| Jun 12, 2008

Feature Article - June 12, 2008

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Feature Article - June 12, 2008 School boards launch aboriginal self-identification initiativeBy Jeff GreenThe Limestone District School Board is partnering with the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board on a project to encourage self-identification among aboriginal students in the two boards.

The ultimate goal of the project is to improve the educational outcomes for aboriginal students in the two boards, and the first step is to find out who the aboriginal students are.

But even that basic step is complicated, as Madeliene Tarasick found out at the first public meeting for the project in Sharbot Lake a couple of weeks ago.

Tarasick, who is a retired Limestone Board superintendent, and at one time was a teacher and principal at Sharbot Lake High School, has been hired by the two boards to oversee the self-identification process.

Among the participants at the meeting were senior staff from each of the boards, community members, Chief Doreen Davis and Joanne Thomas from the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, Anne Marie Wilson from the Katarokwi Native Friendship Centre, and Mitch Shewell and David Bate from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation.

The aboriginal leaders all welcomed the new initiative, and talked about the efforts they have been making in educating their own membership and youth in the Algonquin traditions.

Davis said there had been a plan to bring aboriginal programming to Sharbot Lake High School about 10 years ago. “In 1999 or 2000, we came close to bringing programming to this school, but we were stopped because of smudging and drumming, but we’ll try again,” Davis said.

Norah Marsh, Superintendent of Education with the Limestone Board, said the board is “looking to infuse its own programming in such a way as to provide an accurate picture of the history of aboriginal people and to celebrate those histories and cultures.”

Madeliene Tarasick said “I am proud to say that the Limestone and ALDCS Boards took this project on immediately when it was proposed by the province. The Kingston community and environs have a significant number of aboriginal people, and it is illegal to go into a classroom and say ‘how may aboriginals have we got’. You cannot ask that question unless you have a stated purpose. A lot has to be done, starting with a huge increase of awareness at the board level and with the classroom teachers.”

Tarasick then presented a draft pamphlet that is being developed, based on a pamphlet that was used in another region of the province. The pamphlet includes categories for self-identification, including First Nation, Metis, Inuit, and non-status.

“I’m an indigenous person,” said Doreen Davis, “I personally take offence to these categories. We are Anishnaabe peoples, but we are not non-status. I am not a non-status woman.”

“That is offensive,” agreed David Bate.

“It came out of an Aboriginal office,” said Madeliene Tarasick

“That’s because it came out a government-funded office,” said Davis,” but that’s not self-identification.”

“I’m glad that we brought this forward at this time, so we can make changes,” Tarasick replied.

In summing up the meeting during a closing prayer, Mitch Shewell said, “We have made a good start here today. We are working towards a better understanding between different peoples.”

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