ATTAWAPISKAT – “Shannen’s Dream is now a powerful movement, led by children and for children,” shares Chelsea Jane Edwards. The United Nations will hear about Shannen’s Dream from the Grade 11 student from Attawapiskat. Chelsea leaves from the First Nations community on James Bay on February 1st. She is headed out of the community to continue her education. As well she will make a speech to the United Nations in Geneva, she leaves on her journey to Switzerland on Febrary 3rd.
“I leave Attawapiskat for good until I’m done my education in Timmins on Feb 1, continues Chelsea. “I’ve never been out of Canada before. And this is a great opportunity to have our voices heard by the United Nations”.
“Shannen was one of my great friends,” adds Chelsea. “She is also my cousin. I also advocated with Shannen, when she was here. We were a team, and will always be”.
It is not the only opportunity that this energetic teen has before her.
Chelsea shares an email: “You have been selected by the OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation) and The Blend as one of the First Nations Youth who will be profiled in a video to be used in Secondary Schools in Ontario as a part of the upcoming curriculum changes. The video will be about you, your life, your education, your challenges, your joys, your hockey etc. Of course, because your campaign for equality in education is a big part of your life, it will be part of the video.”
The United Nations, in Geneva is the location of the world body’s headquarters in Europe.
Former Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Hall comments, “Chelsea is the ideal youth to take the torch for the Shannen’s dream as she is a role model herself and left her home community to pursue her educational dreams. I am very proud of her”.
Shannen’s Dream was started by Shannen Koostachin as a way of generating awareness about the plight of students in Attawapiskat. Chelsea is picking up the challenge, Shannen Koostachin died in a tragic car accident in 2010.
Shannen Koostachin of Attawapiskat First Nation lead a movement for “safe and comfy” schools, and quality culturally based education for First Nations children called the Attawapiskat School Campaign. Shannen knew just how hard it was to learn in an on reserve school that was under resourced.
The only elementary school for the 400 children in Attawapiskat was closed as thousands of gallons of diesel fuel contaminated the ground under the school. The federal government put portable trailers on the play ground of the contaminated school as a “temporary school” until a new one could be built. Nine years later there was still no sign of a new school.
Shannen never went to class in a proper school and the portables became more run down over time. The heat would often go off, the children would have to walk outside in the cold to go from one portable to another and the doors were warped.
The children of Attawapiskat launched the Attawapiskat School Campaign to reach out to non-Aboriginal children all across Canada to write to the federal government and demand a new school for Attwapiskat.
That new school has now been promised by the Conservative Government.