This article came from MFNERC’s magazine.

By Tamara Eaker Content Development

Last updated | Monday, July 3, 2023

The Manitoba First Nations School System (MFNSS) recently partnered with the Manitoba School Esports Association (MSEA) to host the first annual Scholastic Esports Expo on May 25 and 26! Esports is a positive step for students in MFNSS, as it allows them to engage in competitive gaming while promoting positive outcomes regarding their academic and personal development.

One of the significant benefits of esports for students is the development of critical thinking skills. In esports, players must make quick decisions and strategic choices in real time, requiring them to analyze and respond to constantly changing situations. This thinking is highly transferable to other areas of their academic and personal lives, such as problem-solving and decision-making.

Furthermore, scholastic esports can provide a sense of community and connectedness for students who may have yet to find this through traditional sports or other academic activities. In the case of Fox Lake School and George Saunders Memorial School (George Saunders), two of our most remote and isolated First Nations, competing in scholastic esports through the Manitoba School Esports Association allows students to compete with different schools and regions across Manitoba, promoting socialization and networking opportunities not previously available. Fox Lake School notes that attitudes towards school and attendance in some youths have improved, resulting from a must-attend school policy initiated to participate in esports as an extra-curricular activity.

Coach Dallas Flett-Wapash of Fox Lake School added, “Esports has brought our community together. The Band Council is considering donating esports jerseys; our students are excited to come to school and play together as a team. We (adults) are excited to watch them compete and come out of their shells, be themselves. It’s great.” Flett-Wapash even hosted a community night of his own inspired by esports. “We used the video game Family Feud to host a community night on the Nintendo Switch in the school gym for everyone. It was a blast. The power of video games is bringing our people closer together; who knew.”

Teamwork and Reconciliation through the Rocket League

The George Saunders Niskak (Cree for “Goose”) had an equally exciting inauguration into the world of esports this season. In April 2023, George Saunders participated in Rocket League, a game where a team of three players used race cars to put a giant soccer ball in a net. Sounds easy, right? That is not the case. It takes impeccable teamwork, collaboration, and communication, not to mention hours of practice, to be successful at this game. Students at George Saunders did just that, yet no one knew how good these kids were.

Initially, George Saunders was placed in the “A” division with over 18 teams across Manitoba competing in April in the MSEA’s Rocket League season. Teams were seeded based on prior performance; George Saunders had no reference point but quickly dominated the “A” division in Middle Years and was asked to level up to the “AA” division.

The students in George Saunders swiftly adapted and managed to place fourth in regular season play, securing them a playoff spot. However, their success did not end there! The George Saunders Niskak finished second overall in the province of Manitoba in the AA division for Middle Years! Congratulations to Sean Laliberty, Liam Saunders, Christopher James, Treyton Beardy, and Darian Saunders on their fantastic finish! Thanks to the coaches, Jonypher Molejon and Benjamin Sinclair, for their support.

Aside from these kids at George Saunders bringing awareness to their First Nation and putting York Landing on the map via esports, they are also making waves with the developers of Rocket League. Users must ensure that explicit language is not used when entering player and team names into Rocket League’s online system. When the commissioner of the Middle Years in MSEA input the team’s name “George Saunders Niskak” into the plan for the playoff bracket, Rocket League decided to “ban” the team name, thinking it was inappropriate. The system does not recognize Cree, or any Indigenous language, which needs to change. MFNSS and the Manitoba School Esports Association will contact Rocket League to rectify this oversight for speakers of Cree and other Indigenous languages in Manitoba— one small step towards truth and reconciliation. Every step counts.

In addition to the previously stated benefits of esports, esports can also be used to promote positive attitudes toward Indigenous identity and culture. One way to do this is by incorporating cultural elements into esports tournaments and events.

First Nations Cultures Incorporated in Minecraft

For example, MFNSS has facilitated game-based learning activities, blended with esports via Minecraft Education, that motivate students to celebrate Indigenous languages, traditions, and artwork. Mahpiya Hdega School (Dakota Plains) recently participated in a design challenge requiring teams of students to cooperatively design an esports logo for their school based on meaningful representations and symbols of Dakota culture. Furthermore, many of our MFNSS First Nations have participated in our Minecraft Education “First Nations Community Challenge,” requiring teams of students to build a First Nation inclusive of respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility. Students’ pride and self-confidence flourish in the classroom with the opportunity to bring background knowledge, land-based education, and distinct cultural context to these design challenges.

The Seven Teachings in First Nations culture is an essential foundation of Traditional Knowledge and wisdom. While esports may seem like an unlikely place to find these teachings, they can be represented in several ways within the world of competitive gaming.

LOVE AND RESPECT: One-way love and respect are represented in esports is through developing positive relationships between players and teams. While competition can often be intense and cutthroat, players who respect their opponents, teammates, and coaches can foster a more positive and supportive community. Demonstrating the values of love and respect in esports can lead to a healthier and more fulfilling experience for all involved.

HONESTY: Honesty is essential in any competitive setting, and esports is no exception. Honesty is represented in esports through fair play, rule-following, and integrity. Cheating or dishonesty can be grounds for disqualification or loss of rank, which promotes a culture of fairness and honesty within the esport community.

COURAGE: Courage is essential for anyone engaging in competitive activities, and esports is no different. Players must show courage in the face of defeat or difficult challenges and make strategic decisions during gameplay. Courageous players who take risks and try new strategies can often come out on top.

WISDOM: Wisdom is represented in esports through strategic thinking, adaptability, and experience. Successful esports players have often gained knowledge through experience, learning from past mistakes, and honing their skills. Wisdom is also demonstrated through thinking critically and making intelligent decisions under pressure.

HUMILITY: Humility is an essential value in First Nations culture and can also be seen in esports. Players who exhibit humility are often more approachable and easier to work with, leading to stronger relationships with their teammates and coaches. Humility

also fosters a sense of self-awareness that can help players identify areas where they can improve and grow.

TRUTH: Finally, truth is an essential value in any community, and it is represented in esports through transparency and accountability. Players who are truthful and transparent in their actions and communications can build trust with their teammates and coaches, leading to stronger relationships and more effective teamwork.

New Esports Teams with Focus on First Nations Languages and Identities

MFNSS is set to develop esports teams across our school system centered around First Nations cultures and languages in the 2023–2024 school year. When competing in esports events or virtual seasons with the Manitoba School Esports Association, First Nations youth can promote pride and accomplishment in their distinct First Nations identity while fostering critical thinking and teamwork skills. The partnership between MFNSS and MSEA, and the participation of Fox Lake School and George Saunders Memorial School, is a positive step towards promoting scholastic esports as a healthy educational activity in Manitoba, fostering positive attitudes towards First Nations identity and culture.

Given its significant growth and impact on the global sports industry, Canada should consider recognizing esports as a legitimate sport, as many countries worldwide have already done, or risk falling behind an industry that continues to flourish and attract a massive and diverse following of players and fans alike.

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June 9th, 2023

On Wednesday, June 7th, a little under 250 students and staff, 12 First Nations school teams from all over Manitoba, kicked off MFNERC’s 3rd annual softball tournament. The morning started looking a little grey and overcast, but by the time students hit the field, the clouds had parted, and the sun was shining.

Physical education and Health Program facilitator Mike Thomas, and Land-Based physical education facilitator Norbert Mercedes, were both in attendance, along with a visit from MFNERC’s Executive Director, Charles Cochran. “I don’t want to sound dramatic, but events like this can be life-changing” for some of the students involved, shared Mike about the tournament. “I have had countless messages from teachers” and all wanting to share their pride and joy from seeing the effect it has had on their students.

Some schools arrived after 13+ hours of driving to make it to the game, big shout out to all the students and staff from York Landing and Spirit Lake for their dedication and time! This year marks the first tournament open to all MFNERC & MFNSS schools. One of the event’s hosts said

“…next year, we’re aiming for double the participation. When the kids are happy, I am happy.”

Mike Thomas

The 12 schools took part in three rounds of games, with the winners of each game round moving on to final playoff matches. The sun was shining, the temperature was around 27◦degrees, the sound of metal bats clinking against balls, the crunch of red dirt under running shoes, and kids’ laughs, cheers, and shouts all filled the air. Lunch was the traditional game day fuel of hotdogs and hamburgers, grilled and served by MFNERC volunteers.  The games started around 9:30 am and continued into the afternoon. The victorious team of this year’s tournament was Kistiganwacheeng Elementary School, beating Chief Sam Cook Mahmuwee Education Center, who came in a close second.

We want to congratulate and thank everyone who made this event the homerun it was! Thank you to our school’s students and staff for making the journey for the game, and congratulations to the winning teams; everyone who played is a winner in our eyes. Thank you to the hosts, Mike, and Norbert from MFNSS, for all the hard work and planning that went into the day, and to all our volunteers who came out as support, we couldn’t have done it without you.


Lake St. Martin School
Lake St. Martin First Nation
Sergent Tommy Prince School
Brokenhead Ojibwe Nation
Ginew School
Roseau River Anishinaabe Nation
Dakota Plains
Dakota Plains Wahpeton Nation
George Saunders Memorial
York Factory Nation
Long Plains School
Long Plain Nation
Keeseekoowenin School
Keeseekoowenin Ojibway Nation
Lawrence Sinclair Memorial School
Kinonjeoshtegon Nation
Kistiganwacheeng Elementary School
Garden Hill Nation
Chief Sam Cook Mahmuwee Education Center
Tataskweyak Cree Nation
Indian Springs School
Swan Lake Nation
Chemawawin School
Chemawawin Cree Nation
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Registration is now open for the first annual MFNERC Virtual Career Fair. The event takes place Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Sign up today to register your students, children, or classroom to participate in this interactive career fair from the convenience of your homeroom.

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MFNERC 3RD Annual Inter-School Pow Wow

Participating schools are required to register their students and designated chaperones. Please complete the attached registration form and fax it to Marie Strong at 204-843-2269 or by email to

Students will:

  • Have an opportunity to come together to share their gift of dance
  • Learn about powwow protocols
  • Engage in networking and relationship building
  • Learn about their history and identity as First Nations people.

All schools will be responsible for their own travel arrangements and other accommodations.
Meals will be provided for students and chaperones on the day of the event, April 11, 2024.

Location: Isaac Beaulieu Memorial School, Sandy Bay First Nation, MB
10:00 am: Opening Remarks
11:00 am: Grand Entry
12:00 am: Lunch
1:00 pm: Dancer Categories
4:00 pm: Retire staffs

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Welcome to the MFNERC Lighting the Fire Student Contests!

Essay Theme:
We are calling all students from MFNERC/MFNSS schools! It’s your time to shine. We’re inviting you to voice your vision for the future of education. We want you, the students, to share what you want to see in your schools. What would inspire you in your learning journey?

Video Theme:
Lights, camera, action! Showcase the unique spirit and pride of your First Nation or school. What makes your First Nation or School Special? What do you see or experience that makes you proud?

Entre now and let your voice be heard!
Submission deadline: April 15, 2024.

For more information contact Sandy Bruyere

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Marion Boulanger has worked for the Resource Centre as a URIS nurse for over two years and offers an insightful glimpse into the daily work of URIS nurses. The educator nurses conduct school visits for students managing special health conditions. They also conduct educational sessions on the 13 health conditions covered by the URIS program. URIS nurses consult with other health care providers in the management of a student’s health care needs. URIS is a provincial program that supports children who require assistance with health care needs while attending community programs, including licensed childcare facilities, and schools with their delivered services.

The Resource Centre’s dedicated URIS nurses are designated to service 44 First Nations schools. Each URIS nurse is assigned 11–13 schools. Upon arrival in a First Nation, the nurse coordinates with the local school’s resource teacher, setting aside time to plan their visit. Post-meeting, they update student health care plans or schedule appointments with students and their parents or caregivers. URIS nurses work extensively with resource teachers, classroom educators, educational assistants, support staff (e.g., cooks, custodians and maintenance staff, school bus drivers, Jordan’s Principle staff, Child and Family Services staff), training them in the needs of the student and the student’s emergency response plan. These plans equip educational and support staff to recognize signs and symptoms of a student’s health conditions so they can respond appropriately during emergencies or when aiding with medication.

Boulanger says she has a lot of work to do as soon as she hits the ground in a community. “We may be scheduled to deliver teaching sessions on one or more of the usual 13 health conditions affecting some students. Our teaching sessions may be one-on-one, or in small or larger groups of school staff. The school staff may request we meet with parents or caregivers who have children with other health conditions not covered by the URIS program, and then we assist with student health care. Our school visit ends with a report and leaving documentation required to ensure the student is properly taken care of. We then do follow-up work that may require communication and consultation with other health care providers to meet the student’s health care needs.”

Following their school visits, URIS nurses engage in comprehensive documentation, compiling clinical notes and summaries detailing their visits. Subsequently, they undertake follow-up, often requiring consultation with other health care workers to fulfill the student’s health care requirements.

Although there is a wide range of situations across the many First Nations the Resource Centre services, Boulanger says the URIS nurses see many of the same concerns over and over. “The most common health conditions encountered include anaphylaxis, asthma, diabetes type 1 and 2, seizure disorders, cardiac conditions, bleeding disorders, gastrostomy care, and ostomy care. Additionally, URIS covers other conditions such as pre-set oxygen, steroid-dependent conditions, oral/nasal suctioning, clean intermittent catheterization, and imperfect osteogenesis.”

Boulanger shared a story that underscored the significance of her work: “A parent expressed gratitude for finalizing her daughter’s health care plan, noting how URIS services had significantly enhanced her daughter’s plan when she first entered school. Promoting trusting and strong working relationships with school staff, parents and caregivers, and students is crucial. We integrate our Indigenous values and adhere to the Seven Sacred Teachings in our practice.” She adds, URIS nurses at the Resource Centre find their work incredibly fulfilling, consistently receiving expressions of appreciation from school staff, parents, caregivers, and students through positive verbal and written feedback.

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Rosalie Tsannie-Burseth provided the keynote and spoke at other sessions at the Circle of Knowledge and Practices (CKP) Conference in October 2023. She shared valuable information for First Nations staff and students to reflect on as they continue the school year through the winter months. As many will remember, newly elected Premier Wab Kinew attended the first morning of the CKP Conference, which thrilled Tsannie-Burseth who was able to speak with him. She says this election was history being made and looks forward to similar historic events when Indigenous languages are incorporated into the curriculum to produce fluent speakers. Premier Kinew later said, “In my first days as the new Premier of Manitoba, I had the great honour of joining members of the community and strong Indigenous leaders at the Circle of Knowledge Conference. Sitting at the drum and singing with our community was a powerful reminder of what we have accomplished together for our province. This is a new day in Manitoba, where everyone, including Indigenous people, are included.”

Advancing Education through Local Knowledge

Tsannie-Burseth summarized her talk as, “Looking into the past to build Indigenous Education based on local linguistic, Indigenous Knowledge and cultural heritage.” Her information blended perfectly into the theme of this year’s CKP, which was First Nations Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing. She focused her talk on First Nations languages, Traditional Knowledge and Elders in education, and First Nations ways of teaching, such as land-based learning. Tsannie-Burseth comes by her information through spending 36 years as a teacher, principal, and director of education. She is a Dene speaker and member of Hatchet Lake Dënesųlįnë First Nation. As a residential school survivor, she is a role model for overcoming challenges and advancing in education and her career. She has a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Regina. Tsannie-Burseth is currently working on her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan, studying Dënesųlįnë history, language, and culture. The keynote speaker has strong ideas for advancing First Nations education, but she started by saying why Indigenous peoples need to see such change. Indigenous peoples face socioeconomic inequality compared to non-Indigenous Canadians and are marginalized due to the impacts of colonialism. Colonialism included the forced removal from lands and communities and the residential school system with its mandatory assimilation and adoption of foreign knowledge. The result is high unemployment, poverty, and over-representation in prisons among Indigenous populations, among other discrepancies and hardships.

First Nations Languages Have Top Priority

Tsannie-Burseth says First Nations languages need to be put first and made official. She says that leadership at all levels needs to be involved. The money per student for language learning needs to be increased—the Canadian government did the damage, and it needs to come up with the funds to rectify the loss of languages. The keynote speaker has researched language learning across the world and shared examples of successful language programs from within and outside of Canada. She recommends immersion or bi-lingual programming and says schools have to move away from 45-minute language classes each day. Each First Nation will make its own decisions regarding language programming. An Immersion program is ideal, with students learning in the First Nations language from preschool to Grade 3 or 4. Then a bi-lingual program for the higher grades involving half First Nations language and half English. Models the speaker mentioned include Deh Gáh Elementary and Secondary School in the Northwest Territories, which benefits from its immersion Kindergarten to Grade 3 option that then transitions to a double-streamed program. deh-gah-elementary/

A positive development Tsannie-Burseth mentions is the use of language apps and games to facilitate language learning. She says to normalize First Nations language speaking in First Nations by encouraging its use in business, local leadership, and mass media.

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Mathematics is a language of numbers that can describe almost everything in the physical world. Increasing the skills of First Nations students within this dialect of figures and equations is important so they have this valuable tool to build a good life. That means training teachers in how this complex language can be made more relatable to students. Recently, the Resource Centre held a Mathematics Roundtable where teachers were taught mathematical principles using First Nations technology, like the tipi and the star blanket.

Chun Ong is a Numeracy and Assessment facilitator with the Resource Centre and says math is a part of everyone’s life. “Math is always a part and parcel, through numeracy, of any culture or group, and it has been a part of Indigenous peoples lives from time immemorial through hunting, fishing, gathering of food, and interaction with the environment. Numbers, patterns and relation, shape and space, and statistics and probability are mathematical concepts and skills that were always used and applied in daily life.”

Ong says the best way to teach math is by relating basic concepts to relatable events, processes, and things in a student’s experience. By doing this, it is possible for a teacher to create building blocks of concepts and skills that can become the foundation of future learning.

“All math concepts and skills are better understood by students when they can relate to things and happenings in their environment—things they have encountered or experienced. For example, the order of operations (BEDMAS) is the opposite of solving equations (algebra). For example, you put on your winter jacket and boots last, just before you leave the house, which is like the order of operations. However, you take off the jacket or boots first when you come home after work. Order of operations (BEDMAS) is doing or moving forward, and solving equations (algebra) is undoing or reversing,” Ong says.

Ong uses the tipi and star blanket to teach basic mathematical principles integral to their creation. Using these tools is important, not only for their relevancy to First Nations students, but also to teach cultural concepts and values to educators who may not be Indigenous. He says the shapes, space, and patterns of the cultural items or objects—including the tipi, star blanket, and drums—are a good starting point for teaching and learning mathematical topics, concepts, and skills in a culturally responsive manner. Relating and applying math to everyday life is the essence of numeracy.

The tipi could be used to teach the basic geometry of 2D shapes and 3D space. For example, by using the equation, πrl, you can derive the curved surface area of a tipi, using the convex, polygonal shapes that form the covering of a tipi, which creates a cone, and thus a circular base, when more poles are added to make the tipi strong. On the other hand, the construction of the star blanket, from a 2D shape to a completed 3D space object, involves almost all the math concepts and skills in geometry. It involves the basic unit of diamonds, forming eight bigger diamonds to complete the eight-point[1]ed star in the centre of the blanket. If you fill in the bigger diamond with the numbers in a certain manner, you will create what is called by mathematicians, the ‘Chinese or Pascal triangle.’”

Ong says Resource Centre events like the Mathematics Roundtable are important to ensure educators are relating lessons to First Nations students in a way that produces positive results, instilling in them the joy of teaching and learning mathematics. “Teacher capacity building and mentoring in Indigenous culture is very important for reclaiming what has been lost through colonization as well as for student and teacher engagement. It is important that teachers and students create a connection socially, academically, and intellectually in math, ELA, science, and social studies, to increase student attendance and academic performance in a cross-curricular manner. These culturally responsive specific lessons and activities also build pride and learning of First Nations values and teachings.”

Ong says it is all about ensuring that First Nations students absorb what can be a difficult subject, with concepts that are sometimes very precise and difficult to explain. Providing teachers with culturally specific ways of teaching helps with this process and creates a better experience for the learners. “In my experience, students always feel proud and are often awed by the many math concepts and skills that they can relate to and understand easily. The tipi, star blanket, and drum, to name a few, are culturally responsive math tools that are very engaging socially, academically, and intellectually. Math, numeracy in action, is no longer the domain of the academics and mathematicians, but it can be a part of everyone’s life.”

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The symposium will take place February 21-22, 2024 at Canad Inns Destination Centre Polo Park.

Manitoba Aboriginal Languages Strategy (MALS) was created to promote, revitalize, and support Aboriginal Languages throughout Manitoba. Ancestral knowledge, as carried in our languages, songs, stories, community histories, and other key practices and customs, connect and bridge generations. The languages of First Nations, Métis and Inuit teach us about who we are as a people. Language creates a strong connection from the past to the present and helps shape Indigenous identity. We recognize the importance of land and the role that the land plays in connecting to our language and history. We also recognize that learning can take place beyond the walls of a classroom.

We invite an interactive approach to share language and welcome individual workshop sessions that may include, but are not limited to:

  • Aboriginal writing systems
  • Teaching language in the digital age
  • Language apps
  • Teacher apprenticeships & Aboriginal language immersion programming
  • Local initiatives & best practices
  • Grandparents and our languages
  • Teaching Aboriginal languages
  • Community based Aboriginal languages programs
  • Language and the Land
  • Language program models
  • Language Resources
  • Stories, songs, and teachings
  • Sharing research and policy related to Aboriginal languages

We invite Knowledge Keepers, Elders, educators, students and other interested community members to this year’s conference.

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To: MFNERC High School Teachers and their classrooms

Date: Thursday, January 18, 2024

Location: Microsoft Teams

Time: 10:00AM – 11:00AM

We invite you to join us in the excitement surrounding the release of MFNERC’s very own Rachel Beaulieu’s upcoming documentary, “A Cup of Cold Water.” This compelling film explores a significant narrative that echoes through history. It follows the remarkable journey of Alfred Kirkness, an advocate for the final resting places of former residential school students.

Long before this issue made headlines, Alfred Kirkness was an advocate, championing the dignity and respect of the final resting places of former students. His determined efforts, captured in “A Cup of Cold Water,” not only exposed the neglected condition of the cemeteries at the Brandon Residential School site but also ignited a worldwide recognition of this issue, underlining the far-reaching impact of his advocacy.

To Register for the screening, please click on the link below ⬇️

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MET Number is a unique identifier assigned to each student upon registration with Manitoba Education for record-keeping purposes. This number remains the same from kindergarten to Grade 12 and is different from any student number assigned by a local school division.

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First Nations Early Learning and Child Care (FNELCC) provides guidance to support developing, expanding, and enhancing Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) programs in all 63 First Nations in Manitoba. ELCC programs include child care, Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve, and a variety of parent-child programming for First Nations children 0-6 years of age and their families.
The strategic plan for FNELCC is informed by the collective wisdom of our partners, Elders, communities, leadership, parents, and families. The strategic plan centres on eight priority areas of action, which we call our Beads. The work of implementing these beads is called our Beadwork, and is guided by the child-centred principle that every decision, every investment, and every action we take in the work of the First Nations Early Learning and Child Care mandate must be made with our children’s best interests in mind.

This year’s theme highlights our ways and our Beadwork as FNELCC moves forward with this imperative work to support and strengthen Early Learning and Child Care. The work ahead also requires many hands, as it is a shared responsibility, including our partners among all our systems that support children, parents, and families.

OUR BEADWORK is defined as:
1. Reclaim First Nations Languages and Culture
2. Promote Healing-Centred Engagement
3. Ensure High-Quality and Professional Development
4. Strengthen Community Capacity
5. Adopt First Nations Ways of Evaluation
6. Ensure Transparency and Accountability
7. Strengthen the Early Learning Community
8. Adopt a “Children First” Principle

“We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We have the wheel.

It is our way: it has always been our way.”
-Elder Eunice Beardy

Our target audience includes childcare programs, Aboriginal Head Start programs, Nursery and Kindergarten programs, and other programs that support young children and families.

Registration now open to the Public!

To find out more and access our Registration Form:

Click Here to Register
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