Niitsitapi EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANT DIPLOMA PROGRAM
RED CROW COMMUNITY COLLEGE
OLD SUN COMMUNITY COLLEGE
The Treaty 7 First Nations of Alberta developed the “Treaty 7 Special Education Policy, 1997” to provide a framework to guide Treaty 7 First Nations in addressing and meeting the needs of their special student population. This policy is still the foundation document for all the special education programs established within Treaty 7 First Nations educational systems. When Canada, the Federal Government represented through Indian and Northern Affairs Canada continued to ignore the education of the First Nations’ special needs population, Treaty 7 First Nations submitted the “Treaty First Nations of Canada and the National Committee on Special Education of Treaty First Nations” statement to the United Nations, Commission on Human Rights Subcommittee on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection Of, Working Group Indigenous Populations, Sixteenth Session in July 1998. Along with the delivery of this statement by Kainai Blood Tribe Chief Chris Shade and Dr. Deborah Pace, Dr. Vivian Ayoungman was invited by the INAC International Relations Office and the Privy Council to participate on a panel presenting First Nations’ education issues. She reiterated what was presented in the UN Statement. The focus of her presentation was on how key education services that should be core funded are at best proposal driven.
In 2002, INAC finally recognized the importance of education for First Nations’ special needs population and subsequently funds were identified by the Treasury Board of Canada. The funding for the National Special Education Program initially included funds for capacity development but has been excluded for the past four years. Capacity development or more appropriately capacity enhancement of our special needs educational assistants is met through conference presentations or short professional development implemented on-site by their respective schools, or school boards. No training specifically for special needs educational assistants is being implemented in Treaty 7 at this time.
The collaboration of the First Nations Adult and Higher Education Consortium with the First Nations’ school systems and other community agencies fulfill the Lifelong Learning
Mandate that has been approved by the leadership and jurisdiction of the Kainai and Siksika First nations in all matters pertaining to the Education of their membership.
Special Education refers to the meeting of the individual learning needs of First Nations Students who have mild, moderate, severe disabilities, or gifted and talented abilities. First Nations’ values embrace the belief that all children can learn and reach their full potential in an environment conducive to meeting their learning needs. For First Nations learners with special needs, learning environments must be based on the philosophy of holistic learning (mind, body, emotion and spirit) and inclusive of language, culture, parent, and community involvement. The implementation of the Treaty 7 Special Education Policy in the Treaty 7 First Nations schools has responded to the needs of First Nations children with special needs. Teaching staff in First Nations schools need to be flexible, and pragmatic in meeting the many diverse needs of the students. The willingness to continue learning and constantly strive for enhancement of personal teaching skills with the primary concern for every student as the driving force is necessary for both success in student learning, and teacher devotion to student achievement. Realistic opportunities for continual learning and support must be available to all teaching staff in First Nations schools.
The recognition that ongoing professional training programs developed by First Nations, in respect to the Niitsitapi Blackfoot Ways of Knowing for teaching staff and teaching assistants in specific areas of special education are necessary in meeting the learning needs of not only the special needs students enrolled within our Kindergarten to Grade 12 school systems but also with the teaching staff who will be implementing the education programs for our students.
The Niitsitapi Educational Assistant Diploma (NEAD) Program will prepare graduates to assist teachers in the preparation, development and implementation of appropriate instructional programs and methods within educational settings. The 39 credit educational assistant diploma program will provide a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge integrated with Niitsitapi Blackfoot Ways of Knowing and the combination of practical strategies to maximize individual learning opportunities for children with exceptionalities.