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Enlightening Saskatchewan's Youth: A Public Education Incentive

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER/SPRING 1999      v29 n01 p15  
Eyebrow Students
The Students of Eyebrow School.

The creation of a public education unit was established at the FSIN in 1997. One of the many goals involving public education is to allow for the development of meaningful and effective communication among all audiences. Public education is one mechanism for the FSIN and all First Nations in Saskatchewan to develop and convey messages that will correct present misconceptions and inaccurate information of First Nations and their government. Among many initiatives underway, one method of educating others is through presentations and speaking engagements. One speaking engagement undertaken by the communications and public education units took place at a school in a small southern Saskatchewan community.

Eyebrow, Saskatchewan is a small southern community just an "arm's length" from the town of Elbow (as if one has not heard that before). Eyebrow school is comprised of a total of 105 students, kindergarten to Grade 12. In October of 1998, Mr. Cory Britton, a social studies teacher, wrote the Federation, asking Chief Bellegarde to send speakers, primarily for the high school, to conduct a presentation on the realities facing First Nation's people in Saskatchewan today.

...the best thing I ever did for opening my mind and for getting rid of the stereotypes I held was take an Indian studies class in which we looked at the realities of First Nations...

Furthermore, Mr. Britton's desire was to convey accurate messages and to dispel some of the misconceptions the students may have had of Aboriginal peoples in general.

The students were encouraged to talk openly about their understanding of First Nations people. The students were provided a presentation intermingled with motivational activities, song, dance, discussion and gift-giving. And instead of a lecture on the history of First Nations in Canada, the children learned more about the current realities of Aboriginal peoples. Discussed was the richness of each culture, the different dialects within one language, differences in cultural beliefs and practices based on geographical region, and even the "Van Goghs" of First Nations artistry. In addition, the students were taken deeper into their understanding of the Treaties.

Sensitizing youth to the realities of First Nations is necessary in generating a new understanding other than what has been promoted by Hollywood or literature. These latter sources tend to romanticize the Indian, providing society with inaccuracies created only for entertainment value. By undertaking these extra steps to provide a new understanding of Aboriginal peoples, beginning with Saskatchewan's youth, we can help to create a mosaic, a picture of cultural richness for those who want to learn more.