Keyano Instructor Putting Words into Action on Indigenous Education
Where some might see limitations, Sara Loutitt—the Bridging to BEd instructor at Keyano College’s Fort Chipewyan Campus—looks for, and sees, endless possibilities.
An advocate for incorporating Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in education, she often looks to the boreal forest and the waterways that surround her for inspiration and to provide relevance to students for her lessons.
“Just because you live in a small, rural community does not mean you are limited in providing educational opportunities to learners,” she says. “You can easily incorporate the natural environment, and use it to enhance the learning of academic concepts which makes it more meaningful for students.”
Of proud Cree-Métis heritage, Sara grew up in a similar isolated northern community just across Lake Athabasca in Saskatchewan. Her familial connection to the Wood Buffalo region spans many generations and originates in Fort Chipewyan—a community 223 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and connected by road only during the heart of winter.
Prior to joining Keyano, Sara taught in the Fort McMurray Catholic School system and assisted with the development of the provincial Aboriginal Studies curriculum. She later mentored and managed the Conklin E-Learning High School and also taught at the Athabasca Delta Community School honing her skills in delivery of community-based education for Indigenous communities.
A past recipient of the Treaty 8 Educator of the Year Award, she has been, and continues to be, a strong supporter of Indigenization movements within educational institutions, as well as governments, organizations, and workplaces across Canada.
“Indigenizing all facets of society brings us to higher levels of opportunity and possibility,” she says. “We are then not limited by who we are and where we choose to live.”
Just a few months before Sara came to the college, Keyano joined a growing number of Canadian colleges in signing a declaration to enhance its mandate to serve Indigenous learners, communities, and increase appreciation for Indigenous cultures and traditional ways of knowing as we move toward reconciliation.
One part of that commitment will involve the development of a community-based Environmental Monitoring program at the Fort Chipewyan Campus that acknowledges the value of traditional science.
A time of change and acknowledgement
As institutions consider how to best braid or marry traditional and western instruction, and as Keyano College continues its path towards indigenization, Sara—known for her integrity, passion, and knowledge—remains a strong voice of intelligent and reasoned discussion surrounding Indigenous education and methodologies.
“This is one of the things I am extremely excited and hopeful for our country—this is a time of change and acknowledgement,” she says. “We need that empowerment but more importantly, we need to be instrumental in the decision-making. As we respectfully develop ways to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing and experience, it will provide a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose, not only for Indigenous peoples but for non-Indigenous, as well.”
Sara presently puts her own words into a purposeful action. She is completing her Masters of Indigenous Land-Based Education through the University of Saskatchewan this summer. As she learns, she continually applies and shares those same lessons to her Bridging to BEd courses.
By encouraging others to become educators, she also joins with campus staff to build better relationships with community representatives to identify future training needs and build greater capacities within the region.
“At this point in my life, my calling is to engage and empower adult learners, this is where I feel I can make the greatest difference and hopefully inspire and initiate positive growth of students and the community.”