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Lheidli T’enneh call for trustee on School District No. 57's Board of Education

Chief Clay Pountney says this is the necessary next step for Lheidli T’enneh
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Lheidli T'enneh Chief Clay Pountney. (via Hanna Petersen)

Lheidli T’enneh wants a designated seat at the School District No. 57 (SD 57) Board of Education table.

Chief Clay Pountney attended the board's regular May 28 meeting, where he asked for the board’s support in the nation’s efforts to have one of the seven trustee positions be designated for a Lheidli T’enneh member.

He states that about one-third of students in SD 57 are of Indigenous ancestry and the only way to ensure they are properly supported is to have a Lheidli member be part of the Board of Education which makes decisions that impact those students.

“We signed a Local Education Agreement (LEA) in 2017, which was the start to hold the district more accountable for our kids,” says Chief Pountney in a media conference following the board meeting.

“This is the logical next step for Lheidli T’enneh. We want more seats in the higher positions kicking around our territory so we can oversee it better.”

He says Lheidli T’enneh have a duty to ensure that Lheidli students are supported properly and that extends to other indigenous students in the territory.

“We are realizing more and more that since we are a central hub and that our kids include everyone else's too. We have over 40 Nations within our district, so we want more inclusivity within the district,” says Chief Pountney. “Historically when people came to our territory we looked after them, so we want to do the same thing for our kids.”

He noted that four of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls to Action” deal with increasing educational content about residential schools and Indigenous history in Canada.

He also added that Article 14 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that Indigenous peoples have the right to establish control over their own educational systems and institutions.

“A designated person can represent what we are seeing in the district from our point of view,” he says.  

He says the work from the Aboriginal Education Department and the steps the school board has taken in the new 2019-2020 budget to support Indigenous students is great to see.

“SD 57 is listening. We have worked with them very well previously, and they do have an open ear but this is for them to hear at the highest level and that we do have a vote,” said Chief Pountney.

He says the Lheidli T’enneh are ready to work with SD 57 and the B.C. government to make this happen.

“This is just the beginning phases; we don’t know how this is going to work totally we will have to work with them to see how this will look,” says Chief Pountney.  

He says ideally, he would like to see this implemented by next election.

“We as a board are really looking forward to working with yourself and members of council over the remainder of our term and look forward to scheduling a meeting in the very near future,” said Board of Education Chair Tim Bennett, after Chief Pountney’s presentation during the meeting.