Episode 10 - The Future
In this story, we asked Yukoners what they would like to see in the future.
Welcome back to Walking Our Path Together. A series of audio stories exploring Yukon College’s reconciliation journey.
This is Episode 10: The Future
We asked 11 Yukoners what they would like to see in the future of education in the Yukon.
Shirley Adamson: My name is Shirley Adamson. I'm a Yukon resident. Always have been and probably always will be.
Well, I hope to see racism become less of a way of life, not just between non-aboriginals and ourselves, but all the people that that are driven by fear and hate. I think that understanding is a big way to helping us live in harmony with each other and with less fear and educational institutions, their way of doing that is to bring us together and to help us understand the cultures and the value of the cultures and the value of the teachings of those cultures. Not only to do those people of that race, but others that are influenced by those people.
Peter Johnston: My name is Peter Johnston. I’m a member of the Teslin Tlingit Council. My Tlingit name is [language]. I’m 45 years old. I have four children, Grand Chief of the Council, Yukon First Nations.
Well, we are going to be the example, I think, in Canada, let alone globally, of how true government to government and maybe another level of government including the federal, but from the territorial and Yukon First Nation perspective, we are changing the way we deal with matters, especially with, like I said, when it comes to our wellbeing, and that is when you come together in a room and start working on a plan to make significant changes, it’s not always easy because you’ve got many different… not only different attitudes and different perspectives and different ways of doing things. It’s important for us to see that there’s going to be fundamental things that we can do to shift, which, very similar to a domino effect here.
So, I would think that going forward we are going to be able to showcase how First Nation governments, let alone First Nation people and nations, can now start to build nationhood. And it’s very important. Like I said, it’s not only one aspect, it’s everything for us.
Our citizens have the expectation that the government that represents them is there to provide not only that sense of security and an ability for them to generate wealth, but also to have that ability to help support their citizens in whatever fashion that they may need. And a lot of it, unfortunately right now, we’re still repairing damages that government has done to us. And it’s about not burdening our next generation with that same impact. Even though the trauma and the impact are very much felt in the community, it’s important that we do not burden our next generation with that same extended, if you will, traumatization of what the government’s doing to us.
And they currently are doing that to a lot of, there’s still places in Canada still don’t have fresh drinking water, for instance, or infrastructure that we take for granted here. You know, when there’s over a billion dollars coming into a small little jurisdiction, a lot of jobs and economies are created because of First Nation governments here in the territory, let alone the extended families such as building these enterprises such as Air North, like 500 employees. Do the people in Vancouver really appreciate what little community of Vuntut Gwitchin and Old Crow has done for them? I’d really hope so. And then those are the things that we really need to promote is that what we’re doing here in the territory is having that extended impact outside. I really believe that what we’re doing here right now presently is going to have a long-lasting effect, not only on us on the territory, but we’ll be able to showcase what it could look like in other jurisdictions.
Jackie MacLaren: My name is Jackie MacLaren. I was the lead counsellor for the three territories for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings and travelled throughout the three territories.
That’s where the emotion comes from because I’ve seen some really bad stuff. And I’ve heard some really bad stuff that should never have happened to children in Canada, or in any place. We weren’t at war. It was government policy that hurt these little kids, and so many people have died.
But, the younger generation now I see some of the younger ones who are seeing the value in education and, some of them didn’t get a lot of support from their family if they wanted to go to school. “Oh, you sure? You sure you don’t want to stay home?” And so it’s hard for them, I think, to break away from that, but they’re seeing the value of living in both worlds and taking the best from both as opposed to avoiding one in order to access the other. And I think that the College can provide that opportunity. Because, a lot of people don’t want to go south to university. They want to be able to get their academics here, and not have to be so far away from home.
And, if the programs can really address the needs of the individuals in the communities then, I think we’re going to have much more success, and there isn’t going to be an issue about capacity building in 10 years because the capacity is going to be there.
Robby Dick: Robby Dick [language] Yeah, my name is Robby Dick from Ross River. What do I want to see in the future? I want to see more people speak in that language. I want to see that movement among the young people. I want to see them be able to speak the language of our ancestors.
Now, there’s going to come a time when we’re going to teach our kids and they’re going to teach our grandkids. So, it’s up to us to either take that torch or, take up that responsibility, but I would like to see more people speaking that language. I would like to see more programs through education. I want to see each community have their own curriculum within the school. I want to see immersion settings. I want to see, the revival of who we are as people.
Yeah. So that’s one thing I want to see because, like I said, it’s where we find our strengths within, that’s, it keeps us healthy as individuals. Like right now there’s a lot of people stressed out, you know, there are a lot of people living in communities. They’re not going out on the land as much. But this is just my opinion. If you knew the language and if he spoke it, it might just get you on the land maybe, that’s the way I see it, I guess, because then you have that, relationship with the land. Yeah, I think it would create healthy individuals if we knew our culture and who we are as people.
Angela Code: My name is Angela Code and I am Sayisi Dene First Nation. I am originally from a small community called Tadoule Lake, Manitoba, and I live here in Whitehorse, Yukon.
I think that it would be really amazing if there was more inclusion of Indigenous Elders within academic institutions—at all grade levels, from babies to university. I think that there needs to be more language and culture within our schools. So for me, ideally looking into what an ideal education would look like in the Yukon. It would be more inclusion of Indigenous language and culture within our schools.
I think that there needs to be much more inclusion of our knowledge holders and that means our Elders, and they need to be paid well. They need to be shown that they have such immense value in our society and in our communities. That they don’t need a Western academic piece of paper that says, “You’re knowledgeable and you’re important.” We need to just embrace them, for the knowledge that they’ve gained over their lives... Yeah, they need to be paid well and they need to be shown that they are of value.
Robin Bradasch: My name is Robin Bradasch. I am a citizen of Kluane First Nation and I have worked in the area of land claims and self-government negotiations and implementation for the past 25 years.
Well, I think I would like to see all parties look at these agreements as a foundation, as a place to jump from, not the ceiling. And that we should always be pursuing opportunities to collaborate, cooperate, and create space for First Nation’s participation in all levels of decision-making.
And eventually, someday, I would like that it’s just the norm. You don’t need implementers. It’s not about checking boxes in an agreement. It’s just common sense prevailing and people working together. I think that’s what I would like to see.
Lea-Ann Geddes: Hi. My name is Lea-Ann Geddes and I’m from the Wolf Clan. I’m half-Talhtan, half-Tlingit, and I belong to the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.
We know that there are a lot of sad situations in the world. However, if we could focus on some of the positive role models that have come through, I think that that would be a huge asset for us. I know we need the academics, however, it’s not quite balanced yet. I really feel that ... like we’ve taken a communications course, and I think we could’ve gone onto the land for the afternoon there and had some tea and bannock there at the campfire.
Some of my classmates haven’t had the experience that I grew up with. And I do take that for granted sometimes that I can light a fire and make some bannock. And I really feel that when we’re on the land, our spirits are a little more freer, and we’re allowed to speak from our heart instead of our head. And that’s one of the teachings from the elders is that we need to be headstrong and that’s where our academics come in, but we also need to be heart strong. And when I say that, that comes from the campfire, and learning how to make bannock and having our tea I think are very, very important.
Steve Smith: [language]. My name is Steve Smith. I’m Chief of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. Personally, I look at some of the programming that happens. I like to see a little bit more control, especially if it’s with regard to First Nations. You can’t put the First Nation moniker and then have one or two individuals be the defenders of that.
I remember working at Yukon College and having people go, "Well Steve, what do the Indians want?" I’m like, "Well, what are you asking me for? You have to ask the First Nations because I come from Champagne and Aishihik. I know a little bit about Ta’an Kwäch’än because that’s where my mother’s people are from, but I don’t know about the goals and aspirations of the Vuntut Gwitchin or the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. You’re going to have to go and ask them. So that spawned, I think, one of the first enlightened, I would say, the first kind of real move in terms of understanding where First Nations are at.
I basically told Yukon College ... I said, "You bragging about 52% of the college." At that time, it was like 52% Aboriginal people attending Yukon College, and I said, “Well, you got to know that First Nation governments have the right to draw down any program, and that includes advanced education at Yukon College.” They’re like “Well, no, no, no, no. It’s just the programs that ...” I’m like “No, you need to understand.”
When I was at Yukon College, I remarked about the a-ha moment, because what happened was everybody was talking about a land claim, and it was like a defined point in 1995, then everything is going to go back to normal, right? Everything is going back to normal, and then I think 10 years later, I described an a-ha moment when the rest of the population went: Oh, you mean these Indians ... and I hate to speak so bluntly, but you mean the Indians aren’t going back to the reserve, that they actually want to say in what we’re doing, and we actually agreed to letting them have a say?
So, I think it’s important that understanding, really understanding where First Nations want to go, and having a keen ability to be as dynamic as possible, like supporting when ... having real discussions about the programs that First Nations need. That’s where the College, I think, can be successful.
What is the true idea of education for a First Nation person? How was the education system structured for a First Nation person? To sit there and go, "Okay. Well yeah, you can do all of these programs, you can do all of these things. We can have First Nations 101. We can have First Nations management. We can have First Nations accountability class, power, and control, but it all has to fit within a Western European kind of context of education." Well, then again, is that tokenism, or is that true reconciliation? Or is it a real look and going, Hmm, how do we offer this class? How can we actually take this class and actually move it into a general sort of studies class and have it based on a First Nation kind of worldview?
When we start to actually talk about that, that’s when you’re going to find real movement, I think, in terms of the success of our kids.
Jody Beaumont: My name is Jody Beaumont and I work in the Heritage Department for Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.
I think Yukon needs to continue shifting away from an institutionalized sort of educational setting, because it still is very institutional. And I think people need to be less worried. It’s almost like people are worried that people won’t get skills if it’s not super structured and formal and all these different things.
I’m someone who likes structure. I like boundaries in my life, but it would be really nice to see an educational environment where we trusted individuals – and I mean I know there’s certain things that you have to learn certain skills for, like if you’re going into nursing you need to know how to do certain things.
But I think that from the earliest ages, if people learned that there were many, thousands of different ways of seeing the world and appreciating the world and doing things, like basically anthropology from preschool on up, which does happen in some places. I think your ability to move through the world, especially one like this where there’s all these different ways of doing it.
It’s not something that we necessarily teach people to do and we just assume that it’s not a teachable thing, I guess. Because the whole point of education is this, there’s a great quote from Percy about this. The whole point of, as he put it, traditional education is to raise someone up to be a good person. And the Western education system, as he says, it has a lot of gifts, but it really misses the ball when it comes to raising someone who has a good person. It’s like, who cares about your technical abilities or your skillset or your capacity if you don’t know how to be with other people? And that I think is a real important point.
Annie Bernard: Good morning. This Annie Bernard talking, and I’m from the Tetlit Gwich’in Nation. However my mom’s born in Dawson City, so I journeyed back to Dawson, as far as Whitehorse.
So it’s good to see people who are willing to move the university, college to university, with positive attitudes.
Speak that it’s going to happen. Speak that the dropouts are all going to come back to the university. Give them a chance.
I always think about C.S. Lewis. In one of his books he says, "The words you speak today will determine your tomorrow."
Yukon College, you’re going to bloom.
We are humbled and grateful to the knowledgeable Yukoners who took their time to be a part of this project, and to help tell this story. This audio story was produced by Leighann Chalykoff for Yukon College. Original music is by Jona Barr.
Thanks for listening.