(Maskwacîs ) – On May 18, 2018, the four Maskwacîs Cree First Nations signed an official agreement with the Government of Canada, establishing a new Maskwacîs Cree school system.
The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services joined the four chiefs and other dignitaries and community members at an historic ceremony at the Maskwacîs Bear Park in Treaty 6 territory.
This new agreement represents an important step in building true local control of education in Maskwacîs. It will also benefit both students and teachers with a culturally vibrant learning and teaching environment, one that supports Cree language and culture, personal and social development, and high academic achievement.
Wilton Littlechild, Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations attended the ceremony and said that it was an historic day for all Treaty 6 members and especially members of the Maskwacîs Nations.
He said, “Among other reasons, this is historic because just a couple hundred yards from here stood the largest Indian Residential School in Canada, at one point. And for me, who spent 11 years of my life at that school, today is a very emotional day for me and also one of happiness. It signifies a very genuine act of reconciliation that Dr. Philpott and her colleagues are expressing in extending their hands out for us to heal from this trauma that we lived through.
“For that, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. We saw our language almost die – it was down to 11%. Our culture was prohibited. But today opens that up again, where we can be proud of our language, proud of our culture and proud of who we are as Cree. And that needs to be taught in our schools. And that is why this day is so important.”
The agreement will enable the Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission to provide education programming and supports to a total of over 3,100 students in Treaty 6 territory.
“It is with great pride that I could be a part of this historic ceremony to highlight the Maskwacîs education authority in Treaty 6 territory,” stated Minister Philpott. “I want to congratulate the community for their tremendous efforts in making this new education authority a reality − a project led by First Nations for First Nations. Your vision will help promote Cree culture and will benefit students as well as the entire community.”
The Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission will also administer the Education Service Agreements for the four surrounding school districts.
Maskwacîs are Cree First Nation communities located in central Alberta, home to four distinct Cree Nations: Ermineskin Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe, Montana First Nation and Samson Cree Nation.