Chiefs must stop talking and start working

Several Yukon First Nations apparently want to establish their own education system. It must be nice to have money to burn.

Several Yukon First Nations apparently want to establish their own education system.

It must be nice to have money to burn.

There are many in the aboriginal community who see a homemade education system as a way to ease kids through school.

It’s a nice sentiment.

It’s little else.

First Nation chiefs routinely complain about a lack of consultation on education issues.

Then they unilaterally declare they will draw down responsibility for education from the territory.

And yet, for all the chiefs’ divisive talk, we’ve seen little from them in the way of concrete studies proving First Nations can improve things for aboriginal youth by going it alone.

No plans. Nothing.

Building an education system takes time and money. Lots of both.

We doubt local First Nations have either.

In the 21st century, the needs of native children are no different than those of the non-natives. They must exit the school system with skills that allow them to succeed in the wider world. Period.

So the question is: how best to do that?

Several chiefs want to build a parallel education system.

The Kwanlin Dun’s chief Mike Smith is one of those.

The First Nation has been waiting since the 1980s for its own school, he said.

Smith should simply look across Hamilton Boulevard.

Elijah Smith Elementary was built in the early 1990s as a compromise, a bridge between the Yukon’s two solitudes.

Because of that, the government built an edifice. It was one of the most expensive and beautiful schools in the territory.

Smith has suggested it is a not a native school.

“We’re simply being forced to go to their schools and not ours,” he said.

That is disingenuous. And a tad insulting to a dedicated staff at Elijah Smith.

Through the years, it has bolstered its native curriculum.

Today, it teaches native language, native arts; it hosts cultural camps and has a solid base of aboriginal teachers.

Hardly a “white” school.

In fact, through the efforts of its dedicated staff, these days it is filled to capacity — a far cry from seven years ago when a falling enrollment was costing it programs and teachers.

Today, it offers hope the territory’s various cultures can work together.

And it isn’t the only school doing this.

Carmacks has also tweaked its curriculum to accommodate native students. And it has seen a tremendous increase in aboriginal graduates.

Why?

Once again, it has a dedicated, imaginative and caring staff.

These are no longer the shameful days of residential schools.

If First Nations leaders want to better the education of youth, there are better ways than sapping resources and students from the established education system.

They could, for example, take a more active role in building the system.

The existing public system isn’t perfect, but there are signs of improvement. And there’s tangible proof of success.

That deserves support from political leaders, not derision.

Duplicating education services and staff to build a segregated system would simply squander First Nation settlement money.

Of course, as Yukon chiefs know, it plays well to their constituents.

But there’s no hard data to show it will work.

Preparing children for life in the 21st century takes more than sentimentality.

It takes money. And commitment.

Yukon chiefs would do better to stop the divisive trash talk and start the hard work of building on the notable successes within the existing education system. (RM)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

U Kon Echelon hosts Tour de Haines Junction

U Kon Echelon continued its busy schedule with the Tour de Haines… Continue reading

Melted beeswax, community pottery take centre stage at Arts Underground’s August shows

Two new, and very different, shows will be opening at Whitehorse’s Arts… Continue reading

Northern First Nations call for a major overhaul of mining legislation

The Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Vuntut Gwitchin Governments say change is long overdue

Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee recommends First Nations take ‘additional measures’ to conserve Chinook

Recommendation comes as Chinook run on the Yukon River appears unlikely to meet spawning goals

Students prepare for online learning as Yukon University announces fall semester

The school plans to support students who may struggle with remote learning

Changes to federal infrastructure funds allow for COVID-19 flexibility

Announcement allows for rapid COVID-19 projects and expands energy programs to Whitehorse

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

C/TFN announces Montana Mountain reopening plan

Carcross/Tagish First Nation and the Carcross/Tagish Management Corporation announced the partial reopening… Continue reading

Roberta Joseph reelected as Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in chief

Unofficial results show Joseph with more than double the votes of runner-up

Development incentives considered for three projects

Projects will add 24 rental units to the market

Delegate calls for crosswalk changes to show support for people of colour

Mayor states support for idea, but cautions it could take some time

Whitehorse advises of water system maintenance

Residents on the city’s water system are being advised they may notice… Continue reading

Walkway, signs planned for West Dawson paddlewheel graveyard

Unofficial attraction may get 135-m walkway and interpretive signs, if YESAB application approved

Most Read