Shannen’s Dream: Attawapiskat School Campaign

A movement for “safe and comfy” schools and quality culturally based education for First Nations children


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Kenora District, Ontario
CA Canada


About the project Edit

Shannen Koostachin of Attawapiskat First Nation had a dream – safe and comfy schools and culturally based education for First Nations children and youth called the Attawapiskat School Campaign.

She worked tirelessly to try to convince the federal government to give First Nations children a proper education before tragically passing away at the age of 15 years old in 2010. Now it is our turn to carry her dream forward.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Thousands of children answered the call and three Ministers of Indian Affairs promised a new school and then broke their promise. The children kept writing. When the Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl, wrote in 2008 to say the federal government could not fund a new school, the grade 8 class cancelled their graduation trip to Niagara Falls and used the money to send three youth, including Shannen, down to meet with Minister Strahl to demand a new school.

Minister Strahl said the government could not afford a new school. Shannen did not believe him and that she told the Minister she would never give up because the younger children in her community deserve a proper school. She kept her promise.

Shannen spoke to thousands of people asking for their help to ensure every child got a good education and a “comfy” school. She was an inspiring speaker because she talked from the heart. She made a compelling speech at an education rights conference hosted by the children of Attawapiskat and attended by 500 other children at the University of Toronto in 2009.

Shannen’s leadership was remarkable and she was nominated as an ambassador for all the children of Attawapiskat, for the International Children’s Peace Prize given out by the Nobel Laureates. In 2009, Minister Strahl promised the children of Attawapiskat a new school.

In May of 2010, Shannnen Koostachin passed away in an automobile accident. With the support of her loving family, friends and community, Shannen’s Dream is a campaign named in her memory to make sure all First Nations children across Canada have “safe and comfy schools” and receive a good quality education that makes them proud of who they are.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Providing safe and comfy schools and culturally based education for First Nations children

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

(Complete timeline and details here

Minister John Duncan promises the new school will be open in Attawapiskat for the 2013/2014 school year

September 2012
UN review of Canada’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

March 2012
Minister John Duncan and Attawapiskat First Nation announce awarding of construction contract for the new 5,808 square metre school for 540 students from kindergarten to grade 8.

No announcement on how Canada plans to address other school needs outlined in the Parliamentary Budget Officer report in 2009.

February 2012
Private Member’s motion supporting Shannen’s Dream is unanimously supported by the House of Commons.

Have a Heart Day: a campaign to give First Nations children the same chance to grow up safely at home, get a good education, be healthy, and proud of their cultures. Hundreds of students and supporters joined together on Parliament Hill for the event

Six First Nations Youth Ambassadors travel to Geneva to present to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

December 2011
Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples releases report, Reforming First Nations education: From crisis to hope, calling on the federal government to provide equitable funding for First Nations schools.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Shannen knew just how hard it was to learn in an on reserve school that was under resourced. The only elementary school for the 400 children in Attawapiskat was closed as thousands of gallons of diesel fuel contaminated the ground under the school. The federal government put portable trailers on the play ground of the contaminated school as a “temporary school” until a new one could be built. Nine years later there was still no sign of a new school.

Shannen never went to class in a proper school and the portables became more run down over time. The heat would often go off, the children would have to walk outside in the cold to go from one portable to another and the doors were warped. The children of Attawapiskat launched the Attawapiskat School Campaign to reach out to non-Aboriginal children all across Canada to write to the federal government and demand a new school for Attwapiskat.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Donate to Shannen’s Dream. Hold a bake sale, car wash or other event to raise funds for Shannen’s Dream.

• Donate online
(Please specify your donation is for Shannen’s Dream)
• Send a cheque (Please make payable to First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and specify that donation is for Shannen’s Dream).

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