Education, grounded in language and culture, is seen as a tool to support the advancement of nations. This is a focus of Indigenous communities across Canada who are striving to improve the current graduation rates for students at all educational levels. Current statistics indicate that only 39.9% of persons aged 18 years of age and older residing in First Nations have graduated from high school and only 4.9% of individuals had obtained a post secondary education. These gradation rates decrease as the remoteness of the community increases (Regional Health Survey, 2012). In spite of the low graduation rates, language preservation persists where approximately 70% of adults report either being able to speak or understand their language from their nation.
Research supports that, education that fosters culture and language, contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of individuals and in turn the collective wellbeing of the whole community. As such, the issue of ensuring greater educational access has become one of the leading issues for First Nations across this country as we mobilize and rebuild our nations. This will take a combined approach that includes providing culturally relevant curriculum development and educational opportunities that support building strong, vibrant, and sustainable local economies.
On November 28, 2012 Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak drafted a unified position with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and The Southern Chiefs Organization that recognized the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in addition to numerous other historical and legal documents that affirmed and supported Indigenous rights and treaty rights to education. the Unified position
“the Assembly of First Nations to work together with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and Southern Chiefs’ Organization in order to assist Manitoba First Nations in the development of their own education laws as described herein.”
MKO is committed to achieving this goal by supporting educational initiatives that reflect the culture, language, and traditions of the community. This must start with our children in the early years of their education through post secondary opportunities later on in life. This includes contributing to the ongoing development of legislative framework on education to assist with the negotiations on the jurisdiction of education.
MKO At A Glance
Head Start Programs
In order to prepare our children for school, many MKO nations currently facilitate Head Start programs that focus on enhancing opportunities during early childhood development to ensure readiness when they enter school. This includes the establishment of community driven and community led early intervention strategies that prepare our young people to enter primary school. Central to Head Start programs is the involvement of families, Elders, and the community at large who play a key role in the education of our young people.
A key focus of MKO leadership is to improve access to k-12 education on reserve. There are currently 22 MKO communities that manage locally controlled school boards in addition to other communities who have partnered with Frontier School Division. Although disparities persist relating to equitable access to k-12 educational opportunities, MKO is committed to working with MKO communities, government partners, Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, and other service providers to improve education in our North.
Post Secondary Training
MKO communities play an active role in supporting post secondary opportunities in Northern Manitoba. This includes a number of Elders residing in communities in the MKO region who currently sit on the Elders advisory of the University College of the North. Moreover, although many students leave their communities in pursuit of post secondary training, many MKO communities have chosen to offer community based training initiatives at home to support individuals who wish to stay in their community. There are currently ten MKO communities that our offering community based programs through partnerships with University College of the North. MKO is proud to support the efforts of MKO nations working hard to improve post secondary graduation rates i their communities.
In response to feedback from First Nations Elders and community members, it has been stressed time again that we must guarantee the protection of the Treaty right to education and to ensure all parties involved fulfill their obligations. Therefore, MKO is committed to support nations within the MKO region to develop healthy local education systems that meet the needs of contemporary life, societal trends, future developments, traditions, laws, customs, culture and language.