Kehewin begins a new path for education

Elders in Kehewin bless the land that the new K-12 school will be built on. It is expected to be completed in 2020.

For many First Nation communities, their history of education in Canada is wrought with stories of residential schools. Almost forty years after the first school was built in Kehewin, the community is forging ahead with a plan to do education differently.

The elders blessed the land they are building their new K-12 school on last week. During construction, council and the community will begin developing their own curriculum that re-instills their Indigenous identity and seeks to be ahead of the curve in course material.

It will align with the core subjects (English, science, math, social studies) but also break away from the traditional Western education with a more specific focus.

“STEM will be our niche,” said councillor Ben Badger, who envisions the new curriculum working as launching points for students into these fields.

“A school is a sea of hope. There’s a stigma that reserve schools aren’t good because the underfunding is inadequate, but we want to get to the point of having a waiting list to come to Kehewin school. I know it will take generations, and it will be hard for educational bodies to accept our degrees, but we have suitors we’re working with.”

With an aim towards science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, Badger sees the potential for a wave of environmentalists to come from the school if the material is delivered properly.

The school is an $18 million project and is slated to signify the connection between the spirit of nature and the Indigenous people by building the structure with wood. This unique build is described as having award-winning potential.

“A tree is a spirit,” Badger says. “We want to have the breathing and living elements involved with the school. We’re in a relationship with the land, and that’s part of education for us.”

Genmec is awarded the contract for the build and met with Chief and council at a partnering session Tuesday.

“The object is to try and employ as many as possible through ourselves and through our trades, so definitely positive feedback in that regard,” said Maurice Mercier of Genmec.

“Our commitment is to the region and we’re long-time residents, as is the nation, whatever we can do to improve those relationships that are sometimes rocky…because sometimes there’s not good understanding.”

They began moving dirt this week and are expected to be finished by May 2020.

“It’s about building relationships. We are showing that we have reconciliation in our hearts, and we want to improve our relationships step-by-step,” Badger said.