Dec 7, 2017
Posted in: SUNTEP
My name is Shannon Fayant. I am a Métis woman who was raised near the Qu’Appelle Valley. My father, the late Clifford Fayant, grew up in the Katepwe District with roots from the Racette, Pelletier, and Klyne family ties to Pembina and Turtle Mountain, North Dakota. My mother’s maiden name was Poitras with roots from the Delorme and Desjarlais families. She has family ties to Lebret, Fort Qu’Appelle, Cowessess, Peepeekisis and Muscowpetung. Huge family gatherings were a common theme on Sundays with Cree and Michif being spoken by our parents, aunts and uncles.
My mother Mary Ann Fayant was active in the Native Women’s Association for many years as I grew up. I would listen to her conversations of the challenges of our people and hear the proposed solutions to improving the health and wellness of our families. I often heard of Gabriel Dumont Institute because I had an aunt who worked there for many years. We were aware of the various programs and services that GDI offered to the Métis community. We enjoyed the literature that was published through GDI and enjoyed reading about Métis history that GDI promoted. Our aunt would bring the new published books and fiddle cds. Listening to my mom and aunt speak over tea was always interesting as they shared the politics and concerns of the Métis people as groups attempted to address them with government officials.
I heard of SUNTEP in high school and decided to apply for the program. What I appreciated about SUNTEP was the ability to be Métis freely and celebrate my culture. I was blessed to have a father who engaged his children every Sunday with teaching us about our culture, connection to land, exploring Métis historical sites in the valley, showing us the different medicinal plants in the valley and celebrating our family kinship with many relatives. My parents raised us to be proud of our diverse heritage and challenge racism as we encountered it. I recall in Grade 2 we were given an assignment to research and write about our cultural heritage and identity. When I asked my dad the homework question, he told me in a very affirming tone, that I was ‘Metisse’. Truly, that moment was defining as a young person as I knew within his voice that I should be proud and never question my worth or identity. I am forever grateful for that moment as no amount of prejudices, derogatory comments and attempts of shaming ever affected me. Other’s racism is not my burden to carry in this lifetime. I truly believe young people need to know their identity and be proud of who they are in order, to navigate through the system in a positive, affirming manner.
Education has always been very important in my family. My mother, older sister, and I completed high school the same year. They both completed their Grade 12 academic upgrading during my last year of high school. My mother’s determination to get her Grade 12 inspired me to aim higher.
I was the first in my family to earn a university degree. I expanded my education by setting a goal of receiving a Masters of Education before I was 30 years old. I achieved this goal and so the bar was set for others. My cousin who is very much a brother to me received his Bachelor of Education degree then later received a Masters of Education as well. Also, I have a nephew who earned his Education degree a few years ago. I continue to encourage family, relatives and students to go to SUNTEP as it is a program that fosters your identity and prepares you for the teaching profession. SUNTEP continues to bring hope and reassurance to Indigenous parents that our children will hear our Indigenous voice and experience culture. I am privileged to be part of that SUNTEP family and work with many other SUNTEP grads, mentor some SUNTEP students, hire SUNTEP grads and promote SUNTEP in our schools.
Currently, I am working in the Regina Public School Division. I have been employed with the division for the last 21 years of my career. I was lucky to start in middle years for 11 years then began the journey into administration. I have been the Principal at Scott for the last 5 years. This year has been an exciting and busy year as we have now moved into the mâmawêyatitân centre where we are an integrated facility. Our partners are the Regina Public Library, City of Regina and Regina Public Schools- Scott Collegiate. Our vision is to provide efficient, integrated services and cultural programming to the community of North Central. All the teachers at Scott Collegiate applied to be there and work hard for our 97% FNMI students who continue to learn through project based learning with a co-construction approach. We are fortunate to have 50% Indigenous teachers with 2 Elders supporting the integration of the Indigenous content.
As Indigenous people, we understand and value the importance of building community, relationships and valuing our culture as we navigate through the complexities of society, education and public services. I am grateful I have a strong identity as I continue to share my worldview, life experiences and historical knowledge with the students and staff that cross my path. I came from a high school experience that did not provide many experiences to promote and honour Indigenous culture. It was more of promoting stereotypes and battling prejudices. I do recognize if you came from SUNTEP you were prepared to share what we now call Treaty Education. Many TEP teachers have been doing the work of re-educating students well before I started and will continue that legacy well after I am retired. Indeed, I emphasize the importance of having Indigenous teachers in the classrooms as vessels of Indigenous knowledge for students and colleagues as well as role models for our students and communities.
Today, I witness the self-determination of our Indigenous students to re-ignite their Indigenous identity. I am proud to say that their fearless approach has influenced me to continue to voice my opinions of where Indigenous Education is going. The lead has to come from our elders, our students, our teachers and our families. Policies need to be re-written to provide inclusive practices that promote the development of our students. I believe in mentorship, a collaborative approach with student’s voice being at the forefront. There is a need to provide opportunity for our students to decide if they want to smudge, pick medicines, sweat, and work alongside the Elders. A land based approach is imperative as we know as Indigenous people we are connected to the land. My hope is that these opportunities continue to be supported as our students reignite their identity within the education system.
Moreover, there is a need for Truth and Reconciliation work within Canada and this province. There is no growth without discomfort. In order to reconcile with me, one has to do the work of reconciling their own biases and stereotypes. Begin the journey to unlearn the history that we were all taught in school to include a balanced approach of our stories and voice. SUNTEP did a phenomenal job re-teaching students about the history of Canada and our role in building this nation as Indigenous people. Together, in a respectful and collaborative manner, we can rebuild an inclusive history about how this nation was built and include the voice of Indigenous people. Education has a huge role to play, as we know many of the stereotypes promoted in the textbooks going through the system and the trauma that residential schools played within our history. Therefore, education cannot take a back seat to the role of restoring the truth to all our students. Today, as educators we have a moral responsibility to reconcile the truths respectfully so all students can succeed. SUNTEP continues educating our people who work with our children in an affirming way while celebrating we are still here resisting and flourishing.