Brian Wildcat announced as Augustana's 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

From various career achievements to spearheading what would become the Maskwacîs Schools Education Commission (MESC), Brian was honoured as a champion of Indigenous education.

Sydney Tancowny - 11 February 2019

By Sydney Tancowny

Photo courtesy of facebook/@MaskwacisEducation

Brian Wildcat is a member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation and has lived in Maskwacîs, AB his entire life. He is married with three children. He attended Augustana (then Camrose Lutheran College) from 1976-79 and went on to receive a Bachelor of Physical Education in Outdoor Pursuits from the University of Calgary in 1987. After negotiating the transfer of the federally run Ermineskin Schools to "local control" in 1991, he returned to the University of Alberta and completed his Master of Education in Educational Administration in 1995.

Through his continuing achievements in First Nation education, Brian has proven himself both a well-regarded alumnus of the University of Alberta's Augustana Campus and a champion of Indigenous education. Some of the highlights of Brian's career spanning over 30 years include:

  • Founding member and first director of the Ermineskin Education Trust Fund
  • Negotiation and transfer of Ermineskin Schools to local control
  • Presented with an eagle feather headdress and became an honourary chief of Ermineskin
  • First Nations management consultant in strategic planning, governance and community development
  • Director of Treaty Six Education
  • Superintendent of Ermineskin Schools, Miyo Wahkohtowin Education for 20 years
  • Superintendent of Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission

Brian's commitment to education is a familiar trait within his family. His family's legacy of education goes back to Brian's great-grandfathers Chief Dan Minde and Chief Ermineskin, who were influential in the establishment of education on Ermineskin. The importance of education was instilled in Brian at a young age, as his father owned and operated the first school bus service in Maskwacîs, and his mother, Theresa C. Wildcat, was the first teacher from Maskwacîs. Brian's mother also received the Augustana Alumni Association Citation Award in 2010. Brian is proud to say that, beginning with his mother, there are now three generations of U of A graduates in his family. Brian credits his early experiences in outdoor education at Camrose Lutheran College as formative in his understanding of leadership and instrumental in his future work.

Brian believes that First Nations operated schools have a critical role to play in improving First Nations education results, by providing leadership based on traditional beliefs and values, direction for the preservation of language and culture and commitment to learner success. He also believes that the development of a Cree education system has the opportunity to be transformative for Indigenous youth.

Several years ago, it became apparent that increased collaboration between Maskwacîs schools was key to improving student success and achievement. In order to make those goals possible, Brian spearheaded what would eventually become the Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission (MESC), the amalgamation of four individual education authorities, by setting up a community dialogue between the Four Nations of Maskwacîs-Ermineskin Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe, Montana First Nation and Samson Cree Nation.

The development of MESC was inspired by three beliefs, focusing on what's best for the children of Maskwacîs, guidance by the Cree philosophy of wahkohtowin and renewing the tribes' treaty relationship with Canada by implementing their treaty right to education. These ideas are captured in the MESC credo: Four Nations, Eleven Schools, One Vision.

Some of the highlights in the development of MESC included five Maskwacîs Education Summits beginning in 2015 with the Chiefs and Councils of the Maskwacîs Cree, an extensive communication and consultation strategy that has included 48 community meetings with 3100 participants, the creation of the Maskwacîs Education Law, the Maskwacîs Declaration on Education, the signing of the federal agreement and funding model and the provincial framework agreement. MESC is seen by many as leaders in the continuing evolution of a Cree education system.

Officially launched on September 4, 2018, MESC took responsibility for 11 schools, 2200 students and over 450 employees. By creating a Cree education system based on community priorities and beliefs, MESC hopes to increase graduation rates and develop a Nehiyawatisowin curriculum based on Cree language and culture. Brian believes that the best way to implement the Treaty right to education is to achieve a high degree of success within Maskwacîs schools.

However, the implications of this work and its promise for the future are far greater-providing the opportunity for Indigenous students to succeed in a Cree school system while supporting their educational aspirations. And it is this great work that should not only be recognized but also shared. Augustana Campus is proud to have Brian Wildcat as an alumnus.

Brian Wildcat gave the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Lecture - A Wahkotowin Movement: Building a Cree Education System on February 12, 2019. Later on the same day, Brian was honoured at Augustana Campus' annual Community Awards Banquet.