New funding agreement gives greater control over education to 22 First Nations communities

·3 min read

Kahnawake hosted the signing of a landmark regional funding agreement to give 22 First Nations communities in Quebec better resources to educate their children as they see fit.

The agreement, signed Thursday, was negotiated between the First Nations Education Council (FNEC) and the federal government, and is the culmination of a decade of work.

“We’re very excited about it,” said FNEC general director Denis Gros-Louis. “For years, we were sent to learn in a colonized way. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be in control of our own education.”

Representatives from the FNEC’s 22 member communities, Indigenous services minister Patty Hajdu, and other dignitaries attended the signing ceremony at the Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) gymnasium on July 14.

According to Gros-Louis, funding for schools in Indigenous communities in Quebec has lagged behind the provincial standard for more than 25 years, with increases below population growth.

The five-year infusion of around $311 million above current funding aims to empower FNEC communities to deliver education in a way that meets their needs.

Member communities will use the money to hire new staff, retain existing teachers and other employees in the education sector, boost student success, and ensure curricula are culturally relevant. However, a range of school sizes, geographic considerations, and language needs meant any agreement needed to provide flexibility.

“The value added of the agreement is that each community will be in control of their education, so it will be up to the Kahnawake community, the teachers, and the parents to decide their way forward,” said Gros-Louis.

“Our community has been really a part of this because we’ve been giving input about what it takes to educate, what are the services Kahnawake needs,” said Robin Delaronde, director of education at the Kahnawake Education Center.

In the past, KEC has had to seek funding for specific programs, making it hard to predict how much money the education centre could expect to receive each year. Developing these proposals can also be a drain on resources.

“I have to say that I’m very satisfied because it’s going to be up to us to determine where we want to spend the dollars,” said Delaronde.

She noted that KSS was the ideal location to host the historic signing.

“Kahnawake Survival School is a place that evolved from that fight, from parents wanting better education and to have language and culture, to have that right to determine our own education,” said Delaronde.

“We were one of the forerunners in determining our own education system, our own education for our own people, and the people who were instrumental in it have been recognized in the ceremony today,” said Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) chief Harry Rice, who signed on behalf of Kahnawake.

Among the speakers at the KSS event was Iotenharí:io Lahache, who just finished fourth grade. She is the granddaughter of the late Edward J. Aronhie:nens Cross, former director of education, who dedicated 45 years of his life to education in Kahnawake.

“The students within our First Nations communities will definitely benefit from the regional funding agreement,” said Lahache after delivering an opening address in Kanien’kéha.

“We look forward to the next chapter of Onkwehón:we control of Onkwehón:we education.”

gmbankuti@gmail.com

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door

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