New policy framework will make schools more inclusive for Indigenous students: Manitoba government

The province of Manitoba says it intends to help Indigenous students succeed in school with a new policy framework, and a pledge to bring more Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers into classrooms.

The province launched the Indigenous education policy, called Mamàhtawisiwin: The Wonder We Are Born With, on Thursday.

It’s meant to help educators create a more Indigenous-inclusive education system by incorporating Indigenous teachings, languages, and culture into their classrooms, the province says.

Manitoba Education Minister Wayne Ewasko made the announcement at Winnipeg’s Niji Mahkwa School. Indigenous teachings and culture have been woven into everyday learning at the North End school for decades.

“Our government’s deep commitment to truth and reconciliation is embodied in these programs,” said Ewasko. 

The policy will help teachers “embed Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing into their teaching practices and deepen their understanding and progress along a path of truth and reconciliation in their school communities,” he said.

The framework has seven guiding principles:

  • Shared understandings of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Knowledge of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit world views held and valued by all educators and learners.
  • Respect for diversity.
  • Student-focused systems.
  • Shared responsibility across systems.
  • Shared accountability.
  • Equity within systems.

Elders, knowledge keepers in classrooms

The province said it will spend $1.6 million to expand programming that teaches kids about First Nations, Inuit and Métis history, cultures and languages.

An initiative piloted in 33 schools across the province earlier this year invites elders into classrooms to teach students about traditional medicines, languages and the connections that Indigenous people have with the land.

It’s unclear how many more schools will see that program come to their classrooms or how long it will run.

Last week, the province unveiled its scaled-down version of education reform after its initial proposal, Bill 64, was met with public backlash.

One of the promises in the new plan was to help improve outcomes for Indigenous students, including by addressing disparities in education for rural and northern students.

In Manitoba, 90.8 per cent of non-Indigenous students graduated high school on time in 2020, while only 50.9 per cent of Indigenous students did.

The new policy framework is called Mamàhtawisiwin, which is a Cree word referring to a person who goes above and beyond in sharing their gift and connecting people to the root of their existence, the framework document says.

More than 100 elders, knowledge keepers and educators have worked to develop the policy since 2015.