Labrador Innu community schools celebrate success after implementing new education approach

Schools in Labrador Innu communities are celebrating the success of a new approach to education. Prior to 2009, parents encountered issues with the school system. The Innu school board took over management of education in Labrador Innu communities in 2009 and took steps to improve the experience for Innu learners. The communities received access to a two-year Nipissing University teaching program, which enabled the communities to train their own teachers. The school follows the provincial curriculum but places a large emphasis on Innu traditions, language, and learning from elders. Students learn the Innu-aimun language and traditional skills such as how to clean hides, sew Innu tea dolls, pick berries, and spend time on the land in traditional Innu tents learning how to hunt and fish. Over 150 students have graduated from Sheshatshiu and Natuashish since 2009, in contrast to the around 30 students who finished school in the four decades before the change. “We see a change since we’ve taken over; parents are trusting the system now,” said Kanani Davis, chief executive of Mamu Tshishkutamashutau Innu Education. “My vision is that these students walk away and say, ‘I’m proud to be Innu. I know my way of life. I know the history of the Innu. And I’m going to go out there and teach it.”