In an important move toward cementing the partnership between the Sooke School District and the Pacheedaht First Nation, a Local Education Agreement was signed Friday in a ceremony on the Pacheedaht First Nation, near Port Renfrew.
The signing ceremony was the culmination of many months of work between the district and Pacheedaht and was intended to signal a turning point in how education for the First Nation’s children is approached.
“This is one of the ways in which we have committed to promoting and achieving an effective working relationship now and into the future, ” Scott Stinson, schools superintendent, said in a press release.
While the agreement is a formal funding agreement that directs the way that federal education dollars paid to the Pacheedaht will be transferred to the Sooke School District for the education for Pacheedaht youth, it does a lot more as well, Ravi Parmar, chair of Sooke School District, said.
“It lays out our responsibilities and acknowledges our role in providing a quality education that recognizes First Nation culture,” Parmar said.
The agreement ensures culturally respectful learning environments that meet the needs of Pacheedaht students and strategies to assist with the transitions experienced by the students.
And while the agreement calls for an education that leaves students confident in their identity and their knowledge of traditional values, languages, and cultures, it also acknowledges that First Nation learners must have the skills needed to thrive in contemporary society.
The agreement commits to a curriculum that will reflect the First Nation’s culture, values, language, and traditions, as reviewed by the First Nations Council.
“We have similar agreements in place with the T’Souke and Beecher Bay First Nations and have always worked very hard to help preserve and protect the First Nations culture within our schools,” Parmar said.
He pointed to one example of that effort, in which First Nations elder Bill Jones of the Pacheedaht regularly visits Sooke schools to speak about First Nations’ cultural beliefs and practices.
The signing ceremony was attended by the Pacheedaht leadership, Sooke school trustees, and principals and vice-principals of the schools where Pacheedaht students attend.