BOW VALLEY – Canadian Rockies Public School and Stoney Education Authority officials came together on Monday (Aug. 26) to kick off the school year and celebrate a four-year partnership between the school boards.
Joining together in 2015, the acknowledgement was youth from the Stoney Nakoda Nation were attending schools in neighbouring communities and the school boards wanted to start collaborating and building bridges.
SEA Superintendent Bill Shade said the partnership is to ensure their goals align.
"We are equal partners that are working towards a common goal, which is serving our students to the best of our abilities," he said.
"They are why this partnership exists today."
While the Stoney Education Authority runs four schools, only two are located in the Morley town site on the Nation – the Nakoda Elementary School and the Morley Community School – with CPRS running Banff Elementary, Banff Community High School, Alpenglow School, Exshaw School, Elizabeth Rummel School, Lawrence Grassi Middle School and Canmore Collegiate High School in Banff, Canmore and Exshaw.
CRPS superintendent Chris MacPhee spoke of the partnership and related it to the quote that tells a person not to walk in front or behind someone but rather walk beside each other where you can listen and learn together.
"For myself our partnership is just that ... we are better together. Stoney Education Authority staff and students, as well as their knowledge keeps (elders committee) assist us in learning and understanding the journey reconciliation," MacPhee said.
A great example of the school boards working together is through projects put forth by the school officials and teachers such at the Stoney Nakoda Heroes Project earlier this year where Grade 4 students from Exshaw were asked to research their own family histories by working with the elders to piece together their family trees before and after residential schools.
Students were able to discover history of their ancestors five to six generations ago where they then choose a hero from the family line and sculpted a bust that was put on display at artsPlace in Canmore.
"It is time to learn our history, time to learn about us ... and time to be proud of our people," elder Tina Fox said at the opening day for teachers.
Elder Sykes Powderface also echoed Fox's statements saying it's been great to join together under a common cause.
"I'm very honoured and humbled to have a very small part in this and think about how this relationship building has been ... it's been a call to action on collaboration," Powderface said.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada put out 94 Calls to Action. Established to redress the legacy of residential schools, introduced by the Canadian government with the intention to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture, the schools are well documented as places where physical and mental abuse occurred with lasting intergenerational trauma.
There are four specific calls to action directly related to education such as calling upon the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues including building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect.
Honoured last year with a sacred eagle feather, MacPhee said CRPS is excited to continue the collaborative partnership with the Nation.
"[The eagle feather] is a reminder to move forward in the future but remember the past," he said.