingee. “The findings of the special advisors have clearly demonstrated that this model of participation in the public education system in SD57 is not working to benefit indigenous students. The table will work directly with the board of education at their level and by association work with senior administration to implement the recommendations of the special advisors and in doing so, achieve progress towards improved graduation rates for indigenous students, improve the K-12 educational experience for indigenous students and in turn, improve student success for all students.”
Lheidli T’enneh Councillor Joshua Seymour added: “Our two communities have worked collaboratively and cooperatively on education matters for the past several years through a memorandum of understanding approved by our chiefs and councils. We have operated in the past as the joint education team and today we are taking a step forward and upward through formation of the indigenous education leadership table.”
He said the band’s role with the district in the past has been an advisory one only.
“Moving forward our role through the (table) we will develop a new relationship with the SD57 board of education and by association, with the senior administration in the district. We are the ‘rights and title holders’ of our territories and we will use the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act here in B.C. and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action to guide us in development of our leadership role in School District 57 … We are announcing today that we are ready to roll up our sleeves and work with the Board of Education and senior administration to reform and transform the current K-12 system in SD57 and create one that provides equal opportunity for indigenous and non-indigenous students to pursue their dreams and achieve their educational goals.”