M’Chigeeng Board of Education History
The M’Chigeeng First Nation Education Department was a pioneer in taking over local control of a government operated, i.e. Indian and Northern Affairs, school in the fall of 1980. A dispute over implementing a special education program at Lakeview School in 1979 led to the establishment of an education committee. Guiding principles from the National Indian Brotherhood, now known as the Assembly of First Nations, document, “Indian Control of Education” was used by a fact-finding group to develop the program. Formal notice was given to Indian and Northern Affairs and M’Chigeeng became the first band-operated school in eastern Canada, in September 1980.
The very first education committee consisted of five M’Chigeeng First Nation community members; Elizabeth Corbiere, Andrea McGraw, Justeen Debassige, Regina Beaudin and Lewis Debassige as the Chairperson. The Chief and Council at the time were Chief Joseph Hare, and Councilors, Adam Debassige, Gus Debassige, Joseph Fox, Kate Roy, Melvina Corbiere, Edward Debassige, Victor Migwans, and Clarence Panamick. Not long after the committee was created, Regina Beaudin was appointed Education Coordinator of the very first M’Chigeeng Education Department. The department also employed Kim Corbiere as the Finance Manager and Justeen Debassige as the Education/Social Counsellor. The Education Department was located in the Band Office.
After M’Chigeeng gained control of their education department, more teachers of Aboriginal ancestry were hired at Lakeview School and M’Chigeeng became a model for many eastern Canadian First Nations in developing their own band operated school. Many First Nations call upon M’Chigeeng for their advice in the areas of educational growth, curriculum development and management.
M’Chigeeng also became responsible for their secondary students, most of them attending Manitoulin Secondary School or to Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute. Students have excelled in areas of academic achievement, sports achievements and have participated in clubs, such as the Three Fires Confederacy. Since 1980 M’Chigeeng has had approximately 62% of its on reserve Lakeview graduates achieve their Ontario Secondary School Diploma from Manitoulin Secondary School or from Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute. In comparison, the national average for on- reserve students was 37% , and the rate for the overall Canadian population was 65%.
The Education takeover also gave M’Chigeeng the opportunity to send students to post-secondary institutions to continue their education. Throughout the years policies and guidelines have been amended to better serve or membership. Students have gone to school all over Canada and the United States to study, with the help of the M’Chigeeng First Nation Education Department.
We have graduated students in various fields, such as, medicine, education, trades, tourism, and business and computer applications. The education department funds approximately 200 students to post-secondary school each year, with about 50 students being part-timers.
The Education Department also created the Literacy & Basic Skills Program in 1987, also known as Adult Education. This program provides Academic Upgrading, Training Plans and Goal Setting, Computer and Internet Training, Job Skills, and GED Preparation, to learners. The current Literacy Coordinator is Orien Corbiere.
Now twenty-five year later, 95% of education employees for M’Chigeeng are band members. The Daycare Centre is almost fully staffed by all M’Chigeeng First Nation community members, and nine of the thirteen teaching staff at Lakeview School has attended and graduated from Lakeview School, including the current Principal, Mr. Neil Debassige.
With the development of new programs and hiring of more staff, the Education Department moved from the Band Office into their own office for 15 years. Now the Education Department has come full circle, as they are located back in the newly built Band Office on the second floor. Past and more recent building expansions to Lakeview School and the Daycare Centre demonstrate that M’Chigeeng continues to move forward in striving for excellence in its educational programming.
The M’Chigeeng First Nation Board of Education accepts the responsibility to provide the best possible opportunity for every individual in the community by:
- Providing an education system which will give our children a strong sense of identity and confidence in their personal worth and ability;
- Enhancing the development of Indian values through the education system, ex. Generosity, wisdom, self reliance, and respect for the natural environment;
- Ensuring that the education system prepares for our members a meaningful lifestyle in modem society;
- Encouraging parents, teachers, elders, children and community workers to participate in their own social, economic, political and educational advancement;
- keeping the Indian language as a daily part of our lives;
- Establishing an educational setting, which will encourage respect for spiritual and traditional values.