Crystal Schick/Yukon News Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill, left, and Education Minister Tracy-Ann McPhee shake hands and hug at Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on July 9, after signing a three-year education agreement for more cultural resources and supports for four Whitehorse schools.

Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Yukon government sign education agreement

The three-year agreement will see more cultural supports and resources in four Whitehorse schools

Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Yukon government have signed a three-year education agreement that will see more cultural resources and supports put in place in four Whitehorse schools.

KDFN Chief Doris Bill and Yukon Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee announced and signed the agreement during a press conference at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre July 9.

“It’s taken awhile for us to get here,” Bill told reporters. “Today we hold our hands up to those who have put the hard work in to make this all happen … This agreement is our commitment to the future. We must give our people the tools and resources to succeed.”

Effective from 2019 to 2022, the agreement will see several initiatives put in place at F.H. Collins and Porter Creek secondary schools, Elijah Smith Elementary and the Independent Learning Centre that Bill and McPhee said will benefit both KDFN and other students.

The initiatives include the hiring of a full-time cultural educator, who Bill said will “provide interactive, hands-on learning opportunities” for students, cultural support for KDFN students and input to teachers on KDFN culture and practices; involving KDFN in hiring and evaluation of school staff and administrators; exposing students to more Southern Tutchone culture and language; and allowing for more information-sharing between KDFN and the Yukon government on education matters.

KDFN and the Yukon government will also be researching the possibility of creating a primary-level culture and language immersion program, and jointly evaluating how well the initiatives are working.

The Yukon government is providing a total of $681,465 to fund the agreement, McPhee said, an amount which will cover the aforementioned initiatives as well as the costs of hiring of an agreement manager and provide three years’ worth of stable funding to KDFN’s House of Learning tutoring program.

KDFN will also “kick in” funds where it can, Bill said. The amount KDFN will contribute wasn’t immediately clear.

Overall, McPhee told reporters, the agreement “will support life-long learning by strengthening relationships between Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the schools on their traditional territory,” and ensure “the inclusion of Kwanlin Dün First Nation culture and language in the schools on their traditional territory.”

“The agreement that we’re signing this afternoon represents decades of work by Yukon First Nations to ensure that they have more authority over the education of their children,” she said.

“… Education agreements reflect our government-to-government relationships and our commitment to reconciliation.”

Both Bill and McPhee also said that the signing of the agreement is a step in the right direction when it comes to addressing the problems outlined in an auditor general’s report on the Yukon education system. The report, released last month, found that the system was not meeting the needs of Indigenous students and students living in rural areas.

“Hopefully we can change the story in the auditor general’s report,” Bill said.

The Yukon government has previously signed education agreements with five other Yukon First Nations — Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Selkirk First Nation, Kluane First Nation, Carcross/Tagish First Nation and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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