By Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division education director said he’s proud of the progress they’ve made in addressing some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action, but believes there’s still a long way to go.

Sask. Rivers education director Robert Bratvold delivered an update on the school division’s efforts to meet the TRC’s calls during a school board meeting on June 20. The division has been tracking efforts to respond to those calls since 2017, and Bratvold said the report left everyone with mixed emotions.

“I am tremendously proud and excited about the amazing work our staff do to respond to those calls to action,” he said. “I am just, on a daily basis, impressed with the work that people are doing and that students are participating in. It’s exciting but it’s also mixed (feelings) because I know how much more work we need to do to make reconciliation become fully actualized. It’s with a lot of excitement and pride, but also awareness.

Since the TRC published their report in 2015, Sask. Rivers has increased its focus on teaching Indigenous languages, and worked to partner with the Prince Albert Grand Council to celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day.

The division has applied for and received funding to help implement Jordan’s Principle in response to TRC calls to action on child welfare. Jordan’s Principle helps ensure all First Nations children living in Canada can access the products, services, and supports they need, when they need them.

Another growing aspect is the Elder’s Council and other Elders who provide guidance and work directly with students.

However, Bratvold said the report is sobering in terms of showing the work that needs to be done.

“It’s a little bit of a roller-coaster because of that,” he said. “I think our staff are doing some amazing things, as are our families are and so are many people in our community.”

The meeting took place before Indigenous People’s Day on June 21 where the PAGC had invited the division to take part in their events over the following three days. Bratvold said the event highlights the progress that’s been made over the past few years.

“It’s just fantastic,” he said. “We are working together we are getting on this journey together and making great progress, knowing that we are not there yet.”

The division’s biggest step has been their language programs, which were created to address calls to protect the rights to Aboriginal languages and teach them for course credits. Recent steps include establishing a partnership with Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MNS) to create a Michif Language and Culture Program at Queen Mary School and St. Louis Public School.

In the Spring of 2022 the division also established a Cree Language Assistant to support the concept of a Language Nest. This allows for a fluent speaker to interact with the students and support the staff and families.

The division has also created an Indigenous Language Learning Community in Fall of 2021. The group supports Cree and Michif teachers in the division and Language Keepers in early years and high school, a Dakota teacher and Language Keeper and EA at Wahpeton and a Cree teacher at Muskoday.

Bratvold credited the Indigenous Perspectives Team of Jodi Letendre, Shea Pilon and Theresa Thorsen under the guidance of Superintendent Jennifer Hingley for helping the process along.

Other areas covered during the meeting include, justice, professional development and training for public servants, education for reconciliation, and sports and reconciliation.

The division has also supported KidsFirst, helped schools access Catholic Family Services, and worked in partnership with the Prince Albert Early Years Resource Centre to address calls to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs.