4.3 Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement
The Arrow Lakes Aboriginal Education Enhancement Council (ALAEEC ) was formed in 2007 to determine purpose and vision for an Aboriginal enhancement agreement. The ALAEEC is a partnership between School District #10 staff, the Circle of Aboriginal Women and Friends, the Nakusp and District Museum, community members and interested parents of Aboriginal students. The ALAEEC recognizes that School District #10 falls within the traditional territory of the Sinixt people and as such, has committed to acknowledging Sinixt heritage while embracing the diversity of Indigenous peoples who also inhabit the region.
The ALAEEC has a four-point vision that emphasizes a holistic educational approach for educating all Arrow Lakes students to “improve the knowledge, understanding and awareness of Aboriginal culture throughout the school district” (p. 3). This first vision should be articulated through “educational programs that are broad-based and reach out to all students of Aboriginal ancestry as well as non-Aboriginal students” (p. 3). The ALAEEC sees these programs and services rendered by increasing “Aboriginal cultural content in all sections of study by incorporating cultural content lesson plans to all students to enhance awareness, respect and appreciation of Aboriginal culture” (p. 3). Lastly, the ALAEEC recognizes its responsibility for Aboriginal student success and supports “targeted educational support for at-risk students of Aboriginal ancestry” (p. 3).
The ALAEEC and School District 10 set forth six action steps designed to support the realization of the ALAEEC vision. These concrete steps provided the foundation upon which the initial Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement (AEA ) was built. The AEA for School District #10 has two performance goals and objectives each designed in such a way as to ensure measurable outcomes and increase accountability. The goals of the AEA are a concentration of the six purposes outlined by both the School District and the ALAEEC . The theme of holistic education for all learners can be traced throughout.
- To ensure that all students of Aboriginal ancestry achieve academic and social success.
- To honour and acknowledge the histories of our students and families of Aboriginal ancestry.
- To enhance the sense of belonging of Aboriginal students within their communities through shared knowledge and experiences with all students in their school communities.
- To enhance all students’ understanding and appreciation of First Nations culture, history and spirituality.
- To provide an opportunity for healing through understanding and creating a sense of community.
- To be sensitive to the needs of our students and parents of Aboriginal ancestry and embrace the whole child – intellectually, culturally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, in the context of the greater community. (p. 4).
The purpose of the AEA ties in quite succinctly with the School District’s mission statement that emphasizes students learning to live and work in harmony with others and their environment to develop into socially responsible, productive citizens.
The initial AEA was signed in June of 2010. The three-year process of crafting the AEA resulted in two goals, each with specific, measurable indicators of success:
- Goal #1: Enhance the Aboriginal student’s sense of belonging and improve self-esteem.
- Goal #2: To improve Aboriginal student achievement.
The rationale for the first goal is intimately tied to the continued realization of Goal #2: “We believe that increased awareness, knowledge, appreciation, and respect for Aboriginal culture and history will improve students’ sense of belonging and self-esteem” (p. 5). As is evidenced from data collected from the focus group and interviews conducted with various educators from School District 10 (summarized later in this section of the report), educators strongly attest that student engagement with learning increases substantially when the inclusion of their Aboriginal heritage and ways of knowing are reflected in the pedagogical structure and content of their educational programming. More will be said about this observation later in this case report.
An examination of annual reports produced by the school district show that Aboriginal learners in School District 10 achieve at a rate that exceeds many other Aboriginal students in districts across the province. This can be attributed to the continued vigilance of both the ALAEEC and School District officials who have devoted significant human and financial resources to realizing the goals of their AEA for all students of Aboriginal ancestry within the Arrow Lakes School District, ensuring they will have the opportunity to graduate from the public school system with “dignity, purpose, and options” (Halbert & Kaser, 2013).