Attawapiskat “As Shannen said, ‘Never give up.’ ” – Chief Theresa Spence

Attawapiskat

Shannen Koostachin Memorial School

ATTAWAPISKAT – The dream of a new elementary school in Attawapiskat seems far closer for many people this week. The ground-breaking ceremony marking the start of construction of the new school was held on June 22nd 2012. The celebration in the community involved Member of Parliament Charlie Angus, the family of Shannen Koostachin, the young woman who was one of many of the key youth leaders who made a big difference in the long fight to get the new school started, and many community members, and most importantly lots of the young people from Attawapiskat.

Attawapiskat “As Shannen said, ‘Never give up.’ “

Shannen Koostachin of Attawapiskat First Nation had a dream – safe and comfy schools and culturally based education for First Nations children and youth. She worked tirelessly to try to convince the federal government to give First Nations children a proper education before tragically passing away at the age of 15 years old in 2010.

Plan of the new school for Attawapiskat

The efforts of the youth from Attawapiskat, fighting for a school were supported not only in Attawapiskat, but across Canada and around the world.

Attawapisakat
Drawings by Attawapiskat students about how their new school will look

The announcement that a new school would be built was made in March 2012. “Our Government believes that education is the foundation of strong, healthy communities. Since 2006, we have invested in 22 new schools, 22 major renovation projects and 184 projects involving minor renovations, and we made education a joint priority in the Joint Action Plan launched in 2011 with the Assembly of First Nations,” said Ministerof Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan. “We are committed to working in partnership with Attawapiskat First Nation to ensure that its youth receive a quality education.”

Groundbreaking ceremony

“The children and parents of Attawapiskat rejoice with this announcement. Shannen Koostachin’s dream was, in part, a safe and comfy school. We are happy that this part of her dream will soon be realized. I wish to extend thanks to all those involved, including the working group that has worked diligently for the past year to bring us to this stage,” said Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence. “As Shannen said, ‘Never give up.’ The construction of the new school is a great accomplishment for our First Nation.”

The Attawapiskat First Nation, in partnership with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, is responsible for managing all aspects of this project.

Attawapiskat
Serena Koostachin, Chelsea Jane Edwards, and MP Charlie Angus at Groundbreaking ceremony

After a competitive public tendering process the First Nation awarded the contract to construct its new school to Penn-Co Construction Canada (2003) Ltd on March 6, 2012. The contractor has extensive experience working with remote First Nation communities on the construction of large facilities such as water treatment plants, hospitals, schools, and commercial buildings.

When completed, the 5,808-square-metre new school will accommodate 540 students from Kindergarten to Grade 8.

Shannen’s Dream started in Attawapiskat

Shannen’s Dream however continues to march forward. The House of Commons passed a resolution titled, Shannen’s Dream is to make sure that there is the needed support and funding for schools in Aboriginal communities across Canada.

Chelsea Jane Edwards states, “Thanks so much for your support and courage for standing up for Shannen’s dream. I know that Shannen would be oh so proud of each and every one of you. Keep carrying on the torch, our children matter. And so are their dreams. It may be too late for my child hood; but it’s not too late to save many other’s. You all are my heroes and inspiration. Keep on keeping on. ‘Never give up hope.'”