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Indigenous student group receives Heart of Wood Buffalo Excellence Award

Last Updated Oct 27, 2020 at 11:24 am MDT

PHOTO. Members of the First Nations Métis Inuit Student Advisory Council receiving the Heart of Wood Buffalo Council's Indigenous Advocate Award. Supplied by the Fort McMurray Public School Division.

The Fort McMurray Public School Division congratulated its award-winning First Nations, Métis, Inuit Student Advisory Council (FNMI SAC), which received another honour.

The FNMI SAC won FuseSocial’s Heart of Wood Buffalo Council’s Indigenous Advocate Excellence Award.

The student group received the news from Mayor Don Scott in a video message.

“These winners are young, ambitious trailblazers who are working to preserve, protect and grow the Indigenous culture while improving education for themselves and future generations of students. They are advocating the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada’s calls to action report by focusing on education and promoting change in the curriculum, and the inclusion of Indigenous culture, traditions and history.”

The Heart of Wood Buffalo Excellence Awards recognizes the achievements of leaders, philanthropists, and organizations that embody community spirit, innovation, and dedication.

The RMWB Council-supported Indigenous Advocate Award honours an individual or group making significant contributions to Indigenous communities.

FMPSD Indigenous Lead Angela Woods nominated the group.

Woods, who also serves as Vice-Principal of Dr Clark Public School, said the award means so much to the students.

“Their goals focus on gathering opinions and advice about current trends and issues in education and how they can do their part in Truth and Reconciliation through this process. It gives our Indigenous students a chance to explore and discuss school-based issues with a solution-based mindset.”

She added the award validates their voices of the FNMI SAC and confirms they are doing something special and unique.

“It gives them the confidence to move forward with learning and motivates them to continue to trailblaze for Indigenous students. We are very proud of all they’ve accomplished so far and can’t wait to see where the future takes them.”

Launched in April 2018, the FNMI SAC is the first of its kind Indigenous student group in Fort McMurray.

18 junior and high school Indigenous students would meet quarterly to share their voice, provide feedback, and participate in various activities.

They often share traditional and educational stories from parents, Elders, and Indigenous community leaders at their meetings.

Annalee Nutter, Assistant Superintendent, Education and Administration said the FNMI SAC also regularly connects with the FMPSD Board of Trustees.

She said they even presented during last year’s Spotlight on Students.

“This award is another affirmation for the students that the work they do matters and is being noticed and that we value their perspective as we facilitate time with Trustees. We look forward to our upcoming meeting, to future land-based learning activities and extending our reach through the creation of an Elder’s advisory council in the near future.”

Kaitlin Jani, Westwood High School graduate and FNMI SAC alumni, shared how the group changed her life.

“I joined the FNMI SAC when I was in grade 10, now I am in my first year at Keyano College for a Bachelors in Education. This program was life-changing for me. It allowed me to realize how much of my culture I was missing in my life. I went from only knowing I had an MNA card, to know that I was allowed to be a proud Métis woman who could then inspire others.”

Jani said the program creates confident and proud individuals, who will strengthen the community.

The FNMI SAC received several awards in its lifespan, including Indigenous Spirit awards, RARA (Regional Aboriginal Recognition) awards, and the Top 20 Under 20.

They also had an opportunity to present to former Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell.

Jennifer Turner, FMPSD Superintendent, congratulated the group.

“We are proud of these diligent students, who have chosen to share their amazing culture and provide us with feedback. Advocacy isn’t possible without action, and our students believe in this, as evidenced by the many awards, and honours they have received.”

Around 20 students in the FNMI SAC plan to meet later this fall.