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Yukon First Nations visit B.C. First Nation run schools

Delegates from the federal, territorial and First Nation governments in Yukon recently toured five Indigenous schools in B.C. They say they got a first-hand look at the importance of immersion and culture-based education.

'It would be excellent to see a First Nation-run school' in Yukon, says CFYN grand chief

A replica of a cedar hat is seen on the Sen Pok Chin First Nation's school campus in Oliver, B.C. Yukon First Nations toured five First Nations-run schools in the province recently. (Council of Yukon First Nations)

Yukon First Nations are looking for ways to improve education for Indigenous students, including the possibility of dedicated schools.

Delegates from the federal, territorial and First Nation governments in Yukon recently toured five Indigenous schools in British Columbia. They say they got a first-hand look at the importance of immersion and culture-based education.

The delegates visited four on-reserve schools and one public Indigenous school in the Okanagan region.

The Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE), an independent body that advocates for First Nations education in Yukon, and the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) say their goal is see Indigenous students succeed in school. 

Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston says he supports the idea of a First Nations-run school in the territory. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"We really need to start educating our next generation in regards to what the opportunities are there, the challenges, and the importance of building that proper capacity when it comes to truly self-governing your nation on behalf of your people," said CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston. 

He says one goal is eventually to have a Yukon First Nations school.

"You know, we have the Catholic along with the French schools as options for our students. It would be excellent to see a First Nation-run school that could be an option given to everyone here in the territory," said Johnston.

"It would be based on these curriculums, our learning and teaching methods that we use season by season." 

Johnston says he'd also like to see more of a First Nations presence in Yukon's schools, not just cultural artifacts hanging on the walls.

The pit house at the Okanagan Indian Band OKIB Cultural Immersion School in Vernon, B.C. (Council of Yukon First Nations)

Kluane First Nation Chief Bob Dickson is the chair of the CCOE. He says it's clear that the education system hasn't been meeting the needs of Indigenous students in Yukon.

"We had two auditor general reports that say it's not working, so we need to look for other options of how to have success in our communities for our children," Dickson said.

A federal auditor general's report on education in Yukon this year described how the territorial government has not done enough to improve outcomes for Indigenous and rural students, or to figure out why they're more likely to fall behind and drop out. 

Dickson says he was impressed by how much culture and language were being used by students and teachers in the B.C. Indigenous schools.

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