When a recent change in the provincial education curriculum was announced, Arcola School found itself well situated to provided the now mandatory classes.
The new mandatory addition to the curriculum was Treaty Education, a topic meant to foster a better understanding by students of the treaties between the First Nations peoples and the Canadian government.
Having begun with Nakoda language classes at the school two years ago, language teacher Armand McArthur and principal Kevin Hengen found themselves well situated to move into the new classes.
"It was ideal really that we had Armand here already," Hengen said. "We were able to take his language class and morph it into a treaty- and Nakoda culture class."
A ground breaking course when first offered at the school, the Nakoda language classes brought praise from some corners of the provinces educational community, Hengen hopes that this spirit of innovation and excellence will help create a positive educational outcome for the students.
"We have students who now already have a background with First Nations culture and studies now," Hengen said. "Now we can expand that a bit to include treaty studies."
Hengen is justifiably proud of the program, and happy with McArthur as well.
"He is really a good resource for us," Hengen said. "Not only does he already have a pre-existing relationship with the students, but he can also offer a point of view in treaty studies that the kids might not otherwise get."
While Hengen says McArthur teaches the class, the class must still meet provincially set guidelines regarding learning outcomes.
"It is still a bit of a learning process for me, for Mr. McArthur, and for the kids too," Hengen said. "There is a handbook from the ministry which we are leaning heavily on right now until we get a feel for the requirements, and how best to deliver them to the students."
First announced in 2008, the efforts to introduce the mandatory treaty classes are the end product of years of planning.
"Our government is committed to strengthening partnerships between First Nations and non-First Nations people in Saskatchewan in the spirit of the Treaties," Deputy Premier and Education Minister Ken Krawetz said in a press release dated Sept. 15, 2008. "As such, we are committed to ensuring that instruction in the history and content of the Treaties is mandatory in the provincial Kindergarten through Grade 12 system."
"Treaty knowledge is important for students to better appreciate our province's past and present, and for our continued prosperity in the future," The minister said in a release a year later. "Learning about treaties also promotes cultural appreciation and understanding through teachings that respect and honour First Nations."