EPS names school after Saddle Lake elder Dr. Francis Whiskeyjack

A new Edmonton school will bear the name of a Saddle Lake Elder who has made significant contributions to education in the capital region.

The name of the new southeast Edmonton high school will be Elder Dr. Francis Whiskeyjack School, Edmonton Public Schools announced on Tuesday.

Dr. Whiskeyjack has been a trusted Elder and cultural advisor in the public school system for years. His name was selected by the board of trustees from a pool of 353 unique submissions.

Committed to traditional knowledge and teachings, Dr. Whiskeyjack has promoted awareness and understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing.

“It’s one of the most pleasant things to have ever happened to me,” he said in an Edmonton Public Schools video.

“I was told about the news and the intention of a school being named after me, of course I was surprised. That’s the natural reaction. But at the same time, as an afterthought, I was thinking, wow. What an honour.”

Whiskeyjack is a residential school survivor who has been able to maintain his language. Working for the University of Alberta, he’s also worked in public schools for 20 years.

He regularly holds pipe ceremonies for people in the community. He leads and participates in numerous committees and is constantly invited to speak at and open community events.

Whiskeyjack is known for his expertise about the Medicine Wheel, Indigenous culture and history, and traditional holistic healing techniques, and have given him a tremendous reputation by many education and health institutions including the University of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, Edmonton Public School Board, MacEwan University, NAIT and Concordia.

In 2019, Elder Whiskeyjack received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the U of A.

“It is truly an honour to name this new high school after an inspiring and accomplished individual,” said Board Chair Trisha Estabrooks, in a press release.

“For decades, Elder Francis Whiskeyjack has been a mentor and advocate for students in Edmonton, including in our schools. Through this school naming, his kindness and commitment to inclusivity will inspire future generations.”

The school is slated to open in September 2024.

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