A strongly worded letter from the Penticton Indian Band has prompted the Okanagan Skaha School District to scuttle a plan to hire someone to expand its aboriginal culture program.
The district advertised the position during the summer, but apparently didn’t speak with the PIB about it.
“As we are considered as the host First Nation community for this area, our concern and disappointment is with the fact that we were never consulted with or included in the development of the cultural position,” band councillor Joseph Pierre wrote in his letter to the school board.
He claims the position was instead developed in consultation with the Ooknakane Friendship Centre, which is “an urban aboriginal organization” that does not speak on behalf of the “original people” of the Syilx Nation.
Further, he writes that agreements between the school district and PIB outline the need for school officials to consult with the band on development and implementation of new programming to increase students’ awareness of its history and culture.
Pierre, who did not respond to a request for comment, noted though that the PIB agrees the new position is “an excellent idea” in principle.
A full review of the district’s aboriginal education program was completed last spring and the position was discussed with PIB education staff and others partner groups during that process, superintendent Wendy Hyer told the school board at its Monday meeting.
Nonetheless, the job posting has been withdrawn “to demonstrate that we do have a clear commitment” to consult with the PIB, Hyer said.
The job will remain in limbo until such time as fuller consultation can take place, which Hyer expects will take “awhile.” But she said she expects the position will be filled by the start of the next school year if the district does indeed decide to repost it. In the meantime, the district will “reassign responsibilities” to others to meet the expected outcomes of the cancelled job.