What do the schools in Guelph, Kitchener and Waterloo have in common? These schools have a Métis community that knows how to work together. The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Grand River Métis Council (GRMC) have been education-focused for many years. MNO GRMC President Jennifer Parkinson leads by example in taking her community into schools.
Throughout Ontario, many school boards and their educators are requesting Métis education in their classroom. President Parkinson remembers proudly her Métis community educational outreach in Region 9. The MNO GRMC volunteers willingly share their knowledge with others in a variety of settings. One of their favorite venues is in elementary and high schools. In 2015, 32 lucky schools benefited from their dedication; 2016 statistics have yet to be tallied.
President Parkinson says that within a 45 minute session, her team of volunteers can deliver a sash presentation with a demonstration and that each participant leaves with a finger woven bracelet. The largest group they’ve presented a finger weaving and sash presentation to, was for 75 students. President Parkinson says she now has this presentation down to a science.
Like the diverse colours on the Métis sash, President Parkinson has a team of Métis volunteers with varying abilities and interests. Each brings a talent and when woven together, makes a strong group of active MNO citizens. Similar to the teachings on the Métis sash, one strand can easily break, however when many are woven together, it is strengthened and creates a team that supports and distributes the work load. Some of the individuals who are directly involved in these school presentations include the MNO GRMC President Jennifer Parkinson, Senator Carol Lévis, Chair Dave Skene, Secretary/Treasurer Leslie-Anne Muma, and Councillor Paul Smith as well as MNO citizens Barb Lair, Bridget Brown, and Carol Ricard.
By going into schools, Métis content is presented from a Métis perspective. School presentations have many advantages for our Métis children, such as: they get to see themselves in the stories; they learn about Métis achievements and contributions; and, they learn accurate Métis history and culture. Another benefit is that this information is then passed on from the students to their families.
The MNO GRMC have also held two presentations during teacher professional development days. Teaching educators ensures that teachers are more comfortable with our unique Métis history so that they can share accurate information with their students. These presentations also introduce teachers to Métis community knowledge holders who they can approach for further information, presentations and assistance.
Another educational influence is the Aboriginal Education Committees within school boards. Métis representative attend meetings and have input on school activities. In the demographical region of Grand River, five active committees are attended, which includes post-secondary institutions. Representation on these committees keeps the local council and Métis Nation informed on school board needs while ensuring the Métis have a strong voice.
Once a year, the MNO organizes the Aspiring to Our Highest Potential conference for MNO citizens who represent the MNO on District School Board and Post-Secondary Aboriginal Advisory Committees. At the conference, participants are provided with information and training and are able to share activities and workshops they have organized. President Parkinson and MNO GRMC volunteers always attend this conference and are an inspiration to other participants. If you are interested in getting involved, notification of upcoming conferences are sent to community presidents for representation.