E.D. Feehan launching First Nations Fitness and Wellness Academy

E.D Feehan High School is launching a new program this fall that will focus on fitness, wellness, and culture for Indigenous students.

Saskatoon Tribal Council donating $50K of fitness equipment to the high school

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Marc Arcand says they want the new program at E.D. Feehan to attract students from the Cree bilingual school St. Frances, which has more than 650 Indigenous students. (James Hopkin/CBC)

E.D Feehan High School is launching a new program this fall that will focus on fitness, wellness and culture for Indigenous students.

The First Nations Fitness and Wellness Academy will offer culturally-based English language arts and social studies, physical education, Catholic studies and First Nations spirituality.

The program is a partnership between the school and the Saskatoon Tribal Council.

Having a program like this would have really helped to shape my identity.- Kendra Weenie, program coordinator with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Marc Arcand told Saskatoon Morning the council will be donating $50,000 worth of fitness training equipment to the school as part of the program.

"We're investing in First Nations youth," Arcand said. "It's not just for First Nations youth, though, it's for all kids that go to the school.

"So if you can imagine the wrestling team that's been champions here for the last two or three years, the free training that they're going to get, the free equipment that they're going to get, that's going to make them better."

Attracting students from St. Frances

Arcand says part of the reason they started the program was to attract students from the Cree bilingual school at St. Frances.

"We have 650 kids at St. Frances, where are they going to go? They want to come here to keep learning their language, their culture, their identity."

The goal of the program is to increase graduation rates, address health issues like the high diabetes rates in Indigenous populations and to create a positive atmosphere for Indigenous students, Arcand said.

Shaping identity, boosting confidence

Kendra Weenie, a Cree woman from Sweetgrass First Nation, will be teaching at the program starting this fall.

She said she would have liked to have a program like this growing up.

"We didn't learn a lot about our history, for one, in Native studies and social studies classes," she said.

"Having a program like this would have really helped to shape my identity, it would have helped me to connect better to my culture, and really helped to boost my confidence."

Classes in the program will be infused with Indigenous content and focus on the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.

For the physical education program, she's hoping to offer land-based learning, like survival skills and traditional games.

The cultural arts portion will focus on Indigenous artists, potentially creating traditional art like beading and moccassins, and the English portion will feature Indigenous authors and poets.

Arcand said they encourage non-Indigenous students to sign up for the program as well.

About the Author

Ashleigh Mattern

Ashleigh Mattern is a web writer and reporter with CBC Saskatoon. Email: ashleigh.mattern@cbc.ca

With files from Saskatoon Morning