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Sapotaweyak Education Conference

contributed by Joy Keeper

Neil Dennis Kematch Memorial School of the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, in partnership with MFERNC, hosted a regional education conference Nov. 24-25, 2014.

Following the opening ceremonies on day one, keynote speaker Elder William Osborne spoke on the theme, Walking in Two Worlds. In the afternoon a number of workshops were hosted by MFNERC specialists and other educators including Dr. Loyie and Glenda Wilkinson. Their presentation, entitled Traditional Sharing Circle in the Classroom, was popular with many participants. In the evening a traditional feast was hosted by the community, highlighted by local entertainment.

On the second day, the keynote speaker was Metis author, David Bouchard – Kookum, I Can Read!

*As a young boy growing up in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, this award-winning author and advocate for literacy would visit his elderly great-grandmother almost every weekend at the local convent, where she lived as a cloistered nun. Bouchard, now 60, remembers sitting with her, separated by a grille, listening to her soothing voice and enveloped by her love.
Decades later, long after her death, Bouchard is convinced that his great-grandmother’s spirit also helped him discover a secret that had long been hidden from him: the Metis heritage they shared. In his mid-40s, it was a life-changing revelation. “We believe if you open your heart to your genetic memo­ries,” he says, “your life will be enriched tenfold.”

Today, Bouchard is enrichingthe lives of children, par­ents and educators across Canada with his many books and frequent speaking engagements at schools and conferences. In recognition of his work as an author and a champion of literacy, he was named to the Order of Canada in 2010. Many of his books have been bestsellers, and some have won several prestigious awards, includ­ing a Governor General’s Award, a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. It’s an impressive record for a man with dyslexia who says he never read a book from start to finish for pleasure until he was 27. But Bouchard says his own struggles with reading have given him a greater understanding of the bitter frustrations faced by children who wrestle with words. “I tell them that anyone can become a reader,” he says. “Just find that one book.”

The closing ceremony of the conference brought together the Elders and citizens of the community, and the educators who took part in the event. There was much laughter and tears as people spoke about the impact the conference had on them personally. This event was a great example of the positive outcomes for all when working in the spirit of partnership.

MFNERC staff who attended the conference