On January 16, members of RRC Polytech’s leadership team had the honour of visiting Fisher River Cree Nation (FRCN), and to meet with Chief David Crate, Knowledge Keeper Ron Sinclair, members of Council, and Education and Training representatives from FRCN, Peguis First Nation, Lake St. Martin First Nation, Lake Manitoba First Nation and the Interlake Regional Tribal Council.
The intention was to have an open and honest discussion focusing on two questions:
What are the biggest barriers and challenges for your community members to access post-secondary education?
What are the current opportunities for your community and RRC Polytech to address the barriers and challenges?
The event began with a smudge and prayer from Knowledge Keeper Ron Sinclair, who spoke about the importance of young people obtaining education, and being able to focus their minds on what they want to do in the future.
Participants broke into small groups to first discuss some of the barriers that exist for community members to access education (at RRC Polytech or any post-secondary in Manitoba) before sharing with the larger group. Participants then voted for their top most pressing barriers before returning to their groups to discuss opportunities.
Jamie Wilson, RRC Polytech’s Vice President Indigenous Strategy, Research and Business Development led the discussion and encouraged participants to be honest and not hold back in their responses.
There was a candidness and willingness amongst the participants to share some of the biggest challenges. Topics like transportation, housing, and in-person supports were brought to the surface as some of the things the College needs to take into consideration, so it can better support Indigenous learners and repair broken trust within the education system.
Before leaving, participants were asked to reflect on the meeting and share something they were taking with them. Optimism, gratitude, and hope were some of the feelings that were repeated – but most important was the feedback that community members felt seen and heard from College leadership.
A similar meeting took place in Brokenhead Ojibway Nation on November 24, 2022. For RRC Polytech, these visits are just a ‘first step’, and the College intends to continue these discussions with First Nations communities and Indigenous organizations across the province in the coming months and years.