M’CHIGEENG—A stiff gale may have been howling outside, but those attending a morning thanksgiving ceremony with Kenjgewin Teg Elder-in-Residence Roberta Oshkabewisens at the October 24 groundbreaking ceremonies for a $2 million Anishinabek Skills, Innovation and Research Centre were snug and warm in the almost-completed teaching lodge—a traditional birchbark wigwam.
Ms. Oshkabewisens discussed the important role the new building will play and invoked the spirits that will help to guide the new trades skills centre and carried a pipe around so that all of the participants could invoke their hopes, dreams and prayers with the Creator. The elder then smoked the ceremonial pipe, sending the smoke from the sacred medicines skyward.
Ms. Oshkabewisens was joined in the teaching lodge by Kenjgewin Teg board member William Antoine, who also prepared and smoked a pipe as part of the ceremonies. Water and strawberries were distributed to the assembly before the conclusion of the traditional rites and the commencement of the welcome and congratulatory messages. Mr. Antoine brought his own remarks and hopes for the facility, speaking at length in Anishinabemowin.
Kenjgewin Executive Director Stephanie Roy welcomed dignitaries to the groundbreaking and introduced each in turn.
United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM) Tribal Chair (and Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation Chief) Patsy Corbiere represented the UCCMM and brought greetings and congratulations from them but had to leave before the conclusion of the event to attend the Robinson Huron annuities case being heard at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre that morning. “Looking back in time and reflecting on the condition of the humble beginnings of Kenj, I see progress and an excellent leadership within this organization not only with management, but the entire staff,” read her prepared remarks. “I strongly believe that a lot of our band membership are moving towards the trade sector and with this new initiative, I am guaranteed that the program will be full to capacity.” Chief Corbiere said that she considered KTEI to be “home-based schooling that strives on building relations and a healthy environment for their students. That is how success is measured.”
Indigenous Education Branch director Arnold Blackstar brought greetings from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development and hinted at an upcoming new announcement for KTEI that will greatly enhance the organization’s ability to meet the needs of its students.
“On behalf of the Government of Ontario I would like to congratulate Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute on the occasion of the ground-breaking for the Anishinabek Skills, Innovation and Research Centre.
“Postsecondary education continues to be one of the most important investments people can make in themselves and their future,” wrote Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, Minister Responsible for Advanced Education and Skills Development and Minister Responsible for Digital Government in her greetings for the occasion. “Aboriginal Institutes are important partners in the postsecondary education landscape. They provide programs and services that play a unique and critical role in providing accessible postsecondary education and training to Indigenous students in culturally safe learning environments.”
“Like you, we share the goal of ensuring access to lifelong learning opportunities so that all Indigenous students have the skills, training and formal education to fulfill their desires and goals as members of their communities, and to participate and succeed in today’s economy. That’s why we continue to invest in and work in partnership with Aboriginal Institutes to expand their capacity and strengthen their role as an important and unique pillar in Ontario’s postsecondary education system.
“I commend the hard work, dedication and success of Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute in improving outcomes and opportunities for Indigenous learners. You continue to be a vital provider of Anishinabewin community-based education, training and business support services and opportunities. You are also a crucial partner in the advancement of Indigenous language, culture, identity and community well-being.
“I am sorry not to be able to attend Kenjgewin Teg Educational groundbreaking ceremony, but wish you the very best for a successful build of your new Anishinabek Skills, Innovation and Research Centre,” concluded Minister Matthews.
“It is our great pleasure to add our voices to those celebrating the ground breaking for the Anishinabek Skills, Innovation and Research Centre,” read Ms. Recollect on behalf of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes and Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha, who sent their regrets. “This centre will add to the good work already being undertaken at Kenjgewin Teg. It will increase the educational opportunities available in the region and support the learning and cultural needs of aboriginal students in Northern Ontario.” The joint missive from the two politicians noted the strong impact the new centre will have on helping to meet the anticipated shortage of skilled trades throughout the North and how it will serve as a model of “what can be done when initiative is matched with public investment.”
The 6,000 square-foot Anishinabek Skills, Innovation and Research Centre is expected to be completed by 2018. The federal government is contributing $1.8 million towards the new facility, while KTEI will contribute an additional $222,000 to bring the total investment up to $2 million.