Reverberating the Success of December’s Principals’ Round Table

The annual Principals’ Round Table, held on December 4 and 5, 2019, at the Viscount Gort Hotel in Winnipeg, was well received by 30 school administrators who registered and participated. Three education administration facilitators hosted the round table with virtuous support by an Elder-in-Residence.

For this particular round table, the education administration facilitators reflected and concentrated on the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ mandated priority of MFNERC to promote language and culture. The facilitators decided to put aside academic discussions—they instead focused on how to activate the healing processes of Indigenous school administrators, to create an understanding of where many issues arise from at the community level. More, the facilitators focused on how these insights may impact how decisions are made at the local level. One cannot lead and progress until one has healed, or until one has a good understanding of the environment under which they lead.

On the first morning of the round table, an education facilitator presented on the importance of the four aspects of personal development: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual, with discussions then centring on this topic. After the break, 12 school administrators were honoured with eagle feathers, an honour song, and certificates for their dedicated service to MFNERC schools. The goal of honouring was to encourage continued service to the schools by First Nations professionals.

During the first afternoon, Research and Development provided a synopsis on land-band education and the importance of learning and retaining an Indigenous language. A six-season circular graph was used as the basis for organizing land-based activities at the school level. It was announced that one school would be selected in 2020 to host a land-based skill demonstration day involving students from all schools serviced by MFNERC. The goal of the synopsis was to articulate the importance of land-based education and the learning of language, often blended in schools, which develops a strong identity of the home nation to children and youth.

On the second morning, a KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE) was implemented by facilitators from KBE, with support provided by MFNERC student support facilitators. History and contact with the newcomers and all the negative impacts it created, some purposeful, was the central theme of the blanket exercise. It included cultural displacement, language loss, land loss, residential school, 60s scoop, suicides, murdered and missing women, and everything else that has been experienced by Indigenous people in Canada. The KBE was an emotional experience for many participants, some reduced to tears during and after the exercise. The goal of the KBE was to remind school administrators that school staff and students still hold pain from negative experiences, some of which are intergenerational, and to incorporate these considerations in their decision-making processes.

In the final afternoon, using a circle of support, an Elder/Residential School Survivor provided brief insights as to what went on inside one residential school while he was a student at one of the schools. The Elder gave accounts of specific events that he saw or had experienced, some of which had life-lasting effects on him. As a wrap-up activity, participants had an opportunity to share their thoughts one by one on the stories told during the day. Emotions emerged, tears were shed, and courageous stories were informed of the personal impacts residential school or the 60s scoop had on some individuals, all leading to the confirmation of the strength and resilience Indigenous peoples continue to show as professionals in the schools. The goal of the sharing survivor stories was to bring alive one aspect of the KBE exercise, which in this case, was the impacts of the residential school. Overall the roundtable achieved the goals and objectives that were targeted for the gathering.

The education administration facilitators, Donna, George, and Sandy, would like to thank the school administrators for their presence and to MFNERC management (Marcella) for the support that was provided. More, the facilitators extend their gratitude to Rebecca, Sophie, and Diane of Research and Development, to student support workers (Brandee, Erla, Jonathon), Ruth and Whitney at Programs, Derek for the honour song, KBE facilitator (Alison), and Elder Dave for his insights.

Award Recipients:
Warren Woodhouse, Charles Sinclair School, Fisher River Cree Nation

Ernie McDougall, Kistiganwacheeng Elementary School, Garden Hill First Nation

Myrna Blacksmith, Mikisew High School, Cross Lake First Nation

Donna Dudek, Chief Clifford Lynxleg Anishabe School, Tootinaowaziibeeng First Nation

Adeline Traverse, Lawrence Sinclair Memorial School, Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation

Lorna Carter, Neil Dennis Kematch Memorial School, Sapotaweyak Cree Nation

Donavan Mann, Indian Springs School, Swan Lake First Nation

Peter Andrews, Principal, 1972 Memorial High School

Kevin Nabess, Sioux Valley High School, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation

Wesley Harper, Red Sucker Lake School, Red Sucker Lake First Nation

William Spence, Otetiskiwin Kiskinwamahtowekamik, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation

Jean Malcolm, Isaac Beaulieu Memorial School, Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation

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Guest post by Sandy Robinson and George Ross

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