Celebrating four decades of Cree education while laying out plans for the future

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The roots for the Cree School Board (CSB) grew out of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. According to the CSB’s Director General, Abraham Jolly, that’s what the first 40 years has been focused on: establishing roots for a strong educational system.

“We’ve been building foundations and exploring what it means to be educated in Eeyou Istchee,” Jolly said. “Our next 40 years must focus on education itself… the future of the Cree Nation depends on it.”

In honour of the milestone, the CSB combined their Regional General Assembly in Eastmain June 5-6 with celebrations of the Board’s 40th anniversary. The event was marked with the presentation of a new logo for the Cree School Board as well as a tree-planting ceremony carried out by Jolly and Grand Chief Abel Bosum.

“The new logo represents where we are at with Cree education,” noted Jolly. “We are entering into the next 40 years of our history, when there will be significant changes with the development of a uniquely Cree mechanisms that will help build the Cree Nation. The logo reflects the tie to our land as well as our language and culture.”

According to Eastmain School Commissioner Nian Moses, the tree planting was a sacred moment. Elder Florrie Mark Stewart blessed the tree and also read parts of speech she’d written with local students because, in the end, it really was about them.

“This tree is meant for the children here in our community and the growth of CSB and where we came from,” explained Moses. “For a tree to grow, you have to nurture it, care for it and keep an eye on it.”

Later that evening a traditional banquet of roast goose was served and several delegates in attendance gave speeches, including the Grand Chief. Cree square dancers, wearing traditional outfits from various communities, kicked off the festivities. Moses said delegates were overjoyed as commissioners took the opportunity to show off their moves on the dance floor.

“The whole event was very touching for me as my father, Ted Moses, was the first Director General for the Cree School Board,” emphasized Moses. “Being able to give back to my community is where my passion lies and so following in his footsteps is where it all comes from for me.”

According to CSB Chairperson Kathleen Wootton, much of the assembly revolved around looking at what Crees wanted in terms of content and language within the Cree classrooms and how to deliver it.

Demands for both Cree language instruction and land-based teaching have increased. The Board is now looking to develop a curriculum for that. They have also formed committees to review the Cree content of the Cree Education Act.

“We want to amend the Cree Education Act to reflect more of the Cree philosophy and culture and rather than the curriculum that is being driven by Quebec,” Wooton told the Nation. “We are working towards it being Cree driven and slowly reforming Cree education with more focus on Cree philosophy as opposed to the western model.”

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