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MFNERC Turns Twenty

Message from the Chairperson, Chief Clarence Easter, Chemawawin Cree Nation

On behalf of the MFNERC Board of Directors, I welcome you to a new issue of the Centre’s community- focused newsletter. This newsletter highlights the organizations’ ongoing programs, and I feel honoured to share this information with you.

Throughout this newsletter, you will read of MFNERC’s many groundbreaking initiatives. In response to requests from First Nations education directors, principals, teachers, and community members, these inititatives have been developed and will continue to be shaped by community needs.

One of the most significant endeavors of MFNERC has been realizing a collective vision that ensures a holistic, enriching future for our children. In July 2017, the Manitoba First Nations School System (MFNSS) assumed responsibility for the administration and management of 10 First Nations schools, both at an elementary and secondary level.

MFNSS’s model is the first of its kind in Canada. It is a school system designed by First Nations for First Nations, with funding comparable to provincial school divisions. However, MFNSS can boast of additional supports for language and culture, transportation, and the Private Home Placement Program.

Such a system was a vision of Manitoba First Nations leadership who first highlighted the need for a collective approach to First Nations education. Powerfully articulated in the historic document Wahbung: Our Tomorrows, First Nations designed of education is the best path Nations when creating a better tomorrow for all First Nations students.

Moreover, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, leaders, and families of our many nations always knew what was and is best for our generations to come. Lifelong learning, whether it is on the land or in the classroom, is fundamental to minopimatisiwin— a complete, respectful, and self-sustaining life.

Similarly, both our parents and grandparents knew that it was necessary for all community members to look after each other and care for our families. Among our most im- portant teachings was to be thankful each day and for everything that at- tributed to our survival—food, water, and shelter.

From a very early age, we were taught the skills and knowledge needed to survive by Elders, while also learning new skills and insights to navigate towards the future.

Now, we are at a time in history where we can return to our traditional teachings and customs. We can reflect back on everything our Elders taught us, and we can celebrate our languages and cultures. Our students can now walk in to- day’s world, whether on the land or in urban centres, and feel secure in their ancestral knowledge. They will feel resilient in their identity as the original peoples of these lands, reflecting a collective vision for our youth’s future.

I commend all readers, including education directors, principals, school staff, Elders, and community members for demonstrating a commitment to creating a positive and nurturing learning environment for all First Nations students.

Chief Clarence Easter