Mamawi Atosketan Native School: Taking First Nation Teens to Higher Education
WHO WE ARE
Established in 2003 to serve the four bands of the Maskwacis Cree Nation between Wetaskiwin and Ponoka, Alberta, Mamawi Atosketan Native School (MANS) is a successful and privately-funded K-12 school. We're a violence-free learning community that integrates proven practices of physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being into each day in a distinctly Cree environment.
MANS is located just off the modern Maskwacis reserve lands, on Treaty 6 territory, which is the traditional home and meeting ground for many Indigenous peoples, including the Blackfoot, Dene, Cree, and Métis.
Mamawi Atosketan—which means "Working Together" in Cree—has become a living reality for our school families. Mutual respect, coupled with innovative thinking and an attitude of partnership, has produced a new generation of parents and students engaged in the day-to-day process of education. Parents see the changes in the lives of their children: they see learners who feel safe, who grow in confidence, who are eager to get to school and enthusiastic about what happens there.
In 2011, based on student and parent requests, we began adding high school classes, one grade at a time. Until then, our students had to leave us for another school at the very moment they were primed for high school success. As a result, too many of our students fell through the cracks and dropped out of their next school—becoming part of Canada's First Nations education tragedy. (see Getting First Nations Kids Through High School: A Challenge that Impacts All Canadians)
We quickly became limited by our building’s capacity, and knew MANS had to expand. We launched The Bridge Campaign with ambitious goals to match our equally ambitious students—to raise $4.9 million to build a new junior/senior high school building, Cree Cultural Centre, and an Industrial Arts Centre, and establish supplementary programs like transportation, nutrition, and scholarships. Through the support of generous donors and volunteers, we exceeded our goal!
MANS provides the Cree youth of Maskwacis with a complete high school experience—one that teaches not only Alberta university-track courses, but also one that allows them to consider new options and outcomes, and to handle responsibility in a supportive environment.