Fall begins school year
View of Rose Valley in Westbank First Nation territory. Photo by Chehala Leonard.

The fall begins and, with it, a new school year

A roundup of news and information about what’s happening across the nation as the fall begins.

With the first week of the new school year having already begun, here is a quick highlight of what has been happening across our nations. 

  • As students return to class, here’s how schools are preparing: In Catherine Lafferty’s latest reporting from Vancouver Island, she delves into what it’s like going back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic and breaks down the various stages in the government’s return to school plan. Lafferty writes, “The plan, for public, independent and First Nations schools, is titled the ‘Five Stages Framework’ for kindergarten to Grade 12.” She also notes responsibilities for parents, including “keeping your child home when sick or when they show any symptoms, encouraging them to practice social distancing and mask wearing, and conducting health screenings at home.”

  • Letter to a Young Indigenous Journalist: In this profound Walrus article by Waubgeshig Rice, he shares his experiences and insights working as a journalist as a man of colour. Rice writes, “As you’re well aware, the foundation of Canadian media is whiteness. That means the default reader/viewer/listener perspective is that of a white Canadian. White people are traditionally the central characters in Canadian journalism, and every experience is measured against that. Legacy news organizations in this country were created by white people, for white people. And a strong sense of ego is at the core of many journalists’ ambitions, which likely conflicts with the inherent humility in storytelling prevalent in many Indigenous cultures, as you know.” This read is not only for Indigenous journalists, but all who work in media and the public.

  • First Nations communities ‘extremely concerned’ over reopening of schools: According to the deputy grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, as reported by CBC, “First Nations members in northern Ontario are ‘extremely concerned’ about reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Chief Derek Fox told CBC, “We have a high population of … people that are susceptible to getting really sick with this pandemic. … Many of the teachers come from the cities, they come from southern Ontario or through different cities.” First Nations communities have also reported a lack of funding, and Fox explained that shipping costs for personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies alone can add to this problem. CBC reports, “Fox said one community spent $40,000 on supplies, but then had to pay $9,000 in shipping.” With the uncertainty of funding ahead, Fox said, “We may decide to just keep it the way it is and stay safe and ensure that that outbreak doesn’t happen. One of the ways may be to just keep the schools closed.”

  • Wakanda Forever King: You will never be forgotten: Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling pays tribute to Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, who died on Aug. 28 from colon cancer. Schilling writes, “As a true Native nerd, I won’t shy away from the fact I purchased my movie tickets to see Black Panther weeks in advance to attend the grand opening showing. … And at the center of it all was Boseman, the young and handsome African prince who was also the superhero we all know as Black Panther. I left the theater with a feeling of excitement and pride for people of color. I knew Marvel had struck a real chord. A lesson was taught that I cherished. It was undoing harmful histories so often told.” He also shares many tweets and other tributes to Boseman, writing, “Thank you for being that hero, Chadwick.”

  • Osoyoos Indian Band mulls closing pictograph site after vandals deface it with obscenities: According to CBC’s Winston Szeto, “The Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) is considering fencing off its reserve land east of Osoyoos Lake, B.C., after a First Nations pictograph was defaced with graffiti.” OIB Chief Clarence Louie told CBC’s Radio West, “In the Okanagan [we] got some very bad racist people around us here. … They need to be punished big time.” OIB Coun. Nathan McGinnis noted that the council will consult with Elders and the community about how to move forward and protect the heritage site. Szeto writes, “He said the OIB reserve, surrounded by fences, would look like it’s been ‘handcuffed’, but closing the site from public access seems the only option to prevent vandalism.” McGinnis continued, “If our Elders are OK with it, I’m 100 per cent for it, because we can’t have this [act of vandalism happening] again.”

If you have news or information that you want to share, email me: chehala@indiginews.com.