Earlier this year Amiskwaciy Academy presented Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Superintendent Tony Harder, with an Honour Blanket in recognition of the fine work and ongoing participation that EPS provides as one of school’s community partners.
On October 9 school administrators and community policing members were invited to police headquarters in downtown Edmonton to take part in a special ceremony that honoured the Academy, it’s leadership, Aboriginal culture and the Edmonton Police Service.
“This blanket,” noted Amiskwaciy Elder Francis Whiskeyjack, moments before offering a prayer to open the ceremony, “was presented in friendship and with good intent to help support and enhance what is already a growing and positive working relationship with the city’s police service. We are very pleased to have you as community partners; you continue to make a positive difference in the lives of our students.”
Amiskwaciy Principal Fred Hines told the gathering that “it means a lot to us, our students and their families to have members of the Edmonton Police Services visit our school and participate in the very positive way that they do – spending time with our kids, playing floor hockey, joining us for our annualfeasts and participating in both in-school and after-school activities. Relationship building is so important and you are doing your part to ensure that the relationship continues well after these students have graduated.
“Because of your presence and your participation, our kids can be away from the school and feel comfortable knowing that they can talk to the police and trust them. Now instead of running into a corner they can give a smile, a hello and a high five so it’s all very positive.”
“The work being done at our school by Constable Rhonda Daub and more recently, Constable Shawn Wruth, has made and continues to make a positive difference with our students and their attitudes toward police. Building strong relationships is an important part of every child’s life; it not only helps them to be stronger, it helps them to make better decisions and it enhances their self-esteem.
“The Honour Blanket presented to Mr. Harder earlier this year was our way of appreciating and saying thank you for being a part of our school. That recognition was well deserved; today you honour Amiskwaciy Academy by setting this blanket into a large frame and mounting it on a wall that will be seen by every police officer who walks into Edmonton Police headquarters. Thank you very much.”
Constable Rhonda Daub has been somewhat of a fixture at the school for the past several years, where she plays an important role in helping the students gain confidence, strengthen self-esteem and build relationships of trust and understanding. Daub is currently on maternity leave; Constable Wruth has filled her void.
“A lot of the downtown division members have been going to the school for many years – long before Inspector Hogg and I starting going,” said Superintendent Harder. “Shawn and Rhonda and so many of our beat members go to the school and play with the kids in the gymnasium. This honour blanket is very special; receiving it was a very humbling experience. Rather than putting the blanket in my office or in Inspector Hogg’s office, we put this in a visible location where it can be seen and shared. Sgt. Cutting did the work you see here today; it has been properly mounted and framed and it will go prominently on a wall that we’ve cleared in the downtown division. All the members in the division and visiting police officers from other divisions will have the opportunity to see it. We look forward to a long and continuing relationship with Amiskwaciy Academy.”
The relationship shared by EPS and Amiskwaciy is fulfilling one of the Aboriginal strategies developed by the EPS in recent years. Inspector Dan Jones explained: “The EPS Aboriginal Strategy has four specific goals. These include developing strategic community partnerships, increasing education and cultural awareness, increasing recruiting efforts with the Aboriginal community and providing support for policing operations.”
All four goals are currently underway; over 800 of the 1700-member police service have already received Aboriginal awareness training that included in-depth information on such things as the Indian Act, the Indian Residential Schools, the 60’s scoop, early history between police and Indigenous peoples and more.
On Friday, October 10 several EPS members joined school administrators, students, Elders, other community partners, community members, Edmonton Public School officials and other invited guests participating in Amiskwaciy Academy’s Annual Fall Feast.
Invited to the podium, Edmonton School Board Trustee Ray Martin said that “it is a real honour to be here today to take part in this annual event, the Amiskwaciy Fall Feast. It is a time to be thankful and to celebrate the beginning of a new season. It gives me great pleasure to see so many of you here today – members of the community, students and teachers from other schools, Elders, members of the Edmonton Police Service and many others as well. This isn’t just a moment to celebrate the beginning of a new season but a time to celebrate First Nation, Métis and Inuit culture. Amiskwaciy is a unique place, a place where the Cree language, culture and traditional knowledge blends perfectly with the opportunity to succeed in a quality educational setting. Like today’s gathering, one that recognizes that we are all part of humanity, Amiskwaciy Academy creates educational opportunities that includes and embraces the Elders, the families, community partners and a conscientious staff that help to create an holistic learning environment. These values reflect the values of Edmonton Public Schools as we work together to transform the students of today into the leaders of tomorrow.”
Leslie Natychin, the manager of the Royal Bank of Canada ’s (RBC) Northgate Mall Branch was invited to the podium where she presented a $5,000 check to the school to help meet the needs of the daily student lunch program.
“We are very grateful to receive this donation, a gift that has been handed out during our Fall Feasts for the past several years,” noted Principal Fred Hines. “Students work better, concentrate better, make better decisions and live better lives when they are well fed and properly educated. We are very grateful to the RBC for their annual and on-going participation at the school.”
The annual Fall Feast is one of several gatherings that the academy hosts each year to thank the many sponsors, helpers, students, families, volunteers, Elders, organizations and others who support the school in so many different ways.
“We are very appreciative of the volunteer support we receive each year to help with our events,” assured Principal Hines. “We are always in need of volunteers and individuals with coaching or other special skills and we welcome inquiries throughout the school year.”
Amiskwaciy is an Edmonton Public School program of choice that provides solid academic programming within an Aboriginal context. The school, which is open to students of all backgrounds and cultures, honours the Aboriginal community and reflect its cultures, values, ancestral knowledge and traditions in achieving excellence in education. In doing so it provides, with the help of school and community Elders, a meaningful and balanced curriculum, bringing together the uniqueness of Aboriginal cultures, knowledge and languages in a positive and quality educational setting.
Culture is the core of everything that takes place at Amiskwaciy Academy. Working extensively and in close contact with on-site Elders, the school’s administration maintains close partnerships with the Cree, Stoney and Metis communities in and around the Capital Region. The Academy maintains an on-going cultural exchange program with a number of Edmonton-area Elementary Schools.
“Amiskwaciy Academy,” noted Principal Hines, “was designed to offer exciting enrichment programming for junior high and high school students in a respectful, safe environment. At Amiskwaciy, we recognize that all beings are connected and our teaching styles and learning opportunities reflect this belief. Our Elder’s teachings, our community partners, family involvement, and a committed teaching staff provide a holistic learning environment. We believe that our school philosophy is demonstrated best through our harmonious communal approach to learning.”
To learn more about the school see the website at amiskwaciy.epsb.ca.
by John Copley