A ceremonial grand entry preceded the signing, with the unveiling of a collaborative art project between the students of Birch Hills and Muskoday First Nation coming afterward.
Speeches were given by Muskoday First Nation chief Austin Bear and SRPSD board chair Barry Hollick to highlight the significance of the historic signing.
“This is not an idle, meaningless understanding to be set aside by others,” Bear said. “We’re talking about education. (It’s) critical. (It’s) important. We have to continue to build these relationships, these agreements (and) these understandings so that, in our societies, in this great land, there is not one person, student (or) family left behind.”
Hollick acknowledged the historic day, noted the long-standing relationship the division has with Muskoday First Nation and outlined the contents of the agreement.
Hollick said that with support from the Saskatoon Tribal Council, the Muskoday First Nation and the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division have agreed to work together and honour, value and equate indigenous knowledge with mainstream teachings.
He said the partnership would recognize and ensure treaty knowledge and that it is honoured within the educational system to support healthy relations among all students.
He spoke of creating an equitable and collaborative leadership model to ensure decision-making is a shared process, that services be shared to facilitate the process for students who transition from one school to another, that First Nation cultural understanding is expanded and that a responsible fiscal relationship is maintained.
“This is the first partnership agreement that we are signing and we certainly hope to sign others in the future,” Hollick said. “And it gives me great pleasure to sign on behalf of Sask. Rivers School Division today.”
Following the speeches, the students’ commemorative art project was unveiled. The exchange between the Birch Hills and Muskoday First Nation students was seen as emblematic of the new understanding.
“I thought (the project) was a good idea because it actually wrapped this memorandum of understanding in with curriculum, because treaty teachings are in the classroom, (they) are in the provincial system (and they) are in our school as well,” said Elwin Bear, K-12 and post-secondary education co-ordinator in Muskoday First Nation.