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Provincial Deputy Minister of Education, Ray Clay, hailed the grand opening of the Native Survival School as a co-operative model established on respect which will preserve the cultural heritage of the Indian community.
He congratulated everyone who was involved and commented on the sensitivity of the Catholic School Board in taking the risk to make the project a reality. Making changes is not always popular, he added.
Podiluk said the school was a symbol of determination and its establishment was indeed an accomplishment. It is the realization of dreams and desires harbored by those people who were involved in the long process of helping to deliver an education system to the native students who were having difficulties in the educational mainstream.
He said he hopes the community will continue to enhance this unique model. The Board of Education has been enriched from the experience as a result of the association, he added.
The Native Survival School will be administered as a special division of the Catholic School Board, which will also be responsible for providing the facilities. It is funded as a co-operative venture by the Department of Education and the Board of Education.
Clay presented an award to Hammel on behalf of Education Minister Doug McArthur. Emile Bell, MC for the ceremonies also thanked Hammel for "sticking his neck out" in the beginning for the Native Survival School idea when the Parents' Council first presented their proposal. Waygood also congratulated everyone on the phenomenal progress accomplished by those who believed in the idea.
The present native student dropout rate is 90% in high schools and 60% in elementary schools. If these statistics applied to the population at large, the parents would be up in arms, demanding immediate reform and a complete overhaul of the educational system. Essentially this is what happened with a small nucleus of native parents in the Saskatoon community responsible for the actuality of the school. The people who participated in the Parents' Council, attending several meetings weekly, initiated the writing of the proposal which catalized the whole plan. All the people named during the ceremonies by no means complete the list of supporters for the project.
Opening ceremonies, the pipe cermonies and offerings were conducted by elder Albert Machinine from the Sask. Indian Cultural College. The landmark occassion was filmed by CBC, CFQC and CJUS.