THUNDER BAY – The life of a young leader ended tragically. That life was celebrated today in Ottawa. Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) leadership honoured the life and legacy of Shannen Koostachin, an inspirational youth leader from Attawapiskat First Nation who died tragically before realizing her dream of a new school in her community, in Ottawa, Ontario today on Shannen’s Dream Day of Action.
NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy and NAN Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose together with some NAN Chiefs and youth joined the Lady Evelyn School community in a walk to Parliament Hill in support of Shannen’s Dream and to rally for the principle of equitable education rights for First Nation children and youth.
“I am proud to celebrate the life of this remarkable young leader who’s dream of attending a real school led her from her remote Cree community of Attawapiskat all the way to Ottawa to help improve the lives of her fellow students,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose, who holds the NAN education portfolio. “We must continue the fight to keep Shannen’s Dream alive, because while Shannen was ultimately successfully in her effort for a new school in Attawapiskat, far too many First Nation students are still in need of a proper facility to attend school.”
Shannen and her Grade 8 classmates garnered national attention in 2008 for challenging then Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Chuck Strahl, over his refusal to honour a federal commitment to build a new school in Attawapiskat First Nation, a remote community on the James Bay coast. Shannen was consequently nominated as an inspiring young leader for the International Children’s Peace Prize on behalf of the children of Attawapiskat by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. Tragically, Shannen died in a motor vehicle accident in May 2010 at 15 years of age.
Attawapiskat First Nation fought for a new school for 10 years after the closure of J.R. Nakogee Elementary School in 2000, due to soil contamination from a fuel spill on the school ground. Plans for a new school were eventually announced by the Government of Canada in 2009.
“People across Ontario have been inspired by Shannen and the children of Attawapiskat, but it is shameful that these young leaders were forced to lobby for something every other Canadian child has the right to – a quality education,” said Waboose. “Education is a basic right for every child in Canada, and we are discouraged by the Government of Canada’s continued failure to address even basic education needs in many of our communities.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities in James Bay Treaty No. 9 and Ontario portions of Treaty No. 5 – an area covering two thirds of the province of Ontario.