The Anishinabek Nation in Ontario has signed the largest self-governing education agreement with the federal government, giving it control over its classroom curriculum and school resources.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett will announce details of the agreement with 23 member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation on Wednesday when she visits the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, outside Orillia.
About 25,000 Anishinabek people live in the 23 communities that signed on to govern their education system on reserve, making it the largest self-governing agreement negotiated in Canadian history, a government source said.
Under the agreement, the Anishinabek Nation will govern its Kindergarten-to-Grade 12 education system on reserve in the hopes of improving academic achievement and keeping students in school.
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee said in an interview on Tuesday that the agreement will allow a community-driven education system that will incorporate language instruction and culture.
"These 23 communities will be in the driver's seat in creating a great future for their children," he said. "The impacts of colonialism in particular around the world with Indigenous people, they kept us uneducated and in poverty. And I think education is the key to our future, where we build capacity and we take over and run our own lives."
Negotiations between the federal government and the Anishinabek Nation began in 1995. The Anishinabek Nation includes 40 member First Nations across Ontario. The agreement allows the other communities to join, should they choose to do so.
Wednesday's announcement will also include an agreement with the provincial government that will support Anishinabek students who attend schools off reserve.
Tracey O'Donnell, Anishinabek Nation's education negotiator, described it as a "complementary agreement in education" in which the province and First Nation communities develop programs and supports for children studying off-reserve. That could include incorporating Anishinabek history and culture in Ontario's curriculum, Ms. O'Donnell said.
She said about 8 per cent of Anishinabek students attend on-reserve schools. The vast majority attend provincial schools, because their communities do not have education facilities or the families live off-reserve.
Ms. O'Donnell said the agreements will create opportunities for the 23 communities.
"It provides the First Nations the chance to make decisions not only on the curriculum … but in the agreement with Ontario, we have a new relationship where we can influence the curriculum and resources and what's being taught off reserve," she said.
"What we're trying to do is create a new reality so our students achieve the same level or even higher level of success than other Ontario students," Ms. O'Donnell added.