M’CHIGEENG—Scores of school buses from across Manitoulin and Sudbury pulled into the M’Chigeeng powwow grounds this past Thursday to take part in the annual Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute (KTEI) Fall Harvest, possibly for the last time. Rumours that this would be the last time that KTEI would be hosting the event were circulating among the booths and displays at this year were confirmed by the KTEI’s executive director Stephanie Roy when contacted by The Expositor on Monday.
“Well, yes, it is bittersweet,” said Ms. Roy. “This will be the last one Kenj will be coordinating. Hopefully, our communities will now be able to have the harvest event. KTEI has been building the capacity and building the infrastructure that others will be able to build upon. For KTEI, it has run its course.”
Ms. Roy said that the organization built the event with an eye to encouraging knowledge of the traditional lifestyle, particularly when it comes to food. “Especially the food,” emphasised Ms. Roy, “but also stewardship of the land.”
The time it takes to make funding applications, to organize and populate the event’s many booths and learning stations is immense—and ultimately unsustainable for the organization. The strain that supporting the event has placed on KTEI’s resources, both financial and in available human resources, will become untenable, in part due to changes in the way the federal government now channels education funds directly to First Nation communities.
“That is a good thing,” said Ms. Roy, hence the “bittersweet” label she places on the change. There are so many positive aspects that come from the local control of education funding resources, she notes.
“The Fall Harvest started off as an idea,” said Ms. Roy. “Many other regions do fall harvests; this was a way for us to present our ways of doing things.”
The idea is already spreading far afield. Several observers from the Fort Erie area were on hand to see how the Fall Harvest operates and said that they were very impressed with what they saw.
M’Chigeeng Education Director Robert Beaudin noted that the inclusion of Rainbow District School Board students from across the Island was spearheaded through the efforts of Manitoulin Trustee Larry Killens.
“Larry really was pushing for the Rainbow schools to be involved,” recalled Mr. Beaudin.
Over the last two years, both RDSB chair Doreen Dewar and education director Norm Blaseg were to be found wandering among the Fall Harvest booths and pronounced themselves to be very impressed with what they saw and learned.
As for the students from both First Nations schools and those of the boards taking advantage of the opportunity to explore the Anishinaabe world, the KTEI Fall Harvest was quite clearly the highlight of the school season.