The FNEAA Virtual National Gathering took place on October 27 and 28, 2021. 

 The theme of the National Gathering is Champions of Change – Honouring Resiliency which highlights four specific quadrants of lifelong learning and growth in a First Nations educational context.

Day 1 – Opening Plenary 

Elder Mike Mitchell began by explaining that traditionally before any meeting or gathering took place amongst the people, a speaker was appointed.  It was then the responsibility of that speaker to acknowledge all of creation, from all directions.  Each living and non-living creation from the land, waters, sky, and beyond are acknowledged.  Elder Mike then conducted this acknowledgement in his own traditional Mohawk language.

Upon completion of his prayer, Elder Mike spoke in English to acknowledge the Creator for giving us life.  Gratitude of being able to walk another day with our families and our Nations.  Everyday thanks are given in respect to all of creation.

For this meeting and any other meeting entered into, Elder Mike advised to pledge always to speak with a good mind and a good heart.  He then gave blessings for a meetings of the National Gathering Conference.

Dr. Tremblay began by thanking Elder Mike Mitchell’s words for helping to begin the gathering in a good way.  She also acknowledged the three-week old newborn in attendance, as learning is life-long; and traditionally all are welcome at gatherings to listen.  The spirit of the newborn is allowing the spoken words to be understood by the heart.  Dr. Tremblay welcomed the over 200 participants with enthusiasm for the First Virtual National Gathering of the First Nations Education Administrators Association.

A power-point presentation was used to thank and acknowledge the (1) sponsors; (2) vendors; (3) corporate members; and (4) FNEAA members – as all these groups are in attendance for the benefit of First Nations educators and education administrators.

The themes of the National Gathering were presented with brief descriptions.  The four themes explained were as follows:

·      Resiliency – First Nations are diverse with their own Nations, cultures and languages, and continue to maintain and regain autonomy despite the challenges endured

·      Reconciliation – First Nations focus on healing through traditional ceremonies and the acknowledgements, public apologies, commitments, and strategies, including legislation and recognition of First Nations history and treaties by external governments

·      Control – First Nations control of First Nation education by capacity building, life-long learning, and leadership inclusive of traditions respecting the individuals, families, and communities

·      Change – First Nation identity is in constant evolution.  Interconnectedness and education are embraced to respect the seven generations of those who came before and those First Nation people to come

FNEAA Board Chair Darren Googoo reads a letter from Governor General Mary May Simon to open the 2021 Virtual National Gathering.

Keynote Presentation

This presentation began with a brief history of the progress being made from the times of assimilation to education to where identity and self-determination are now beginning to be reflected in our current revitalization of cultures and languages within or First Nations schools and education systems.

Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic was presented from a perspective of  First Nations cultural practices valuing community and taking care of one another, despite challenges in technological and capital access.  A contrast to mainstream Canada was described as Covid-19 has now included everyone in the emotional challenges experienced by Indigenous peoples for centuries, i.e. – uncertainty, non-clarity of future, and imposed barriers. 

Acknowledgement was given to Indigenous Leaders and Indigenous peoples for continued resiliency in the face of challenges.  Post-pandemic advice for Indigenous leaders was given to continue with resiliency by turning to ancestorial wisdom, staying connected to the land, preserving First Nations languages and cultures, and creating capacity for new First Nations leaders.

Panel Discussion: Champions of Change; Honouring Resiliency

This presentation speaks to how the challenges in education that are experienced by general Canadians, due to the pandemic, have been the educational challenges that have been of issues for First Nations in Nova Scotia for decades. The educational issues were identified as ensuring attendance, getting students to perform to their peak abilities and creating a community understanding that “Education is important on a daily basis.”

Using Mi’kmag terms, Mr. Googoo explains how the Mi’kmag language is descriptive and describes processes rather than just equating to one word.  He further explains using the terms in Mi’kmaq that these words and processes are who they are as Mi’kmag people.  The correlation between using these Mi’gmag words/processes and Covid-19 is the pandemic created an environment where attendance was and issue, getting students to perform in a technological environment was and issue, and getting community buy-in that this new way of learning was essential for education to take place was also a challenge. 

The answers to addressing these issues are embedded within the Mi’kmag values, and way of life as described within the semantics of the Mi’kmag language.  Within the Mi’kmag language and essence of Mi’kmag life, the core value of learning is in the planning, preparation, implementing and evaluation of the situation that results in Mi’kmag worldview.  This cyclical process is the state the Mi’kmag have sustained themselves as a people since time immemorial.  Covid-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to share this way of life as a solution to targeting the educational issues caused by the increase in absences, attention to tasks, and discontent with education being delivered through technology.

This presentation is an introduction to Honouring Resiliency and Champions of Change.  Ms. John defines Resiliency as a reflection in First Nations daily efforts to control and improve what they can change, as empowered by the sparks within.  She defines Championship as how First Nations steer their own self-concepts, thoughts and feelings about themselves individually and collectively, and the actions taken for self-determination that reflect resilient attitude.

The presentation gives examples of how First Nation Education Administrators and Educators are the Champions of Change in their communities.  They are the people making the difference amidst the pandemic. Reference is given to the mind processes of First Nations being more respectful rather than fearful of Covid-19, resulting in more successful outcomes. 

Strategies for accurate planning for education during the pandemic were also discussed, acknowledging that team efforts are necessary for success.  The key elements for accurate planning were described as wholistic, strength-based, child-centered actions that included the four basic elements of emotional, mental, physical and spiritual realms within each of us.  Best practices were given and an affirmation of the importance of the roles each education administrator has in maintaining their resiliency for being champions of change.

Davin Dumas is the Director of Language and Culture at Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. He believes that educational leadership must focus on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.

Chief Emily Whetung, began her introductory presentation to the theme of the First Nations Education Administrators Association – “Champions of Change: Honouring Resiliency” with demographics of her community of Curve Lake First Nation (CLFN).  Curve Lake First Nation is a Peninsula with a population of approximately 1500.  It is a developing Nation with 3 Early Learning Centers educating children from preschool through Grade 4.  CLFN is also in the process of building a new school within the community to extend education levels.  Key to the current and future education of CLFN is on-the-land learning and ensuring the connections with language and culture.

Chief Whetung defined Champions of Change as the teachers who teach the children their unique history and who instill pride of being First Nations after decades of degradation.  The pride of being First Nations will lead to the changes need to adapt but not change the culture.  Chief Whetung spoke of resiliency as the process recovering from the hardships, which will result, for education, shortening the educational gap while strengthening the community.

The issue of First Nation students in Ontario being forced to take a second colonial language in the public education system was criticized, with an advocacy for alternatively providing First Nations children opportunities to enhance their own Indigenous languages.

An acknowledgement to the partnership CLFN has made with Trent University was appreciated.  Trent University was a forerunner in working with CLFN to enhance their own education within their own territory through the input of Traditional Knowledge Holders.

Workshop 1: Best Practices & Lessons Learned

Presentation 1:

Lisa Jerome opens this presentation with a poem written by the Late Rita Joe, a residential school survivor from Nova Scotia.  The poem “I Lost My Talk” is described as a concept that is essential for any non-Indigenous teachers or administrators to understand.  Indigenous languages and knowledge are equally if not more important than European languages and ways of knowing.  Through her personal stories and experiences as a student, teacher, and administrator, Lisa emphasizes the need to build relationships with each student.  An understanding of the norms in the First Nation community is also essential to foster the needs of the students, of which academics is often not a priority but rather the basic needs of nutrition and acceptance are to be nurtured.  Understanding of dysfunctions, intergenerational trauma, and English as a second language must not only be understood but comprehended to a level that results in non-judgement of the students and their family life.

Trust is another essential element that must be earned through respect and being genuine.  Lisa explains that First Nations’ students and families are very intuitive and can tell if you display a genuine interest in them and their culture.  Building confidence of the learners is also key to establishing a productive relationship with each student.  Suggestions to advocate for land-based learning and allowing students to share their expertise of the land and their language is demonstrated.  She recommends allowing students to speak from the heart in their own language, with the use of translator if necessary to respect their language as equal and a valued part of who they are.  Other strategies for earning students’ respect and trust include parental or grandparental involvement.

An explanation of prominent learning styles of First Nation children was also given focusing on most students’ keen visual, tactile and kinesthetic skills while fostering patience and comprehension with oral storytelling.

Presentation 2:

Dr. Daphne Mai’Stonia used a power-point presentation to illustrate the history and composition of the Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council Education Authority (KTCEA) in Alberta.  Currently the KTCEA is comprised of 5 communities, with a total of 6 schools,  that provide advisory assistance and second level services to these schools.  KTCEA has 15 board of directors comprised of the chief and 2 council representatives from each of the 5 communities.

The process of establishing an education authority began in 2015 with an education committee representative of the 5 communities.  The focus of this committee was to form an governance structure and administrative structure to become incorporated through the input of community engagement.  The process progressed to signing an education framework agreement with the province which paved the way for multi-year federal agreements.  In July 2019 the first formal Regional Education Agreement was signed between the 5 Chiefs and the Federal Government.  The Chiefs remain adamant on creating their own systems ensuring UNDRIP, Article 14 is respected.

Dr. Mai’Stonia defined elements of the REA as flexible funding models providing equitable education for students in K-12 the is open to additions.  The REA also defines the responsibilities of all parties.  Key to this agreement is the consideration of factors including northern remoteness and linguistic and cultural preservation. The inclusion of Elders and land-based learning are the cornerstones to the curriculum being used and developed that respects traditional knowledge and provincial educational requirements.  A video was shown to depict the use of camps for land-based learning by the KTCEA schools.

The KTCEA strategic plan was presented with priority on capacity building of community members and student success.  Results to date have seen increases in staff retention from 38% to 91%, a reduction in reporting requirements – yet remain accountable to communities, and stronger and clearer education model which is cost effective allowing more funding for direct services to students.

Workshop 2: Languages and Culture

Presentation 1:

Sandy Pinay-Schindler began her power-point presentation with some demographic information of Cowessess First Nation which is located in Southeastern Saskatchewan with a population of over 4000.  Cowessess First Nation Education currently manages their own: daycare; headstart; community education center (school); post-secondary education program; and education administrative office.

Re-Awakening was described as a process based on community vision of decolonization and indigenizing aspects of health, education, and governance through community engagement.  The process began in 2017 and in 2018 the most critical area of education was addressed as only 10 Cree speakers remained in the community.  A Cree Language Program was developed with a language group of Elders resulting in presently having over 100 language speakers/learners.

Relationship with Indigenous Services Canada in reference to Regional Education Agreements was mentioned.  Cowessess First Nation is independent of any Tribal Council and is building their own policies and plans through community consult.  Entering into a partnership for establishing a Regional Education Agreement is therefore still in process and will be addressed in the future when the Cowessess Nation is ready.

The importance of governance building was discussed with the key element to successful progress being community engagement.  The significance of developing a governance structure for the community, by the community, must begin in ceremony.  The importance of healing processes of past traumas must utilize traditional practices and the identification of strengths.  Cowessess First Nation is currently in the process of developing their own education act through these processes focusing on life-long learning.  Some challenges to governance building included the pandemic and funding.

Sandy left the audience with thought provoking questions on developing Indigenous Governance. 

Presentation 2:

Edward Mirasty began this presentation with an analogy that was shared at the United Nations in 2007.  The analogy of plants that have been displaced represented the plight many indigenous peoples have endured from colonial policies.  This led into the historical degradation of Indigenous people by Canada’s First Prime Minister whose mindset began the Indian Residential School movement beginning in 1883.  Mr. Mirasty scientifically explained how the historical trauma manifests into intergenerational trauma and its effects on descendants’ ability to learn and psychologically cope with daily living.

Mr. Mirasty then explained how resiliency can also be intergenerational.  Effective programs that draw upon the traditions and the land can compliment Canada’s commitments for reconciliation as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Indigenous knowledge is needed in school curricular for both Indigenous and mainstream students.  The constructivism approach of learners becoming responsible for learning by land-based and traditional knowledge teachings will mitigate the effects of intergenerational trauma.

Vince Brittain concluded the presentation with a presentation of activities for implementing constructivism using technology.  Videos, PowerPoints, technological tools and apps were introduced and demonstrated for student learning involving traditional knowledge constructivism.

Workshop 3: Elders, Land Based, Mental Health

Presentation 1:

This presentation is about the resiliency, we as diverse First Nations, demonstrated while faced with the turbulence of the COVID-19 Pandemic.This presentation is enriched with metaphors that are based on our oral traditions.Our historic traditional past has given us the skills to survive uncertainty through our beliefs and perspectives rooted with hope and faith in the interconnectedness we practice amidst our uncertainties as First Nation people.Filled with analogies from the teachings of our ancestors, this presentation makes reference to the 4 house model (mental, spiritual, emotional, & physical) of looking within ourselves and communities in finding strength-based solutions for the dilemmas that come our way, including the various solutions to the upheaval the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to our First Nation Communities; which remained rich in traditional teachings while including Western ideologies.

Presentation 2:

Dr. Gwendolyn Point began her presentation with a brief introduction of her dedication to all levels in education for the past 34 years.  She explained what sets Indigenous Educators apart from other educators is their connection to spirit.  Indigenous educators are serious about their responsibility for ensuring the next 7 generations enjoy the ceremonies, land, and spirit, while educating Indigenous children for mainstream.  “We are rich when we can carry our traditions and progress in what we do today – carrying the best of both worlds”.

Dr. Point explains the importance of oral tradition and how her First Nation language is an entire thought process.  Words are used sparingly in her culture but mean much.  One of the first skills taught is how to listen, not just with your ears but with your heart.  The language – thoughts, become words, then become actions.  Some of the challenges of attaining education in another language is the thought process cannot easily be translated, thus you can think, problem solve, but many First Nation have difficulty translating thought into another language, therefore making writing difficult.

Analogies of mind, body, and spirit were used to explain the importance of connection to the spirit and the power of prayer.  Resilience comes from the spirit, as man can influence the mind, the body, but man cannot control the spirit.  Connection with spirit is something that cannot be given, or bought, but rather felt through thought and prayer, and connection with spirit can be done anywhere anytime.  It is this traditional practice of connection to spirit that has enabled First Nation cultures to survive despite the intergenerational traumas.

Dr. Point left the audience with a quote from Chief Sitting Bull:  “Let’s put our minds and heart together to create a better future for our children.”  

Workshop 4: Navigating Regional Education Agreements


The presentation began with a quick introduction of MNP and which services they provide for Indigenous Education Agreements.  Khrystyna was accompanied with her co-presenter Mac Walton.  A brief history f the AFN policy proposal was given.  Political efforts to have the government of Canada work with First Nations to replace interim funding was initially the core of establishing policy for Regional Education Agreements (REAs).  The policy was intended to reflect new funding formulas that meet the needs and realities of First Nation students to ensure adequate funding and services.  The REA for each First Nation or First Nations tribal councils is with Indigenous Services Canada.

Indigenous Services Canada defines the REA as an administrative tool to formalize partnerships with the First Nations and First Nations tribal councils.  The process of establishing REAs with ISC is evolving and is becoming less detailed about funding and increasingly detailed regarding governance.  Many changes are occurring in the process and understanding of these agreements.  It is emphasized that REAs should not be confused with a Treaty Agreement, as REAs do not address law making authority; REAs can be used as steppingstones to acts of self-governance.  The inclusion of block funding is discussed and different scenarios are described.  MNP can offer services tailored to the unique realities for each First Nation or First Nations tribal councils considering entering into an REA.

Workshop 5: Languages and Culture

Presentation 1:

Growth Through Adversity with Bev Fontaine, Director, Education at Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba.

Presentation 2:

Joyce Germain and her niece Brenda Germain are co-teachers who combine their academic credentials and traditional knowledge to teach kindergarten concepts using land-based learning.  The philosophy they use is based on Historian, James Raffen’s quote: “It is important to have knowledge of the heart, obtained through the soles of your feet, the palms of your hands, and the seat of your pants.  All that knowledge has to pass through your heart on the way to your head.”

Joyce and Brenda describe the program they developed over the past 9 years when they noticed children were no longer happy in the classroom, especially in the afternoons, so they began taking them outdoors every day after lunch.  They used this to create a restructured day of learning.  Despite the administrative roadblocks and barriers, their program has become a successful total Mi’gmaw Immersion learning environment with a focus on math and literacy in the morning within the classroom and outdoor land-based learning in the afternoons.

The concepts of kindergarten outcomes are incorporated in both student-centered learning during teachable moments and purposeful learning whereas the teachers plan an activity and give guidance for predetermined concepts of a lesson.  Examples of land-based activities are given such as animal tracking whereas, size, direction, colours, counting, opposites and other concepts are naturally taught in the Mi’gmaq language.  The learning is curriculum based with much potential for cross-curricular learning in the absence of worksheets.  Exploration is encouraged and Mi’gmaw teachings of medicines, tracking, fishing, harvesting and gathering are taught based on the seasons.  At times community elders, hunters, and knowledge keepers are brought in to demonstrate their expertise (ex: moose skinning).  Evaluation is conducted on the basis that learning is a process rather than just focusing on outcome.  Indoor learning is developed with quality rather than quantity while outdoor learning allows the children freedom to explore, climb, run, take risks, be loud, communicate and express oneself while building Mi’gmaw self-identity.

Presentation 3:

The presentation was given via the use of powerpoint and videos.  TutorMate © was presented as an online literacy program which was registered in 1993 in the United Stated and then in 2018 registered in Canada.  The goal of the TutorMate © program is to reduce the early-grade literacy gap in high-need communities through the use of software and technology.  The program focuses on the time when the gap is narrowest which is grades 1 – 3.  The program is heavily reliant on partnerships and volunteers.

The Wiikwenkoong First Nation was given as an example of the success TutorMate © has had with intervention within the Indigenous communities.  One of the key to the successful outcomes was accessibility to the program using Virtual Network Computing which only requires the use of a smartphone and small internet connection versus the larger bandwidths needed for Google platforms and zoom.

Another initiative that derived from offering TutorMate© in Indigenous communities was an opportunity to share and preserve First Nation languages.  This was a result of the natural transfer of knowledge between families and tutors, which was cultivated into creating Indigenous Early Literacy E-books.  TutorMate © anticipates working with more communities to develop language revitalization and preservation E-book resources.

Workshop 7: Knowledge Holders, Land Based, Mental Health

Presentation 1:

Elder, Dr. Imelda Perley, begins her presentation with an explanation of resiliency, which in the English language is a noun; but within her Maliseet language is a verb as it is action taken.  Dr. Perley highlights some of her previous work with resiliency including; a program entitled “From the Womb and Beyond” which is 7th generation thinking of using songs and ceremonies to begin language exposure during pregnancy followed by placenta burial ceremonies and name giving ceremonies; an Indigenous Mental Wellness program which uses a two-eyed seeing approach to promoting healthy mind, body, and spirit; and her participation in Canada’s 150 celebration as an opportunity to promote and teach about the first languages of this land.

The “Gift of Resiliency” PowerPoint presentation was contrasted with current COVID pandemic challenges and historically how the Maliseet First Nation has overcome the many illnesses of the millennia years of existence. The presentation was a teaching of the 13 moons within the year.  Beginning with the Winter Solstice Moon, an explanation of all 13 moons was given with their meaning, accompanying ceremonies, teachings, and medicines.  Emphasis on using story telling for teaching was highlighted.

Resiliency is fostered beginning with an apology followed by the concept and practice of forgiveness.  A toolkit chart for Caring for Each Other was developed and presented by Dr. Perley for use during the pandemic to stay connected within the mind, body, and spirit; as well as staying connected with each other.

Presentation 2:

This presentation explains a healing process based on forgiveness.  Apigsigtogen, the Mi’gmaq word for forgiveness is now also the term used for a community-based, wholistic approach to conflict resolution that is rooted in Mi’gmaq traditions using the medicine wheel format.  Elder Roseanne Martin gives her personal experiences and describes the necessity of knowing your own story and understanding your traumas as forgiveness must begin within oneself.  Apigsigtogen is a process to help people manage, change, educate, and solve their own conflicts without violence, to create stronger communities where health, wealth, peace and harmony are part of daily living.

The history of the Apigsigtogen process began with 4 Mi’gmaq communities coming together, inclusive of elders, youth and facilitators do develop a 4 quadrant medicine wheel based on the 7 principles of Mi’gmaw way of life.  The 4 quadrants represent the life span (1) Infant – managing our stories of conflict; (2) Youth – Reflection, calming down; (3) Adult – coming to terms, acceptance; and (4) Elder – forgiveness.

Communal strategies for implementing activities to promote Apigsigtogen include: talking circles, ceremonies, traditional teachings, cultural awareness programs, elder advisory panels, restorative justice panels, and other relevant activities.

Day 2 – Opening Plenary 

Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell, Knowledge Keeper from Akwesasne, Ontario shares a prayer and words of wisdom to open day 2 of the Virtual National Gathering.

Opening remarks from FNEAA Board Chair Darren Googoo.

Darren Googoo has been the Director of Education for Membertou, a Mi’kmaw First Nation community for 19 years. Darren is also the incoming Chair of the CEA/EdCan Network, Chair of the Council on Mi’kmaw Education, and Chair of the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board. He has a strong passion for the creation and implementation of ideas that move Mi’kmaw education forward.

Keynote Presentation:

This presentation is about dealing with change with focus on the vastly changing digital economy, and the digital literacy needed to manage in our communities.  Mr. Goodtrack speaks about how events provide the fertile grounds for change.  Nothing is static and our environments are in a constant state of change.  The key to remaining successful for any organization or program is to ensure that the practices of such, change enough to positively affect the outcomes striven for.

The pandemic changed the work and educational environments.  Simultaneously with pandemic changes the world was already experiencing aging populations, climate change, and digital economy.  Many tools were available for use to manage these changes; however, the pandemic forced changes in how we communicated, conducted business, and managed education systems.

Digital literacy and business literacy must now be included in academic literacy for the young Indigenous populations to sustain and develop their communities.  This is challenging as adequate connectivity is a major deficit for over two-thirds of First Nation communities, and First Nations’ education programs and opportunities in business remain below standards.  First Nations are proven resilient.  Change is necessary, but the foundations of self-identity, creativity, and critical thinking are concepts that need to be in place before academic, business and digital skills are formed.  Advice to educators and business managers, is to keep up with the dynamic digital skills and continue to assess if enough is being done to ensure each student becomes a confident life-long learner at becoming the best version of themselves.

Workshop 8: Languages and Cultures

Presentation 1:

This presentation describes the process the community of Bkejwanong (Walpole Island First Nation) procured to revitalize their Anishinaabeg language.  With the Fluency demographics of speakers in Bkejwanong declining to approximately 1%, language preservation was in crisis.  In 2001 a group of Elders formed a Language Advisory Group with a shared vision to take agressive action, “So our language will live.”  Within the 10 years that followed, tasks force were formed, political support was gained, and by 2010 a partnership with the University of Ottawa was formed to implement a 4-year adult immersion program that would also produce certified teachers in the province.  Immediately following graduation of 15- teachers of this immersion program, the community offered a Jr. Kindergarten Immersion program.  This program progressively increased with each academic year to currently offering Jr. Kindergarten through Grade 5.  In addition, movement to have the elementary Immersion program to be a separate school from the English school in the community are underway.

Challenges throughout the decades of perseverance to revitalize the language were also discussed.  Some of the major challenges included: fluency of teachers, school environment and provincial regulations, lateral violence, and colonial policies.  Decolonization approaches are proactively being implemented through inclusion and working together within the community to find solutions.  The success with this language revitalization process is the result of the community making language revitalization a top priority.

Presentation 2:

Sykes Powderface, Knowledge Keeper from Stoney Nakoda First Nations in Alberta

Workshop 9: Leadership and Innovation


The Senior Administration Team of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) began the presentation with an overview of the MLTC.  The Meadow Lake Tribal Council originated in 1981 and has progressed to currently having over 300 employees providing Second Level Services to 9 First Nations communities, each having a school, for a total of approximately 2400 students.  Two linguistic groups, the Cree and the Dene, are amongst the 9 First Nations Communities of the MLTC>Under the direction of a board, the MLTC follows the directions of each school division.  The goal of the MLTC is to improve educational outcomes for students and create programs relevant to the unique needs of each community.  The 3 Tier services they provide advice and funding to support schools and school-based positions.

The presenters explained how the challenges of the pandemic were overcome.  Similar to other educations systems, virtual services were now required.  However, additional challenges of poor connectivity, technological support for staff, and not additional funding were a reality for MLTC.  Through the guidance of Elders, a balance in the mental health of staff and students was achieved by focusing on the blessings the pandemic created.  Such blessings included: Increased communication amongst communities; setting priorities; increased collaboration; increased relationship building; new-found efficiencies; and time to work on initiatives.

Finally, a review of the process MLTC employs for developing Holistic Education was given.  The educational vision is based on the Dene and the Cree Values and Natural laws.  The process involves starting from looking within for the challenges and issues that exists, building a common vision, and conducting a resource analysis.  Currently, holistic educational planning in curriculum, instruction and assessment is being developed with the inclusion of instructional leadership and wellness.

Workshop 10: Knowledge Holders, Land Based, Mental Health

Presentation 1:

Dr. Taiaiake presented the importance of Indigenous Education in Nation Building for confronting colonialization from the context of the history of Kahnawake’s actions.  Recognition of Indigenous educators as the driving force behind the front-line warriors, the parents, who set the educational foundation of the resurgence for Kahnawake was given.  A brief history of the turning point from the heavy influence of the church since the 1600s to the turning point of action for self-determination was attributed to the expropriation of Kahnawake land and access to the traditional waters of the St. Lawrence by the external governments in the 1950s. 

Three examples of Kahnawake Mohawk self-determination were given as part of the process for asserting inherent rights to self-determination and control of education.  The process from the 60s to the present included (1) the formation of the Kahnawake Combined Schools Committee, which is a parent’s committee developed in the 60s to unify the approach to schooling to include the idea of being Mohawk versus religious identity; (2) the formation and construction of the Indian Way School, a traditional school parent funded and parent administered which set the high-standard for self-determination; and (3) the formation and construction of the Kahnawake Survival School in resistance to Bill 101 and further community self-determination driven by students and parents.

Lessons learned in the processes of decolonization for education as modelled by the Kahnawake Mohawks include: must be parent driven; just do it and negotiate funding later; and teach from Indigenous perspectives using language and culture.

Presentation 2:

Elder Mitchell uses his experiences as a traditional leader and elected leader to describe how the decolonization process must begin with a communal mindset.  With decades of the imposition of the Indian Act upon the Mohawk Nation, by the 1980s the people of the community were in the mindset of being Indians of the St. Regis reserve or Union State Indians.  The governance was chaired or heavily influenced by Indian agents sent to make decisions and allow administration of programs on the “reserve”.  Thus, the mindset of being Indian Act Chief and Band Council on reserve was engrained in the majority of the population.  Nonetheless, small traditional groups in the community still practiced ceremony of the long-house and held the believe of Nationhood.  Division in the community was evident.  However, in the 1980s a spirit of Nationhood and Nation building re-emerged and the removal of the “shackles of the Indian Affairs government” began.  Partnerships with other Mohawk nations were formed, strengthening the communal mindset of Nationhood rather than Band Indians.

Another influence that helped shift the mindset of the population to Nationhood rather than Band Councils was the visit of Pope John Paul in 1984.  At that time there was strong division between Roman Catholic followers and the Traditional longhouse.  During his visit, Pope John Paul acknowledged that the Mohawk were very spiritual people and are as close to the creator as any other religion.  He also encouraged the Mohawk people to honour and maintain their culture and ceremonies.

Since the early 80s pride returned and community input was returned. Over the following decades, the Mohawk people were once again the decision makers in everything from their own school boards, police commissions, justice commissions and an increasing strength in the mindset of Nationhood.

Closing Plenary

Dr. Tremblay acknowledged with pleasure the knowledge shared by the presenters was enriching to all those who attended the first virtual conference.  The themes of this National Gathering included: resiliency, reconciliation, control of First Nation Education, and Change.  An explanation of how these 4 main themes are integrated with First Nation Education Administrators and the interconnectedness amongst them and events and environment.  Dr. Tremblay presented a brief review of how resiliency is based on our connectedness to the land; reconciliation is connected to the treaties from a time when we were recognized as Nations; First Nations control of First Nations education is progressing in many First Nation communities; and how in lieu of constant change our values remain.


In closing, presenters, vendors, board of directors, staff and contractors were thanked. Promotion of upcoming Townhalls and promotion of the FNEAA website were also mentioned.

Chair Googoo presented a very brief thanks and acknowledgement to all who attended the conference and all those who participated in the organization of the conference.  Compliments were given to the staff of FNEAA for ensuring the smooth delivery of the first National Gathering despite the challenges of hosting it virtually.  Encouragement to the registrants to become FNEAA members was advocated for.  Next years’ National Gathering was mentioned with the hopes of networking at an in-person event.  Overall, general thanks were given for a successful First National Gathering.



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