Trustees with the Kenora Catholic District School Board are continuing to include Indigenous history and traditions into their curriculum.

Superintendent of Instructional Services for the KCDSB, Nicole Kurtz, provided an update to board trustees on the advancement and success of their First Nation, Metis and Inuit student programming last week.

She says a major success of their FNMI programming includes the new Quadmester 1 Grade 11 English course: Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Metis and Inuit Voices – a provincially-developed course that the KCDSB opted-in to host.

The new course fills the Grade 11 English course credit, and explores themes and stylistic elements of a variety of media from First Nation cultures across Canada. All of the courses resources were selected in consultation with the board’s FNMI coordinator Shelley Tom.

“All students are taking this course instead of the regular English course,” explained Kurtz. “It sounds like a really fantastic course that’s new for TA. We’re thrilled that it’s happening.”

The course included visits from Elder-in-Residence Terry Skead, who has been working with students to support their cultural identities throughout the year. The course has also included virtual sessions with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

That’s not all for the board, however. On September 30, Orange Shirt Day and the first annual day for Truth and Reconciliation, over 200 KCDSB students joined the Kenora community in orange under the Whitecap Pavilion for the Grand Entry of a Pow Wow celebration, after starting the day with a virtual prayer service and blessing.

“All of our staff and students highly participated by wearing orange shirts,” explained Kurtz, who also explained staff members also walked to and from the Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School site.

As well, Pope John Paul II students tied orange ribbons to their fence, SMB students decorated orange shirts with Every Child Matters slogans, St. Johns students in Red Lake took part in a walk and ceremony, and many more events took place throughout the week – including the recent Fall Harvest and Fall Feast in Wauzhushk Onigum.

“I love what you guys did with the Orange Shirt Day. Everyone’s watching and we love seeing this,” said Trustee Jeffrey White of Naotkamegwanning First Nation, who suggested the new English course could include more hands-on and land-based learning.

The KCDSB has also introduced a variety of new supports for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students this year, an ongoing priority for board trustees.

In January 2021, Bob Kowal joined the board to start the First Nation, Métis and Inuit Graduation Coach program. He works to improve relationships and engagement with families and to develop community partnerships in the area, as well as to increase graduation rates for Indigenous students. 

During a board meeting in spring 2021, the KCDSB announced the board's new Jordan’s Principle Navigator and Lead, Alecia Cox. In her role, “Cox will work as a point-person to help families and school teams access education, health and social supports for First Nations children with unmet needs, through the Jordan’s Principle initiative,” said Special Education Coordinator Andrea Batters.