The name Kiizhik School (Gagiige Kiizhik GaKinoo’amaawadiiwi’gamig GaKinoo’amaawasowin) was determined at an Anishinaabe ceremony and symbolizes the sky, cedar, and learning lodge – all of which hold a cultural meaning in Anishinaabe culture.
Kiizhik school opened its doors in September 2015 with 15 children from Kindergarten to Year 2 after negotiations by the Bimose Tribal council in Kenora with provincial education authorities to open the first school of its kind in Ontario. In 2016, we have grown to now offer classes up to grade 4; it is our goal that we can begin adding new grades each year of operation.
Our registered students come from the surrounding communities: Ochichaagwe’Babigo’Ining (Dalles), Grassy Narrows, Naotkamegwanning (Whitefish Bay) First Nation, Northwest Angle 33, Iskatewizaagegan (Shoal Lake #39), Obashkandagaang (Wasagamis Bay) and Wauzhushk Onigum (Rat Portage) First Nations.
The intiative of Kiizhik School started with a vision, and with time and dedication from Bimose Tribal Council, and the help the partnerships we have developed over our journey, the vision of Kiizhik became a reality – opening its doors and becoming a historical event in the efforts to preserve the Anishinaabe Culture through learning.
Kiizhik is an effort by Bimose Tribal council to address the gap that is seen in the education system for Aboriginal students in the area, where curriculums include our heritage as a subject of study, rather than a framework for our education. At Kiizhik, we believe in the importance that our students have access to our traditional language, the Anishinaabe language, as well as the culture and traditions that our public schools are unfortunately unable to provide. By teaching Ojibwe using an Anishinaabe sound chart, holding vibrant pow wows, interacting with the Anishinaabe community and integrating the Ontario mainstream curriculum, our students are going past surface learning and truely learning about the culture of who the Anishinaabe people are.
A Message from Our Principal:
Boozhoo, mizhiikianakut n’dishinikaaz, piizhew n’dodem.
First let me say, I am proud and happy to say that we have an Anishinaabe School right in the heart of Kenora, Ontario. As we celebrate, moving into our third year and adding the grade 5 class, it has presented interesting and positive growth for students, staff, and families alike. With lofty but attainable goals, we set our sights on the stars and reach for them as each day passes. As we move forward we want to ensure that we all progress together as a family unit, as our Anishinaabe elders would teach us.
Like many of our students and families of Kiizhik, growing up in a First Nation and attending an on reserve school we face many struggles. Maintaining Anishinaabe language and culture is one of them. At Kiizhik we offer many cultural activities such as smudging in the morning, Anishinaabe prayer and flag song. Kiizhik also has monthly pow wows, feasts, and giveaways and we also welcome elders come in to visit with the students. The calming nature of the culture (elders, smudge and prayer) sets the stage for a better learning environment.
Our numeracy and literacy expectations are just as important. As we infuse culture and language into the classrooms, it also sets the appreciation and the expectations of the Ontario curriculum. As mentioned with the language and culture, there are certainly learning struggles, but we’d like to focus on the progress and the enrichment of student learning. We will all learn to celebrate those learnings each day.
In closing, Kiizhik School offers many possible ideas and will try new things to enhance the learning of the student in a cultural and safe environment. We look forward to meeting all the parents, kokums, tatanons and families, and invite them to come to the school and visit.
Ryan T. White
Tel: (807) 548-4912 ext. 1002