Kokum's corner - Metis Nation-Saskatchewan presented a chair and carpet for a “kokum’s corner” in the Michif PreK classroom at Indian Head Elementary School. Pictured are PreK students with Kokum Melona Biller (seated), MN-S Eastern Region 3 Director Marg Friesen (back right) and teacher Jolene Nelson (back left).

A celebration of learning and culture was held at Indian Head Elementary School (IHES) last Wednesday to mark the successful first year of a Michif Pre-Kindergarten program. The program’s establishment aligns with Truth and Reconciliation efforts in the public education system.
Last year, Prairie Valley School Division undertook renovations at IHES to accommodate a new Pre-Kindergarten class that would incorporate Metis elements into the curriculum. Two rooms in the building’s south wing were combined, learning areas were modernized and the HVAC system was upgraded to allow for smudging.
Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) partnered with the division to provide funding and resources to establish the new Michif PreK program at the school. Metis language and culture are key components of the curriculum, but Metis heritage is not required for participants. Similar early learning programs are offered throughout the province, but this is the first partnership within Prairie Valley School Division (PVSD). Indian Head was selected for the Michif PreK program based on the Metis population in the area and the need for increased early learning capacity at the school. The Michif PreK class added 16 seats for ages 3 and 4, and 11 children participated this year. They met Monday to Thursday afternoons, with occasional family activities on Fridays.
Jolene Nelson, who has taught PreK at IHES for six years, was responsible for teaching the Michif class in addition to leading the school’s regular PreK morning program which accommodates 18 children. Melona Biller worked closely with Nelson as the class kokum (or grandmother) during the program’s inaugural year.
Following a private sashing ceremony with students and their families in the classroom on May 29, the class joined special guests in the school gym for a brief program and celebration. Several representatives from MN-S were present including Marg Friesen, Director for Eastern Region 3, and Justin Amyotte, Vice-President for the local MN-S chapter. PVSD Director Gord Husband, Superintendents Derek Smith and Lisa Allen, and Indigenous Advocate Reona Brass also attended, along with several PVSD Board Members and Learning Facilitators.
School Principal Sarah Baumgartner and Vice-Principal Laurie Colhoun greeted the attendees, and Biller opened the session with a prayer to Creator. PVSD Director Husband then greeted the young students and expressed appreciation to their teacher and Biller for the role they played in the students’ educational journey. Nelson led the class in singing two songs in Michif and shared some reflections on the program’s first year.
“It’s been a very rewarding year teaching and learning Michif with my students, as well as learning about the Metis culture and traditions with the help and guidance and stories of our classroom kokum,” Nelson said. “I’m very proud of my little friends and the progress they’ve made this year. Hearing their parents tell me that they’ve brought the language home has been a huge highlight for me. It’s been an honour starting them on their Michif language journey.”
MN-S regional director Marg Friesen observed that early learning programs like the Michif PreK program in Indian Head play a vital role in nurturing the next generation of Michif speakers. MN-S supports these efforts not only through funding but also by providing resources such as bilingual books, published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute, to Indian Head Elementary and other schools in the province. On behalf of the local MN-S chapter, Friesen also presented an armchair and rug to IHES during last week’s celebration to create a “kokum’s corner” in the Michif PreK classroom.
Educators at the school noted the positive impact of the Michif PreK program on the students and the families involved. They are grateful for the opportunity to support Truth and Reconciliation by keeping the Metis language and culture alive. The Michif PreK program will continue along with the regular PreK class at IHES next year. For more information or to enroll a child, contact Indian Head Elementary School at 306-695-3939.

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