DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Hon. David Onley’s Aboriginal Forum

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Learning in a Good Way

December 5, 2013

-Cathy Elliott, First Roots Leader, DAREarts



The 1st Anniversary of Honourable David C. Onley’s Aboriginal Forum and Ideas Exchange was held today, and DAREarts was there to celebrate. This is an initiative Mr. Onley founded to encourage information sharing and collaboration between individuals and organizations interested in the well-being of Aboriginal children of Ontario and their communities. It was great to see our friend, Elder Ed Sackaney, who was the Elder for our Dream Catcher Project last spring.  Last year, during the first meeting, we met Shawn A-in-chut Atleo as Idle No More activists gathered outside Queen’s Park.

Today, I chatted with Grand Chief Stan Beardy about the wisdom of children.I told Chief Beardy about our students in Ogoki Post,(Marten Falls FN) and their Valentine’s message to Earth. “The thing they respect and love the most is the ground on which they stand.”

He smiled and said, “I asked a bunch of eight year olds what they were thinking and they said they were concerned about the environment. I was pleasantly surprised.”

We were interrupted to go to the LG’s upper Chambers for the Forum presentations.  Last year, the seats were placed theatre style, row on row. Today, they were placed in two rows in an open circle, in which the speaker was placed. Ed Sackaney did the opening Prayer, and we got down to business.  Chief Beardy was the first to speak:

“I have a picture to show you.” He held a photocopy in his hand. “The question comes up, ‘why is First Nation Culture worth saving?  Why should we maintain a past? Our stories? Our legends?”  The photocopy was handed around, and it came to me in the circle.  Einstein holding a pipe, standing with Aboriginal People .  “He won the trust of our people” and when he was being lauded for his Theory of Relativity, he explained, “Oh I got most of that from the Indians.”


The idea that there is a way of learning that Aboriginal kids have had for millennia, briefly (a few hundred years) interrupted by Residential schools and  the 60’s Scoop, that is still the best way to go for Aboriginal education today. Because it works. Right now, there is a tense debate between the AANDC and Chiefs and Aboriginal Educators across our nation over how Canada’s Indigenous children should be taught and the proposed First Nation Education Act.

DAREarts has always consulted with parents, Elders, school Principals, Chief and Council to find the best way forward in our programs in regards to Aboriginal students. We are proud of the successes we’ve shared with Aboriginal communities and it’s great to see our methodology validated and supported by Chief Beardy and other speakers in the Forum.

Canada’s Indigenous student population is thriving. There are more and more youth and young adults entering the post-secondary schools, workforce and ultimately, the consumer population. Hon. David Onley’s initiative is a good one, which he  hopes will be continued by his successor when he leaves this office.  A vital conversation has been started among us, and we look forward to our partnerships and collaborations in the very near future.


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