Atikamekw, the Grand Chief of the Nation Council, stopped at Pioneer High School a few days ago to make school staff aware of the realities of Indigenous students.
The Trois-Rivières school has about thirty indigenous students, mainly from the Atikamekw ethnic group.
“He took the time to introduce the staff to the reality that the students lived in the community, both in the city and in the reserve. He explained the reality of our education, health and reserve food. I think we have a way of working in school that is well and it works, but sometimes there are prejudices that can set. The idea is to better understand what they are going through, “explained Jonathan Bradley, principal of Pioneer High School.
For example, he often mentions high absenteeism rates among indigenous students in October during the hunting season. “One wonders why they miss school so much during this time. The arrival of Mr. Awashish allows us to ask these kinds of questions and we realize that the answers are completely different from what we thought, Mr. Bradley mentioned. When they are absent during this time, it is not necessary for them to go hunting or fishing. Sometimes it is the parents who go out hunting while caring for a younger brother or a younger sister. The average age of reservations is only 19. Young people can also miss their families. He wanted the school staff to understand where these children came from, how they lived before coming to school and how much respect they had for them. A
For three years, Pionniers Secondary School has implemented various initiatives to integrate First Nations students and encourage academic perseverance, such as creating a mural for Indigenous graduates. A Native Student Council has also been formed to help young people make decisions about themselves and to get involved in organizing cultural, sports, crafts and leisure activities.
There is also the Kikitan Project.You are capable Atikamekw – contributed by three special educators whose mandate is to work with indigenous students going to school.
Luc Gagné, Marilyn Berthiaume and Emmanuelle Caya work with these students to build trust and school-related feelings, to build friendships and trust between them and foreign students, to build their self-esteem and confidence, as well as First Nations resources. And developing information networks. It was this committee that invited Constant Awashis to speak with the school staff.
“We were looking for a way to raise the awareness of the staff members about the indigenous reality. I was characterized by the elasticity of the constant avashish. I see it with most Atikamekw. In their families, they themselves or their loved ones are facing a lot of hardships or difficulties. It would be easy for them to annoy and annoy a lot of people, but Mr. Awashish’s speech was again about ally, partner. Sometimes we have different perspectives, but we are able to work together, “said Emanuel Kaya, speaker of Pioneer Secondary School.
“Indigenous youth face different challenges when it comes to school,” he continued. For some, French is not their mother tongue. Sometimes it is their third language because they have good command in English. Otherwise, academically, I would say that the challenges are the same as for non-indigenous students. Indigenous students, on the other hand, feel alienated from their families, as it is rare for the whole family to come and settle in the city. They can then miss parents, mothers, sisters, grandparents, etc. A
“With what happened at the boarding school, some parents and grandparents still have distrust of the school system because of what they did there. It can be passed on to young people who will be more suspicious of adults in the school environment. It takes a little longer to build a bond of trust, but we see that they can adapt. We understand that this past brings a different perspective to the school, ”he noted.
The Kikitan Project Committee also organizes activities related to the culture of Indigenous students so that they can live it, inform it and be proud of it. In this sense, Pionniers Secondary School opens a room for Indigenous students and their non-Indigenous friends during lunch.
“It’s a great way to build trust between them. I think they feel good in this room. And then, if it doesn’t meet a need, young people won’t come. Every lunch there are about fifteen students. They know they will not be judged there. They can play games, they can do art, “said Mrs. Kaya.