July 16th, 2024

Blackfoot education conference focuses on culture-building


By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on October 6, 2023.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Siipina Cameron Shade, superintendent of Kainai Board of Education, speaks at the annual Blackfoot Confederacy Education Conference Thursday morning at the Signature Sandman Hotel.

Supporting Indigenous students is the focus of the Annual Blackfoot Confederacy Education Conference being held in Lethbridge.

Although the conference, which began Thursday and concludes today, is hosted by the Kainai Board of Education (KBE), Siipina Cameron Shade, superintendent of KBE, said the conference is a collaborative effort.

“It is a collaborative effort between Siksikai,” Shade said Thursday. “The Blackfoot speaking tribes began to see Siksikai and Kainai together. We work on various initiatives, health, government politics, and one of the areas that we also work on is education.”

Shade said the annual conference helps Blackfoot education and tribes come together in educational culture-building.

“Every year one of the tribes hosts the Blackfoot Education Conference. It is a coming together of the Blackfoot tribes to share in best practices, to celebrate our language and culture, and to build and reaffirm the networks within Blackfoot education with Blackfoot Confederacy.”

Shade said educators are able to participate in workshops and listen to speakers talk on different topic’s.

“We try to offer sessions for all individuals that work in education systems. So right from board of directors to senior administrators, teachers, EA’s, operations and maintenance and the transportation folks. So, we’ll see a variety of topics that are touched upon today.”

When asked about the priorities on which the Blackfoot Confederacy Education Conference focuses, Shade said he could not speak for the other tribes, but for Kainai, culture and language is a big part of the focus.

“I’ll speak for Kainai I don’t want to speak for the tribes, but a lot of our priorities is our language and culture. That is a theme that is a thread that is goes throughout our curriculum, the maths, the sciences, the English language arts, the social studies. We’re really trying to preserve and enhance our language so that future generations will understand and be able to speak our language.”

Part of the conference is also devoted to recognizing some of the educators who attended the education conference.

“The awards mean we’d like to celebrate school success. What we have asked all of our schools is to recognize those individuals in your school, whether it be a teacher, and administrator, education assistant, anybody in your school that you feel has gone above and beyond and provided quality service to our students,” said Shade.

Shade said the goal of the Blackfoot Confederacy and tribes is to instill in their members the importance of their language.

“The Blackfoot Confederacy really strives to work collaboratively together. Because we are all speak the Blackfoot language, we again want to ensure that it is preserved for future generations.”

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