What is the Following Their Voices Initiative?
Following Their Voices is an initiative designed to raise the educational achievement and participation of Saskatchewan's First Nations, Métis and Inuit students.
Following Their Voices focuses on enhancing relationships between students and teachers, creating structures and supports for teachers and school administrators to co-construct teaching and learning interactions with students and creating safe, well-managed learning environments. Following Their Voices is based on research that was conducted with First Nations and Métis engaged and non-engaged students, parents/caregivers, teachers and school administrators about what is needed in order to be successful as a First Nations or Métis student in school. The ‘voices’ of these groups of people were profound in terms of the issues they identified. Their words and insights, along with international research, and guidance and advice from Elders and Knowledge Keepers formed the foundation of this initiative.
What does the Following Their Voices logo represent?
The logo was developed by a group of Following Their Voices Elders that included Nora Cummings (Métis), Wayne Goodwill (Dakota), Mary Lee (Plains Cree), James (Joe) O’Watch (Nakota), Julie Pitzel (Métis), Margaret Reynolds (Dene), Albert Scott (Nakawe) and Frances Scott (Nakawe).
The logo respects the continuous, cyclical nature of life as seen in First Nations, Métis and Inuit worldviews. Traditional plants represent spirituality and ceremony. Tobacco, sweet grass, sage and cedar are included in how we, as Indigenous people, pray, what we heal with, how we ask for strength and when we give thanks. The Nations of our people are represented by flowers, an Inukshuk and a sash, in addition to the plants. A common connection and design element in our beadwork is the five petal flower.
There are significant symbols that have deep meaning in the center of the logo. We are connected to the Earth, as shown by the tree and its roots. The tree also represents family. The roots represent togetherness. The tree is flexible, cleans the air and renews itself. Mother Earth provides everything for us to live and thrive, including giving spiritual guidance and providing useful gifts.
The tree branches, leaves and eagle feathers exemplify the many roads and choices we make in life. In Following Their Voices, students will have real choice for their future. The feathers represent spirituality, the Thunderbird (eagle) and future success. Eagle feathers are sacred because the eagle takes our prayers to the Creator. The eagle feather also symbolizes freedom of choice, educational growth and the teachings of the feather. An eagle is free to soar and fly anywhere it chooses, just as our students will be able to soar and have the freedom to do anything they choose.
The family groupings embody the importance of our families who instill knowledge and wisdom. They are our purpose and our home is the core of our being. Our lives carry on through the lives of our children and grandchildren. Family here represents the mixed cultures of our Nations. Children are a gift from the Creator to be nurtured by the family and community.
The earth elements of air, water, earth and fire make us unique as Indigenous people. The elements represent spirituality and these are symbols of creation from Mother Earth. Yellow, green and blue embody the Treaties, “As long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the waters flow”. Blue and white represent the infinity symbol and flag of the Métis. All of the bright colors were chosen to celebrate the cheerful and joyful nature of our Indigenous cultures.
Following Their Voices is about education that accelerates learning; where learning is joyful, culture is affirmed and students are given real choice for their future. The logo has captured this vision ‘in a good way’ with the knowledge, prayers and expertise from the Following Their Voices Elders.