Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, the first-ever First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee took place on April 8 in the Saskatchewan city of North Battleford's Don Ross Centre. Chief Poundmaker School hosted the event which drew approximately 140 students from 20 Saskatchewan First Nations schools. The First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee had three categories of competition — primary for ages 6 to 8, junior for 9 to 11, and intermediate for 12 to 14. First place finishers in each category competed at the Spelling Bee of the Canadian national event in Toronto on May 15.
Eleven year old Makayla Cannepotato, a Grade 5 student from Onion Lake First Nation, represented Saskatchewan and First Nations' people in Toronto because she correctly spelled the word "economics." She happily ran into her father's arms in victory after a tense hour of competition.
Approximately 150 students travelled to North Battleford to compete. Eight year old William Kaysaywaysemat from Kahkewistahaw First Nation will have his first opportunity to travel outside Saskatchewan as the winner of the primary competition by successfully spelling the word "resolve."
Event organizer Pauline Favel, a student support worker at Chief Poundmaker School, said sending a team of First Nations students to the national spelling bee breaks stereotypes and sends a strong message to the rest of the country that First Nation kids are just as capable and able to achieve the national level as any other student in Canada.
Ms. Favel believes the spelling bee is about far more than spelling. It teaches kids study skills, gets them to try their hands at public speaking, fosters self-confidence and allows them to interact with friends, siblings and parents with a love of learning.
"The theme of this literacy event is Believe and Achieve, which speaks to the aspirations and dreams of these young Aboriginal students, their teachers and proud families," according to Saskatchewan Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter.
Senators, please join me in congratulating all our competitors at the Spelling Bee of Canada nationals.