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News Release: FMPSD’s First Nations, Métis, Inuit Student Advisory Council Wins Heart of Wood Buffalo Award

News Release: FMPSD’s First Nations, Métis, Inuit Student Advisory Council Wins Heart of Wood Buffalo Award

(Fort McMurray, AB, October 27, 2020) Fort McMurray Public School Division (FMPSD) congratulates our First Nations, Métis, Inuit Student Advisory Council (FNMI SAC) on winning FuseSocial’s prestigious Heart of Wood Buffalo Council's Excellence Indigenous Advocate Award. The recent video announcement was made by Mayor Don Scott. The FNMI SAC is a first of its kind student group in Fort McMurray. 

“The Heart of Wood Buffalo Excellence Awards honour the achievements of leaders, philanthropists, organizations and all those that embody the spirit of community, innovation, capacity building, and dedication to making Wood Buffalo an amazing region to work, play, and live in,” according to the official website. 

The Indigenous Advocate Award supported by the Municipal Council honours a group, or individual making, or in the process of making significant contributions to local Indigenous communities. 

“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,” said Mayor Scott. 

“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,” Mayor Scott added.

The group was launched in April 2018. It was made of 18 junior and high school Indigenous students, who met quarterly. The goal was to share their voice, collect information, as well as provide ideas and feedback. Thanks to their advocacy, many members have won Indigenous Spirit awards, RARA (Regional Aboriginal Recognition) awards, Top 20 Under 20, and have had the opportunity to present to Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell. 

FMPSD's Board of Trustees also connects with the group requesting feedback on their priorities. Last year the FNMI SAC was invited to present to the Board for Spotlight on Students. Sharing of traditional and educational stories by parents and Elders at meetings, and hearing from inspiring Indigenous community leaders - rounds out the many activities they engage in. 

“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 knowing that I was allowed to be a proud Métis woman who could then inspire others,” shared Kaitlin Jani, who graduated from Westwood Community High School. 

“I am proud of this group for winning the award as this will let even more people know about it. This program creates confident and proud individuals, which can only strengthen our community going forward,” she added.

Angela Woods, FMPSD’s Indigenous Lead works closely with the FNMI SAC. She nominated the group, and was delighted by the news.

“This award means so much to our 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. Here they honour, practice, preserve and celebrate their Indigenous cultures, stories, traditions and history.”  

“The Heart of Wood Buffalo Award validates the FNMI SAC's voices and reassures them that they are doing something very special and unique as they strive to attain their goals. 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,” added Woods, who is also the Vice Principal of Dr. Clark Public School. 

Annalee Nutter, Assistant Superintendent, Education and Administration agrees. 

“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.”

Jennifer Turner, Superintendent, FMPSD, 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.”

This year’s FNMI SAC will come together later this fall with an estimated 20 students. 

Congratulations all! 

For more information, please contact:

Kiran Malik-Khan

Communications Manager

Fort McMurray Public School Division

W: 780-788-8009

C: 780-880-7666

kiran.malikkhan@fmpsd.ab.ca