By: Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

COVID-19 made it difficult for the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board to hold regular meetings with elders and knowledge keepers on the Elders Council, but that’s starting to change.

Education  director Robert Bratvold explained that the Elders Council has been around for a few years but has met less frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it was good to get meet with the council on Monday to discuss the division’s goals, and seek guidance for future plans.

“We had an elder and a knowledge keeper who shared some thoughts around the Strategic Plan, so we just talked about that,” Bratvold said of the meeting, which lasted for an hour and a half. “Then, just some conversation about where we are going, what are some things that we have got to pay attention to. (It was a) fairly wide open conversation.”

Bratvold said the meeting was reassuring, and that members of the Elder’s council are pleased with the direction the division is heading with its strategic plan.

Monday’s discussion centred on finding ways to give those meetings more direction and structure, so the board can follow up on any concerns at a later date.

“We are starting to find our way into a little bit more a structure so that we have some scheduled meetings (and) we have a sense of purpose and direction and an idea of what is it that we are doing together,” Bratvold explained.

Bratvold said one knowledge keepers asked for more clarity about the purpose of the meetings. He said they’re in the process of developing terms of reference for future discussions. That includes things like clarifying who the Elder Council members are, what the purpose of working together is, and what the agenda for each meeting will look like.

“We have had really good conversations. We have got some good advice, guidance and suggestions, and that will certainly continue,” Bratvold said. “This just gives us a little bit more of a frame to hang that work on.”

During the meeting the Council commended the trustees for the good work happening in the division, advocated for the Board to continue the work in progress, and encouraged trustees to personally experience cultural events and to participate in ceremonies whenever possible.

One example came on Friday, March 4, which Sask. Rivers uses to celebrate Ribbon Skirt/Ribbon Shirt Day at schools across the division.

“That was a great opportunity that wasn’t exactly planned, but our elders have helped us with that (while) knowing that our day where we honour Ribbon Skirt Day is not the same across the province. It was good to have that conversation,” Bratvold said.

SUBHEADLINE: Looking for budget input

During the regular presentation by Saskatchewan Rivers Students for Change trustees, there was some discussion on the SRSC being part of budget consultations.

“One of the pieces that the board is looking forward to is the SRSC is doing a consultation process with the SRSC to give the board some guidance and suggestions and preferences around budget development,” Bratvold said. “The board is really looking forward to that.”

The SRSC is working on it and plans to bring it to the April meeting.