Friday, 15 December 2017 04:07

College signs agreement to promote reconciliation through education

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Staff members from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and Great Plains College were present for the signing of the strategic alliance, Nov. 28. Staff members from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and Great Plains College were present for the signing of the strategic alliance, Nov. 28.

Great Plains College has established a strategic partnership with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) that will assist the college to promote reconciliation through education.


The signing of the memorandum of understanding and strategic alliance took place at the Office of the Treaty Commissioner in Saskatoon, Nov. 28.
The two organizations made a commitment to work together to provide education on treaties and indigenous knowledge, and to promote an indigenous inclusive learning environment.
According to Great Plains College Vice President Academic Dr. Brian Gobbett the agreement formalizes an existing relationship with the OTC, which has previously resulted in presentations by OTC speakers on all the campuses.
“It’s a partnership, an agreement, as opposed to a legal contract, but really what it does is it commits us and them to enter into a dialogue and provides opportunity for them to come on our campuses and to share some of their expertise,” he said.
The previous presentations have focused on the importance of treaties and provided information about indigenous history and worldview.
“We’ve done a couple of this on each one of our campuses,” he said. “It’s a modest step towards helping to inform our communities about the importance of indigenous peoples on the prairies. … We did that last year, and it was so positive that we thought that this is a worthwhile thing to do and we really wanted to formalize it a little bit and have a bit of a partnership going forward.”
Similar presentations will take place in future. Follow-up surveys were done among students after previous events, and students felts positive about these presentations and the information presented to them.
“One of the things we do is ask our students to rate their knowledge of awareness of indigenous history and culture on a scale one to seven, and typically it’s very low,” he said. “Then we ask them what did you learn and they write down all kinds of things. Of course, that they learned what treaty they’re a part of, they learned something about indigenous spirituality and indigenous approaches to history, and indigenous approaches towards the treaties themselves.
Dr. Gobbett believes increased knowledge of indigenous history and culture will have a broader benefit for students beyond the campus.
“I think it is really important, as they are citizens of Saskatchewan and of Canada, to know a little bit about our common history with indigenous peoples,” he said. “This is important in all kinds of ways, and of course the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called for 94 action steps. This is all geared towards greater reconciliation for the good of all Canadians. This is our little contribution towards that.”
The OTC aims to foster a better understanding of the treaty relationship and reconciliation among Saskatchewan residents, and partnerships such as this one with Great Plains College will make a difference to achieve that goal.
“All the agreements that we sign, all the partnerships that we establish formally like this, are very important to us because we have a very small office,” OTC Executive Director Harry Lafond said. “There’s only about seven of us that work in this office and so partnerships are very necessary for us to have that outreach into the Saskatchewan community.”
It therefore makes sense for the OTC to connect with institutions such as Great Plains College in a formal way to work together on common objectives.
“We had come to that understanding with Great Plains College,” he said. “We had done a number of events and activities together over the course of the last two years. So we felt that we should formalize that relationship, and from there we’ll establish a common work plan from specific items, one of them being treaty education in the classroom.”
The OTC has several agreements with the University of Saskatchewan through different faculties and associations, as well as formal agreements with the University of Regina. The OTC works closely with Saskatchewan Polytechnic, although there is no formal agreement with them.
“So we keep our door open in terms of associations and institutions that may want to do work with us in a more committed way rather than ad hoc,” he said.
Past interactions between OTC and Great Plains College have been very positive, which served as an additional motivation to sign this strategic alliance.
“The times where we were able to do workshops, go into the classrooms, have discussions and dialogues with the students, the reception was very, very open,” Lafond said. “The students are very interested in knowing more about Saskatchewan history in the way that incorporates treaty knowledge and indigenous presence.”
Dr. Gobbett mentioned that between five and six per cent of Great Plains College students will self-identify as having an indigenous background.
The college has received support from different First Nations organizations for various initiatives. The college provides basic education classes as well as some post-secondary classes at the Whitecap Dakota First Nation south of Saskatoon.
The college received funding from the Dakota Dunes Community Development Fund for education related activities at Whitecap Dakota First Nation and in Warman, including an indigenous awareness workshop in Warman on Nov. 10 that was addressed by Lyndon Linklater, a member of the OTC speaker’s bureau.
The college also has a partnership with the Living Sky Casino, which resulted in the creation of the Indigenous Adult Basic Education Persistence Award.
It is provided by the Living Sky Casino and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Association. The four awards of $500 each are provided annually to students actively enrolled in the Grade 12 upgrading or pre-12 ABE programs in Maple Creek or Swift Current.
“We are doing different things,” Dr. Gobbett said. “Our efforts are modest but targeted to be supportive and positive and to build bridges.”

Read 806 times Last modified on Friday, 15 December 2017 05:13
Matthew Liebenberg

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