First Nations leaders in Yukon say a newly-created directorate will help them exert more control over the education of Indigenous students in the territory — and work toward a separate school board.
The Yukon First Nations Education Directorate was announced on Thursday as an independent entity with its own office in Whitehorse. It effectively replaces the Council of Yukon First Nations’ (CYFN) education department.
“Today is excellent day for education, and it’s a great day for First Nations education in particular,” said CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston.
Dana Tizya-Tramm, chair of the Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) — a separate advisory body — called it a big step toward more autonomy and self-determination.
“The mission of the Yukon First Nations Education Directorate is to exert unified control over First Nation education so we can empower our people and our ways of knowing and prepare our children to be active participants in the current world,” he said.
The new directorate will have a staff of 12 people.
According to CYFN, the creation of the new directorate follows more than two years of “visioning sessions,” to determine how to make changes to Yukon’s public school system.
‘It is the failing of the system’
Last year, the auditor general issued a report on education in Yukon that found that the system is not meeting the needs of many Indigenous students. It said the territory has failed to adequately reflect First Nations culture and languages in the classroom, and that part of the problem is that department of education has not partnered with First Nations to develop effective programming.
Tizya-Tramm said the new directorate aims to change that.
“It is not the failing of our First Nations students abilities, but it is the failing of the system and the ability of that system meeting the world view and cultural DNA of the First Nations students,” he said.
The directorate will “facilitate the creation of a Yukon First Nations School Board,” according to a news release.
Right now, Yukon only has one school board and it represents Francophone students.
A First Nations school board will help develop a separate First Nations school in Yukon, the release says.
But Tizya-Tramm says the goal of the directorate is not to advocate for separation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, but to see students “excelling in both worlds.”
“Really, this is about empowering those youth with their identities whereas the current existing system creates split personality disorders,” he said.
“This is going to change the health and social aspect … This is going to change numbers in the justice system. This is going to change everything.”