A PLACE OF KNOWLEDGE
The foundation of the Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute (KTEI) around 20 years ago was in answer to the question: what does “education” really mean for Canada’s indigenous people? At KTEI – whose name means “place of knowledge” in the Anishinaabemowin language – it means delivering a holistic education through a solid culture-based approach.
This institution, based on Mnidoo Mnising (or Manitoulin Island), Ontario, goes beyond the Western model of education to offer student development designed to meet the needs of First Nation Canadians. Its education and training – which runs the gamut of early learning, secondary and post-secondary – comes with an indigenous knowledge perspective, and its educational philosophy begins with the idea that self-identity begins through cultural and linguistic attachment.
“We are embracing a resurgence of language that is integral for First Nation learners and educators,” says Stephanie Roy, Executive Director. “It is the way forward, as our health, prosperity, justice and linguistic cultural continuity are intricately woven together – we cannot have one without the other. Acknowledging our ways of learning within our education systems, and teaching our children in our own language is putting into action what our elders have told us to do for so many years.”
For example, the institute has recently partnered with Canadore College to launch Ontario’s first immersion-based Early Childhood Educator’s Program, whose curriculum and learning outcomes have been based on an indigenous world view and which will be delivered solely in Anishinaabemowin.
Putting theory into practice
Designed for lifelong learning, KTEI’s students are of all ages, and enrolment is between 150 and 175 per year. Its strength lies in the fact that, as a small institution, it can put theory into practice quickly. In partnership with the Federal Government, KTEI will soon begin work on building an Anishinabek Skills, Innovation and Research Centre, which will support the learning and cultural needs of Aboriginal students in Northern Ontario. The new centre will focus on skilled trades, innovation and research.
“KTEI will become an academic and research contributor in the field of indigenous education and learning,” says Roy. “Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute is resiliency education: we are changing the system to work for our people, by our people and with our people. I believe we as a nation have come full circle, back to the original intent of our name.”