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Catholic division, Métis group sign agreement to support students and culture

Holy Trinity Catholic School Division signed a memorandum of understanding with New Southern Plains Métis Local 160 during the March board meeting.

Moose Jaw’s Catholic school division has signed an agreement with the community’s Métis association to work together and develop “a mutually beneficial relationship” that supports students and Métis culture. 

Trustees with Holy Trinity Catholic School Division held their board meeting on March 14 and invited Darrell Hawman, president of the New Southern Plains Métis Local 160, and Lorna Himmelspeck to sign the memorandum of understanding (MOU). 

“The two parties are committed to working together and developing a mutually beneficial relationship that supports the Métis of Moose Jaw and allows the Métis community to have a collective voice in strategies and initiatives focused on Métis culture and students within the education systems,” said education director Ward Strueby. 

MOU goals

The MOU has six goals that should foster the partnership, he continued. These goals include:

  • Providing effective communication between the Métis community and the school division
  • Empowering and engaging elders, youths, students, parents and communities to improve educational outcomes
  • Celebrating Métis successes and achievements within Holy Trinity and the community
  • Reviewing new Métis resources for the school division to ensure authenticity
  • Collaborating with Holy Trinity in building an understanding of Metis history, experience and contributions
  • Supporting students and staff in understanding the importance of self-identification as Métis

The five-year agreement commenced March 1 and ends on Feb. 28, 2027.

Working together

“We’re very excited about having the opportunity to work with you. It’s (signing MOUs) not been done a lot in the past, and we’re trying to change that,” said Hawman, noting the organization has signed an MOU with Saskatchewan Polytechnic and is working on something similar with Prairie South School Division. 

“There’s just all kinds of opportunities (in the future). We’re going to be moving into Aboriginal tourism in the near future,” he continued, indicating that Local 160 wants to provide opportunities for residents and tourists to view area Métis history positively. 

There are 13 regions with the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan organization — the Moose Jaw area is western region 3 — while there are 130 locals in the province. 

Local 160 plans to hold a symposium this summer featuring elders and invite the school divisions and Sask. Polytech so that the groups can develop a protocol system, said Hawman. 

“We’re not trying to tell the school boards who to pick for an elder, but we do like to say … we’d like to have some input,” he remarked, before giving Strueby and board chair Joann Blazieko Métis sashes. 

Besides this agreement, Holy Trinity also has a similar agreement with First Nation advocate Linden Linklater, said Strueby. These agreements ensure the school division can seek advice from knowledgeable people about Aboriginal issues.

Strueby added that the MOU would not have been possible without the efforts of Clayton Boyer, a Métis teacher and president of the Holy Trinity Teachers’ Association. 

Education champion

In a separate interview, Boyer — who described himself as an “unofficial champion of indigenous education” — said the MOU is important since it’s a “super good opportunity” to raise awareness about the Métis community in southern Saskatchewan. 

“I’m super excited to have this signed, and I’m glad to be a part of because it’s a big deal to me as a Métis person and as a school division employee,” he said, noting Local 160 offers many programs that would benefit Métis students, such as apprenticeship bursaries. 

“I’m trying to reclaim the culture that was lost (because) of the pressures of society on indigenous people. I can trace my roots back to (the Battle of) Batoche (in 1885) and Louis Riel,” he continued, noting his great-great-great-grandfather was an important figure in the 1885 Rebellion.  

Boyer has spent the past few years learning about his family’s history and culture and understanding who he is. He pointed out that Métis people were excluded after the Rebellion, with many living in squalor. 

His goal is to help undo what has been done to his people. 

“I’m just trying to hold onto what I can,” Boyer added, “so when my kids are ready to pick up the torch, they’ll know what to do and the groundwork will be done for them.”

The next Holy Trinity board meeting is Monday, April 11. 

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