The Mountain Cree Camp School Kisiko Awasis Kiskinahamawin
The Mountain Cree Camp (more commonly known in the past as the Smallboy Camp) was established in 1967 by Chief Robert (Bobtail) Smallboy and Lazarus Roan from the Erminskin band. The Erminskin Band is part of the four bands that make up the reserves in Maskwaches, formerly known as Hobbema. Other members included Mark Yellowbird, Peter Rowan, Alex Shortneck, Fred Nadeau their spouses and families. The intent was to establish a community that would be guided by their strong belief in the 'Natural Law' consisting of traditional Cree values, spirituality and ceremonies. The first camp was established on the Kootenay Plains, in the foothills near Nordegg. In 1971, the camp relocated to the Muskiki Lake area midway between Robb and Nordegg, a location they occupy today.
The Federal Government has not recognized the present location of the camp as a reserve and essentially the Mountain Cree Camp is seen as occupying provincial crown land. Through the Indian and Northern Affairs Commission (INAC), the Federal Government, initially established a school on the Camp site. This school consisted of a double wide portable classroom and a single wide portable classroom. Neither of the portable classrooms had running water or indoor washroom or shower facilities. At its peak enrollment during the 1980s, the school had approximately 90 students enrolled. The delivery of education was provided by a certified teacher along with elders and members from the community. Instruction included the Cree Language and Culture. In 1997, the Federal Government rescinded financial support for the camp, ostensibly because the camp was off reserve. The loss in funding resulted in the eventual closure of the school. Thus, no formal educational program was provided to the students until 2005.
Aside from the many questions of jurisdiction, accountability and responsibility, the issue of responsibility to provide an education to children had been raised by Alberta Education. In Alberta Education's view, pursuant to section 44(7) (a) of the School Act, the children of the Mountain Cree camp meet the definition of "a student who resides in unorganized territory and who is not an Indian residing on a reserve pursuant to the Indian Act." Under this section of the School Act, the Government of Alberta is responsible for providing an education to these students.
Role of Edmonton Catholic Schools
Alberta Education, during the 2005/2006 school year, attempted to establish a program for the Mountain Cree Camp students by entering into an agreement with a provincial school board to deliver services. When no school board stepped forward to assume the operational responsibility, Alberta Education entered into an agreement with a private contractor to provide superintendence services and to work with Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure to establish a school onsite. The school was operated for four years through this arrangement.
In the spring of 2009, Alberta Education reached an agreement with Edmonton Catholic School Division #7 to operate Kisiko Awasis for a two school-year period. Since then the contract has been renewed four times and ECSD will continue providing educational support until August 31st of 2021.
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