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All Nations Institute Of Technology

Deanna Wuttunee

THUNDERCHILD - When Thunderchild, 60 miles north of North Battleford took control of education for their reserve, they made a dramatic departure from trends in education. They established a $3 million Institute of Technology with fully accredited courses in petroleum industry related skills.

Not only is the institute in operation offering a heavy oil operators class and two welder/fitter classes, it also plans to expand class offerings this fall. The facilities have the latest equipment and computers and includes student accomodations.

"It's a real tough program." said Winstin Weekusk, a driving force behind the institute. "And frankly, no one expected us to succeed. They thought it was just a dream." But this has served to attract a high calibre of student. To accomodate student needs, an upgrading component was built especially in math and chemistry.

All Nations Institute of Technology

Deanna Wuttunee

Student at work. Student using the welding torch.

"I'm really enjoying this. It's right on," said student Arland Tootoosis.

Skills training geared to the petroleum industry was selected because the committee co-ordinating the effort was told they had to offer courses that would not be in competition with other institutes already established in the province. The committee encountered many challenges on the road to success, elusive chains of authority, red tape, lack of communication within the Department of Indian Affairs, the new experience of selling the idea to the private sector and several changes of government at all levels.

However, the committee was prompted by the realization that without the development of human resources, economic development will never become a reality. In 1981, 76% of Indian people over 19 years old were out of school but only 8% had finished high school. The reserve wanted to do something about this.

The school was established in September of 1983.

The band leadership expects other economic spinoffs from the project like a grocery store, post office, video outlet, laundromat and billiards room. In fact, these spinoffs were included in the overall plan. The institute is still in phase one. Future projections for the school is a parking lot, recreation area nd expansion into health training programs and administrative courses. The reserve has met a challenge which is not only good for Indians but Industry as well.