Indigenous youth in urban settings experience significantly higher child poverty rates and overrepresentation in justice and child welfare systems in Canada.
Education is recognized as a critical determinant for improving social outcomes, yet many Indigenous students face alienation and discouragement within the mainstream education system.
The Edmonton Catholic Schools provide support for Indigenous students from Grade 7-12 through the Braided Journeys Program, which offers creditable and influential Indigenous experiences. A powerful component of the Braided Journeys program is its long-standing partnership with 5 Freedoms Ranch Rescue & Rehabilitation. The collaboration brings Indigenous students closer to their culture through field trips to the ranch, where they actively engage in an equine wellness program and cultural activities.
The Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF) has granted significant funding to enable students from the 15 Braided Journeys school sites to participate in a minimum of three field trips to the ranch throughout the school year. Funding will cover preparation and facilitation fees for 5 Freedoms Ranch Rescue & Rehabilitation, honorariums for local Indigenous facilitators, student transportation, a meal program, and all necessary supplies.
Horses, revered for their innate connection to the land, play a significant role in this program. Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers recognize the profound connection horses share with the Creator, traditionally considering them a source of holistic wellness and a means of reconnecting with one’s roots.
The mandate of Indigenous Learning Services within Edmonton Catholic Schools is to walk alongside all staff and students on their journey of Truth & Reconciliation, and the Braided Journey Program is designed to foster a sense of belonging, independence, and generosity –aligning with the Circle of Courage model for building resilient youth.
Archdiocese of Edmonton