KO Press Release
Chiefs of Keewaytinook Okimakanak First Nations withdraw from planning process to develop Pinewood School as a Transitional School
Dryden - May 25, 2012 - First Nation leaders and community members met this week in Dryden to discuss education needs and priorities for their students who are forced to leave their communities to access the high school programs and services needed.
After careful consideration, the Chiefs of Keewaytinook Okimakanak are directing their management team to halt their involvement in the planning for the development of the former Pinewood School in Dryden as a First Nations transitional secondary school facility.
The Chiefs of Keewaytinook Okimakanak want to thank the team at the Kenora Patricia District School Board for all the work completed to date in this planning process.
"The invitation to work with the school board in the development stage work was initially well received by the Keewaytinook Okimakanak leadership," stated Geordi Kakepetum, Chairman of Keewaytinook Okimakanak. "But after reading the public concerns in their petition and comments from the town leaders about this development, the Chiefs now want to respect the wishes of the Dryden community and withdraw from participating in this project."
Keewaytinook Okimakanak and the First Nations plan to continue to work with the Town of Dryden and the school board in developing other opportunities in the community when they arise.
"We want to invite people to stop by our new office at 41 Duke Street and share a coffee with us when people are downtown," invited Mr. Kakepetum. "Our doors are always open and we look forward to working with the Town leaders and community in helping Dryden become a truly welcoming place for all people."
Keewaytinook Okimakanak is the regional management organization providing advisory services with the First Nations of Deer Lake, Fort Severn, Keewaywin, McDowell Lake, North Spirit Lake and Poplar Hill.
For more information, contact:
Geordi Kakepetum, Chairman
41 Duke Street, Dryden, ON, P8N 1C1
T: 807-737-1135 x1353
KO withdraws from Pinewood School project
By Chris Marchand - 25 May 2012
One of the proponents behind a controversial proposal to establish a transitional high school program for First Nations youth from remote communities has backed out of the process.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO), also known as Northern Chiefs, issued a press release, Friday, stating they've halted their efforts to develop the school in the face of public opposition. Representing six Treaty 9 communities, KO was working in partnership with the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board on the project.
"The invitation to work with the school board in the development stage work was initially well received by the Keewaytinook Okimakanak leadership," said KO Chairman Geordi Kakepetum. "But after reading the public concerns in their petition and comments from the town leaders about this development, the Chiefs now want to respect the wishes of the Dryden community and withdraw from participating in this project."
A recent public meeting in Dryden City Council chambers saw upwards of 50 residents in attendance. Also presented to council was a petition, featuring the names of over 650 residents who stated their opposition to the re-zoning of the school site to allow accommodations.
Keewatin Patricia District School Board Director Jack McMaster says the Pinewood project will not proceed. While disappointed, McMaster says he understands KO's reluctance to proceed in the face of opposition.
"He (Kakepetum) couldn't put the kids in a facility where the voice against it, especially in that neighbourhood...it just wouldn't be fair to the kids," said McMaster. "We want a community to help raise children and we got the message that the whole community is not prepared to do that. This concept for Pinewood School is certainly done, but I'm not giving up on supporting all students in their education and that includes students from the north."
McMaster says the board will continue to work with Keewaytinook Okimakanak to look for alternatives and opportunities.
"This is definitely a setback, but the piece that has really heartened me are the number of calls, emails and the people I bump into on the street that have encouraged me to keep going. Geordi's had a lot of encouragement from people in town. I really believe that if we can get something going, we'll make a difference in Dryden. We want kids to have a purpose - anyone with a purpose in life is much happier and will do much better. Our future is First Nations people. It's a growing population in Northwestern Ontario and I want to be a person that makes a difference for First Nations people.