Education is the new Buffalo

Education - Image Deposit Photos

THUNDER BAY – “Education is the new buffalo”. That statement was made during Friday’s airing of The 8th Fire on CBC. One of the Aboriginal speakers in the program made the comment, speaking on the importance of education for Canada’s First Nations people. For countless generations, across the west, the Sioux and the Cree had a symbiotic relationship with the buffalo. The First Nations people were fed, sheltered and clothed in many cases by the buffalo. Equally in many cases by hunting, the people keep the massive buffalo herds strong.

The metaphor that “Education is the new buffalo” is very apt. Today for survival, it is education that is the new provider. Education that in far too many cases right now is a very lean buffalo. Only about four in ten Aboriginal youth are finishing high school right now. That statistic is showing that in a demographic which is growing faster than any other in Canada, the potential, should there be no action, is going to be a massive problem in the future.

Sesame Street with India and Elmo

Sources are telling that the federal Aboriginal Affairs department is seeking this issue, and have been, in the past couple of years moving toward addressing the situation.

Learning doesn’t start in school. Learning is a life-long process. It starts as babies move from crawling to walking, and then to running. It continues before school starts. It can take the form of a parent, grandparent, or brother or sister investing time to read to a child. It comes in many cases from paying attention to young people.

It can come via television or the Internet. It is not like young people are not eager to learn. They are.

studying the ABCsOver the past weeks, I have witnessed a young pre-schooler who is determined to learn. She has been working really hard to learn her ABC’s. She is getting help from the Internet, and from Sesame Street.

A Youtube video featuring India Arie and Elmo has been one of her teachers. This young lady will watch the video once, and then sing along. She will watch it, and then choose several other similar videos. As this pre-schooler clicks the mouse, choosing a path of learning, she is choosing her way in the world.

The huge smile as she finishes, and realizes she is winning in her effort is a contrast to the very serious look on her face as she studies the video.

The Lakehead Board of Education are moving in Thunder Bay to the process of boosting their welcoming of Aboriginal youth to the public system for high school.

At Dennis Franklin Comarty School, the NAN Education Authority is in the process of moving to expand the opportunities for students. One goal is building a residence. The students are being active consultants in the process, and are sharing their ideas about what they need to be more successful.

The Lakehead Board shares, “Moving from a Northern Community to Thunder Bay for Secondary School? Not sure what to expect? Our Welcome to School video will show you the academic, social and cultural opportunities available to you at Lakehead Public Schools! We look forward to welcoming you and your family to one of our schools. For more information, please call 807-625-5214 or visit”

Lakehead University is stating simply that they support Aboriginal Education. That is an effort backed up by deeds, and by solid work. Lakehead University’s mission-specific commitment “to working with Aboriginal peoples in furthering their educational aspirations.”

CBC’s “8TH Fire draws from an Anishinaabe prophecy that declares now is the time for Aboriginal peoples and the settler community to come together and build the ‘8TH Fire’ of justice and harmony”.

It is a fire that needs to grow.

James Murray
Chief Content Officer

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