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NAN youth welcomed to city.


Thunder Bay, the most populous municipality in Northwestern Ontario, also has a significant First Nations' population nearby. So, when fall hits the area, so too does the call for students to leave home and go to school. This life-changing step can be particularly challenging for students who come from smaller, more remote communities to settle in the city.

A special activity to welcome three hundred new students from northern reserves was held in Thunder Bay's Sports Dome. It was sponsored by the Settlement and Welcome Committee, a group of community members dedicated to easing the transition for Aboriginal students to Thunder Bay who joined with the Thunder Bay Urban Aboriginal Strategy Neighbourhood Capacity Building Program.

According to the Thunder Bay's Source, the community paper, local school boards worked together to help make the transition from a First Nation community to Thunder Bay an easier one for students. Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School and the Public and Catholic school boards teamed up to host the event at the Thunder Bay Sports Dome.

Students were shown local support services, enjoyed some recreational activites and heard from guests such as Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and Elder, Isabelle Mercier, for Lakehead University's Aboriginal Education department.

This activity is in response to recent issues in the area concerning Aboriginal students who arrive from remote communities and have more difficulty adapting to life in larger, and less familiar Thunder Bay. Many new students must be flown in where they must adapt to the impersonal population of over one hundred thousand people.

Student Kaiyah Duncan from Muskrat Dam First Nation said that when she arrived, she felt homesick. "It was hard to leave my family."

Located in the Sports Dome were local services, which Duncan said will help her if she needs it, even though she admits that asking for help, isn't always easy.

"Many youth from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) territory are forced to move to Thunder Bay to attend high school, hundreds of miles away from their homes, their friends and their families. Tragically, many of these students lack an adequate network of social support and simply cannot cope with what can be a challenging and sometimes hostile environment," said Fiddler.

The Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, draws its student body of 250 from reserves across northwestern Ontario. It is run by the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council and aims to provide a family atmosphere for students who are away from home, many for the first time.

The NAN is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities within James Bay Treaty 9 and Treaty 5 territory, two-thirds of the province of Ontario.

By Marie White

Windspeaker Writer
COPYRIGHT 2008 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Title Annotation:education
Author:White, Marie
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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