A rectangle banner highlighting Indigenous books alongside text that reads, "Indigneizing as North Battleford School's Class Library," read the story on MCoS' blog now!

“We only read one story called On the Trapline [by David Alexander Robertson] in the class now,” Kassidy Neilsen, a teacher at Sakewew High School in North Battleford told the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS) when she applied for a small grant to Indigenize her classroom.

Neilsen, who teaches Grade 9 with a focus on Treaty Education in the Battlefords, hoped to broaden the options available to her students. She also hoped to create more conversations about Indigenous authors and stories her classroom didn’t usually get to hear. At the same time, she wanted to update her classroom library with “anti-oppressive and multiculturally diverse” books.

Her vision for the project, spearheaded at the end of the 2023-24 school year, included diversity in the selection of books offered to the largely-Indigenous classroom who reside in First Nation communities around the Battlefords. She hoped that students could see themselves, their languages, and their cultures in the books they read.

“It allows the students to see themselves in the books they read. They see familiar language that is used at home and names that are used in their homes for their family relations,” she said in her application.

After successfully applying for funding through MCoS’s Multicultural Education Initiative (MEI), which offers grants from $200 to $400 for projects in classrooms and school boards across the province, her project became a reality.

The newly-acquired class library now includes books set to be used to teach lessons in English Language Arts and Geography while showing the class stories about themselves and other Indigenous cultures.

Books purchased with the grant include:

  • The Case of the Burgled Bundle by Micheal Hutchinson
  • Nattiq and the Land of the Statues by Barbara Landry and illustrated by Martha Kyak
  • Treaty Words by Aimee Craft and illustrated by Luke Swinson
  • The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson
  • We All Play by Julie Flett
  • Swift Fox All Along by Rebecca Thomas and illustrated by Maya McKibbin
  • We Belong to the Drum by Sandra Lamouche and illustrated by Azby Whitecalf
  • The Indigenous Peoples’ Atlas of Canada by The Royal Canadian Geographic Society/Canadian Geographic

Neilsen noted the project’s success is evident. Now, students see themselves represented in the books they read, a significant move towards equal representation in the classroom.

“How did you get all these books that are all about natives?” asked one student. Another noted that their cousin, Azby Whitecalf from Sweetgrass First Nation, had illustrated one of the books the class now has access to, further highlighting the project’s success.

The newly-Indigenized classroom library has not only brought stories about themselves and other Indigenous cultures to the students but has also empowered them. Inspired by the new stories, the students initiated a project where they read the new stories and used them as inspiration for tipi creations.

This initiative not only taught the students more about themselves and their own culture but also promoted Indigenous wellbeing and brought anti-oppressive stories to students in North Battleford, fostering a sense of pride and cultural awareness for the 25 Indigenous youth in Neilsen’s classroom.

To read more MCoS success stories every single month, keep an eye on our blog or join our newsletter to get monthly updates! Did you know funding from the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan is used throughout the year to support programs, events, and other initiatives in Saskatchewan? If not, visit our website here to see if you can apply or learn more.

The Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan has been raising awareness of the benefits of cultural diversity and the dangers of racism since November 22, 1975. MCoS became a provincial not-for-profit, non-governmental agency that works to ensure ethnocultural survival, strength and prominence and foster opportunities for cross-cultural interaction.

“Entanglements: Questions about Multiculturalism and Colonialism” Interactive Zoom Discussion – June 5, 2024 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm on Zoom 

Join us for a conversation about how multiculturalism is tangled up with colonialism. Panelists will share what this entanglement means to them. Participants will discuss the ideas in small breakout groups, and have an opportunity to raise questions for further exploration.

This session is for MCoS Members and Partners only. Register HERE. The Zoom link will be sent after registration is received.   

Panelists

  • Bula Ghosh
  • Kelsey Aitcheson
  • Dr. Manuela Valle-Castro

Bula Ghosh (she/her)

Bula Ghosh works as a Program Coordinator at Great Plains College in Swift Current. She immigrated to Canada from India in 1981 and has been involved provincially and regionally in settlement. She strongly advocates for newcomers to Canada, multiculturalism, women’s issues, literacy learners, and all vulnerable people in our society. As a result of her growing awareness of the issues confronting Indigenous peoples –historically and currently – Bula organized a one-day event entitled “Truth and Reconciliation: Let’s Walk the Talk.” She gathered Indigenous and non-Indigenous committee members, found funding and community support and served as the master of ceremonies for the day. She continues to organize this event annually.

Kelsey Aitcheson (she/they)

As an urban member of the Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation, Kelsey has spent her lifetime advocating for equality.  She is the local Regina facilitator for the Intercultural Connections and Anti-Racism Engagement (ICARE) program for the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS). In addition, she facilitates anti-racism youth leadership workshops. After the birth of her second child, Kelsey attended the First Nations University of Canada, double majoring in Psychology and Indigenous Studies. Kelsey shares her Two-Eyed Seeing perspective from a place of emotional connection, as well as experience and education.

 

Dr. Manuela Valle-Castro (She/her)
Dr. Valle-Castro is originally from Chile and has Mestiza (Spanish-Italian and Afro-Indigenous) background. She holds a Ph.D. in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice from the University of British Columbia and a master’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from the same university. She coordinated the Anti-Racism Network, and under this capacity, she led coalition-building and advocacy work with various actors, including Indigenous and settler organizations and agencies. She is also a mother of two and a resident of the core neighbourhood.