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2021 First Nations, Métis & Inuit Education Gathering

PDF  2019 Gathering Highlights

Conference Details

The College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) is pleased and honoured to announce the fifth CASS First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Gathering.

The First Nations, Métis and Inuit Gathering continues to grow the vision of bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators, education partners and members of our communities together to share our experiences and stories as we progress on our collective journey to reconciliation through education.  Over the span of 5 years and 4 Gatherings, the movement has continued to gain strength, depth, and momentum as the relationships and commitments grow.

This fifth  Gathering builds upon the learning and experiences that CASS and our education partners have gained and from our participant’s feedback. Our fifth Gathering  promises to be our best yet as we learn from and with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples of this land, from across Alberta and beyond. This year our Gathering will focus on a greater inclusion of youth voices.

We are honoured once again to be hosting an amazing lineup (tentative) of noted Canadian speakers . To see their photos and detailed bios, click on the Keynote Speakers tab.

We also have an incredible array of sessions that offer a balance of First Nations , Métis and Inuit learning about languages, cultures, experiences, and perspectives. Traditional ceremony and practices will be included throughout the Gathering.

There will continue to be a beautiful Indigenous Artisan Market Place for some unique opportunities to shop and support local Indigenous artisans.

We will continue to be paperless since we want to find a balance between saving trees and providing delegates with enough information in hand to ensure smooth movement from session to session. All Gathering information, such as the program schedule, registration, keynote speakers, session descriptions will be posted online.

Please join us as we come together to hear one another, share with one another and breath life into reconciliation education for all of our children.

Keynote Speakers

Opening Evening Performance – New Blood http://www.newblooddance.com/

Opening Keynote – Dr. Sean Lessard

Dr. Sean Lessard is from Montreal Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 6 territory.  He is an award-winning writer, international speaker and researcher in the field of indigenous education and youth. Sean is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Regina and Associate Professor at the University of Alberta.  Sean has been awarded the Pat Clifford emerging researcher award by the Canadian Association for Teacher Educators as well as the American Educational Research Associations Early Career Award Winner.  His work focuses on indigenous youth empowerment and leadership including the development of his not for profit indigenous youth bursary and wellness program that has contributed over $150,000 in the past 3 years to indigenous high school and post-secondary students across Canada.

Keynote Presentation – The Red Worn Runners

Sean reflectively returns to the early transformative experiences of his work alongside indigenous youth in Enoch Cree Nation.  They called themselves the “Red Worn Runners” as a way to remember the experience and to guide them  through the long summer months of “school”.  It is through this experience that they learned from the possibilities of imagining otherwise alongside one another and the power and potential of youth leading the way both in and outside of school spaces.

https://www.edcan.ca/articles/the-red-worn-runners/ (Canadian Education Association/Red Worn Runners)

Banquet Keynote – Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond or Aki-kwe is a practising lawyer and tenured full Professor of Law at Peter Allard Hall Law School at the University of British Columbia.  She is a member of the Indigenous Bar as well as the Law Societies of British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.  Professor Turpel-Lafond is Senior Associate Counsel at Woodward and Company, one of Canada’s leading Indigenous rights law firms.  Mary Ellen is the inaugural Director of the Indian Residential School Centre for History and Dialogue at the University of British Columbia (2018-present).

Professor Turpel-Lafond was a Saskatchewan Provincial Court judge for 20 years (1998-2018) and was given leave to serve as B.C.’s first Representative for Children and Youth from 2006-2016, an independent Officer of the Legislative Assembly. During her time on the bench, Dr. Turpel-Lafond was actively involved in projects relating to better supports for Indigenous peoples, and especially on addressing the unique circumstances needs of children and youth involved in the justice system. Her work as Representative for Children and Youth included detailed and systemic examination of the child serving system and she advocated for the human rights of children, resulting in many needed improvements.  In this role, she was responsible for case advocacy for more than 17,000 children, youth and families in all parts of the Province of British Columbia, and across Canada, with the majority of matters involving Indigenous children and families.

Professor Turpel-Lafond holds a Doctorate in Law from Harvard Law School (S.J.D.), an Masters in international law from Cambridge University (Gonville and Caius College),  a J.D. law degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton University. She holds a Certificate in the international and comparative law of human rights from the University of Strasbourg.   Early in her career, she was a tenured law professor at Dalhousie Law School.  She instructed in a number of law schools in Canada and the United States.   She has appeared at all levels of court in Canada and served as a mediator and negotiator on land claims, Indigenous and human rights matters, and worked in public law litigation.  She is the author of more than 50 published works and reports.

Professor Turpel-Lafond was awarded the distinction of Indigenous Peoples’ Counsel from the Indigenous Bar Association in 2006. She has been awarded honourary degrees from nine Canadian universities and Schools of Law.

Dr. Turpel-Lafond relations are from the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and Norway House Cree Nation and she has many close friends and relations in the First Nations communities throughout British Columbia and Canada.

Youth Panel Moderator – Michael Redhead Champagne https://www.ayomovement.com/michael.html

Michael Redhead Champagne has spent over two decades speaking out and leading by example. He takes a hopeful and solution oriented approach to youth engagement, facilitation, community organizing and mobilization.

In 2018, Michael received a Kids Help Phone Regional Volunteer Award & in 2017 was recognized with a Meritorious Service Decoration from the Governor General of Canada. 2016 Canadian Red Cross Young Humanitarian of the Year and in TIME Magazine as a Next Generation Leader. Michael has also received a Manitoba Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award as well as recognition as a CBC Manitoba Future 40 leader, a Manitoba Hero, and a Future Leader of Manitoba. He has been included as part of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health movement in both 2018 & 2019.

As a founder of AYO! (Aboriginal Youth Opportunities), he is committed to a wide variety of community initiatives including Meet Me at the Bell Tower, AYO Politix, ARROWS Youth Engagement Strategy, 13 Moons Harm Reduction & Fearless R2W. He is passionate about mentoring young people, encouraging all to share their gifts and build their system literacy. He has appeared in various media platforms including APTN’s First Contact & has served as co-host for CKUW’s Inner City Voices for the past 5 years. Michael has served as president of North End Community Renewal Corporation, a board member for the Circle of Life Thunderbird House and Marymound Inc. In 2016, he served on the Bank of Canada’s #BankNOTEable Advisory Committee with a task of creating a short list of women nominated by the public to appear on a new bank note. His recent system work includes the Manitoba Child Welfare Legislative Review Committee, the federal Expert Panel on Youth Employment & with Kids Help Phone, both the Texting Advisory Committee & Indigenous Advisory Council.

Michael is known for his straight up and heartfelt style that will leave you moved, inspired and ready for action.

Gathering Witness and Closing Keynote – Cheryl McKenzie https://aptnnews.ca/author/cmckenzie/

Cheryl McKenzie is APTN’s Executive Director of News and Current Affairs. She is Anishinaabe and Cree from the Peguis First Nation and Hollow Water First Nation in Manitoba. Cheryl started at APTN as a reporter in June 2001. In her eighteen years at the network she has been an Executive Producer and a Host/Producer for APTN National News as well as the current affairs programs, InFocus, APTN Investigates, and Contact. Her Mom and Dad are both residential school survivors but like with so many of the intergenerational impacts, knowledge of what her parents went through in the residential schools system was not known until she was a young adult. Since then, the experience of her parents and her grand parents has fueled her passion to bring the truth of Indigenous Peoples history in Canada to the forefront.

Featured Author Aviaq Johnston
(delegates will receive a copy of one of her books)

Aviaq Johnston is a young Inuk author from Igloolik, Nunavut. Her debut novel Those Who Run in the Sky was shortlisted for the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People’s Literature, was a finalist for the Foreword INDIES Award for Young Adult Fiction, and a 2017 Honour Book for the Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Young Adult Literature. In 2018 she won the inaugural Indigenous Voices Award for Most Significant Work of Prose in English by an Emerging Indigenous Writer. She is also the author of the bestselling picture book, What’s My Superpower? Aviaq loves to travel and has lived in Australia and Vietnam. She spends most of her time reading, writing, studying, and procrastinating. She divides her time between Iqaluit, Nunavut, and Ottawa, Ontario.

Conference Reading and Resource Materials



Gathering Supporters

October 2020
At this point, the Gathering is tentatively scheduled for March 15 (evening) – 17, 2021. This site will be updated to comply with Alberta Health Services regulation in January 2021.

Registration coming soon...


Goals for the 2021 First Nations Métis and Inuit Education Gathering include:

  • an increase in understanding how to apply foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit for the benefit of all students;
  • an increase in capacity building to meet the learning needs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students;
  • an increase in understanding how to engage and collaborate with First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders, Elders, communities and organizations.
  • an increase in awareness and understanding of how to implement and lead practices that support reconciliation within our schools, school systems, and communities

These goals are in support of the Alberta Education Ministry’s outcomes for 2019-23:

  • Alberta’s students are successful
  • First Nations, Métis and Inuit students in Alberta are successful
  • Alberta has excellent teachers, school leaders, and school authority leaders
  • Alberta’s K-12 education system is well governed and managed

CASS Professional Learning Priorities for 2020-23
Leadership and System Excellence


March 15 (evening) - 17, 2021


Conference occurs at the Fantasyland Hotel,
17700-87 Avenue, Edmonton, AB

Individual reservations can be made by contacting our hotel Reservations Department at (780) 444-3000 or toll-free 1-800-737-3783. Callers MUST mention they are attending the 2021 CASS FNMI and Alberta Learning Conferences – reservation code 1518400, to receive the negotiated rate.

Special rates will be valid until February 19, 2021.