By Woodard, Dale on June 20, 2020.
This year’s National Indigenous Peoples Week can deliver a far-reaching message.
The yearly event kicked off Monday with the raising of the Blackfoot Confederacy flag at city hall and culminates with National Indigenous People’s Day Sunday.
With racial tensions a hot topic on both sides of the border, Cam Shade, superintendent of the Kainai Board of Education, feels this year’s National Indigenous People’s Week could help deliver a positive message around the world.
“I think National Indigenous Week is very important,” said Shade. “Especially now in the context of what is happening throughout the globe with what is happening with the death of George Floyd. So that really brings awareness to some of the discrimination faced by some minorities. But I think it’s also an opportunity to spin it in a positive light where we share and learn from one another and we collaborate with one another to develop those relationships and have some positive dialogue among all races of people. I think it creates a better understanding for everyone to provide that background information to maybe help explain why certain things are done in a certain way.”
Shade’s career rise to the role of superintendent – a promotion he landed in 2018 – has been local.
He attended kindergarten through to Grade 11 in the West Wind School Division before the Blood Tribe gained control of their education in 1988-89.
“It was run by the federal government and through some intensive lobbying by our Chief and Council of the day we were actually able to take over it,” said Shade. “So that’s when I made the transition from the public school out to Kainai High School. It was called Saint Mary’s High School at the time. I was part of the first graduating class when education was taken over by the Blood Tribe. I came back as a teacher, associate principal, principal and then superintendent of schools.”
It’s a position Shade is grateful for.
“It was very rewarding and I would like to thank our board of directors at the time for giving me the opportunity to be the superintendent and allowing me to share some of my expertise in education because I have been in education for 20 years as a teacher, principal, administrator and now superintendent,” he said. “It’s very heartwarming to see all the good work that our schools are doing and to actually know that the educational services we are providing to our community members are high quality and to see our young kids graduate and also trying to instil the Blackfoot language and culture. That permeates throughout the district.
“Our elders play a big role in our school system. We have a program called the Elders In School Program. The elders come into our schools four days out of the week and they provide counselling and help some of our teachers deliver their lessons and it really brings a good feeling to the school. It enforced our Blackfoot culture and the importance of the elders.
Away from school, Shade has been known to score a goal or two with his recreational hockey team.
In fact, his nose for the net – and types of goals he scores – has earned him the nickname YouTube from his teammates.
However, Shade figures his nickname comes more from a pregame ritual.
“I think it was also looking at my phone before we played the games, work emails and stuff coming through,” he said. “I think that’s kind of where they got the YouTube thing going.”
Nickname or not, Shade enjoys a night at the rink.
“It’s a good release, with all of the stress of the job it’s good to get out and see the guys for a couple nights a week and just play some hockey and socialize.”
Back at his day job, Shade said it’s all about reinforcing the Blackfoot language and culture to the student’s identity.
“So as students and even as educators, administrators, district office people and even our board of directors, instilling that pride in our students of who they are and their background and where they come from, but also providing our students with the western education. So having our students walk in the two worlds and be successful in both worlds. Because ultimately our students will need to, once they leave us, pursue higher education at the post-secondary level and then enter into the workforce. So they need to be successful in both worlds. But it’s really instilling our Blackfoot language and culture in our students. It is one of our board priorities and it’s something we’ve worked on quite extensively throughout our district.”