Chief Long Lodge Education Centre gives Indigenous students a second chance

Carry the Kettle First Nation opened a new education centre focused on giving Indigenous people a second chance to finish high school.

Chief Long Lodge Education Centre, located just outside of Indian Head, is inviting young adults on the reserve who may have left school before they graduated to complete their Grade 12 requirements.

“We are trying to ensure that these kids reach those same heights, the same as any other child in their province,” Bob Kowalchuk, director of education for Carry the Kettle, said.

Currently there are 13 students between the ages of 16 and 21 participating in classes to receive their high school diplomas.

Kowalchuk said it is important to integrate the students back into the education system for their future.

“Many jobs require an entry level of Grade 12 standing. Many jobs, or university certainly, want you to have a high enough standard to get in,” Kowalchuk added.

Brady O’Watch, Chief of Carry the Kettle First Nation, said the idea has been fully supported since it was first brought to council.

“We all understand how important education is. We all know the opportunities it can bring,” Chief O’Watch said.

He added the First Nation is ensuring the students are getting the education needed to go to post secondary, but also education around Indigenous culture.

“We have teachers in here teaching that western way, but also we have a teepee, we have elders come speak about how important education is for themselves and how important it is for our people,” O’Watch stated.

The students will participate in traditional ceremonies, like pipe ceremonies, learn the Nakota language and learn about spirituality.

Sixteen-year-old Cheryl Francis is a student at the school. She said the program allows students to take their time to understand the course material and it’s not as strict as other schools she has been in.

“There’s good communication with the educators and the staff,” Francis said.

She said she hopes to go to business school and open her own business, adding getting her Grade 12 diploma will allow her to do that.

Carry the Kettle council believes Chief Long Lodge Education Centre is just the beginning.

It hopes to add a college or post secondary education to campus in the future.

“I want everything, we are going to push for every kind of program, everything that we can possibly get here,” councillor Conrad Medicinerope said.

Chief O’Watch said his dream is to educate the people on the reserve from birth until they are adults.

Currently, Chief Long Lodge Education Centre is fully funded by Indigenous Services Canada.