An Aboriginal educator says we will continue to see high First Nations student drop out rates until the curriculum is revamped to show the important historic role Indigenous people have played in Canadian society.

Sharon Venne ran one of the workshops Tuesday afternoon at a First Nations education administrators conference in Saskatoon.

She says young Aboriginal students often leave school because there is little within the curriculum that they can relate to or feel positive about.

“It’s about teaching about who Indigenous peoples are and right from the beginning the kinds of stories that are told to the children – probably in kindergarten onwards – there’s no positive enforcement of who they are and how they’re going to contribute meaningful to the future,” she says.

Venne adds taking control of First Nations education in a meaningful way starts with Aboriginal people realizing they have the inherent treaty right and responsibility to run their own educational systems.

“Indian control of Indian education means people taking back the inherent authority that they have in relation to our people and from before they’re born until they pass away. It’s a lifelong learning process and that’s what needs to be done in our territories.”

The Tenth Annual Western Canada First Nations Education Administrators Conference continues on Wednesday and Thursday.

A First Nations educator says the format a course is taught in can be as important as its content.

Sturgeon Lake Central School Principal Pauline McKay, who was one of the presenters at a First Nations education administrators conference in Saskatoon yesterday, has designed a program where high school students take courses in an intense one-month format as opposed to the typical six-month semester.

She says the one-month block program has met with a lot of student success in the handful of schools it has been tried in.

“We have 27 students that start in grade 9, at the end of June we’ll have 27 students so the drop-out rate is practically nil.”

McKay says the block program is currently offered at schools in Montreal Lake and Sturgeon Lake in Saskatchewan and in Saddle Lake, Alberta.