Shannon Koostachin

Shannon Koostachin

(reposted from

Who was Shannen Koostachin? Shannen Koostachin of Attawapiskat First Nation lead a movement for “safe and comfy” schools and quality culturally based education for First Nations children called the Attawapiskat School Campaign.

Shannen knew just how hard it was to learn in an on reserve school that was under resourced. The only elementary school for the 400 children in Attawapiskat was closed as thousands of gallons of diesel fuel contaminated the ground under the school. The federal government put portable trailers on the play ground of the contaminated school as a “temporary school” until a new one could be built. Nine years later there was still no sign of a new school.

Shannen never went to class in a proper school and the portables became more run down over time. The heat would often go off, the children would have to walk outside in the cold to go from one portable to another and the doors were warped. The children of Attawapiskat launched the Attawapiskat School Campaign to reach out to non-Aboriginal children all across Canada to write to the federal government and demand a new school for Attwapiskat.

Thousands of children answered the call and three Ministers of Indian Affairs promised a new school and then broke their promise. The children kept writing. When the Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl, wrote in 2008 to say the federal government could not fund a new school, the grade 8 class cancelled their graduation trip to Niagara Falls and used the money to send three youth, including Shannen, down to meet with Minister Strahl to demand a new school.

Minister Strahl said the government could not afford a new school. Shannen did not believe him and that she told the Minister she would never give up because the younger children in her community deserve a proper school. She kept her promise. Shannen spoke to thousands of people asking for their help to ensure every child got a good education and a “comfy” school. She was an inspiring speaker because she talked from the heart. She made a compelling speech at an education rights conference hosted by the children of Attawapiskat and attended by 500 other children at the University of Toronto in 2009.

Shannen’s leadership was remarkable and she was nominated, as an ambassador for all the children of Attawapiskat, for the International Children’s Peace Prize given out by the Nobel Laureates. In 2009, Minister Strahl promised the children of Attawapiskat a new school.

In May of 2010, Shannnen Koostachin passed away in an automobile accident. With the support of her loving family, friends and community, Shannen’s Dream is a campaign named in her memory to make sure all First Nations children across Canada have “safe and comfy schools” and receive a good quality education that makes them proud of who they are.

Shannen’s Dream, as posted to Facebook
July 27, 2008 (signed original to come via courier)


Watchey… My name is Shannen Koostachin. I am an Mushkegowuk Innanu from an isolated community called Attawapiskat First Nation. My parents are Jenny and Andrew Koostachin. I have three brothers and three sisters. I am fourteen years old. I’ve graduated and finished elementary school called JR Nakogee Elementary School and going to go to school somewhere in down south just to have a proper education. I want to have a better education because I want to follow my dreams and grow up and study to be a lawyer. For the last eight years, I have never been in a real school since I’ve started my education. For what inspired me was when I realized in grade in grade eight that I’ve been going to school in these portables for eight long struggling years. We put on our coats outside and battle through the seasons just to go to computers, gym and library. I was always taught by the parents to stand up and speak out for myself. My message is to never give up. You get up, pick up your books and keep walking in your moccasins.

Leadership Questions:

When I was a little kid, I always use to think what a great leader my dad was, Andrew Koostachin, He taught me to look up to the Seven Grandfathers. Love, Respect, Truth, Honesty, Humility, Bravery and Wisdom. Those are called the Seven Grandfathers. And the other thing my dad taught me about life is to take 3 steps, put God first, because he made you and me, Second is family. Because they give you a lot of love. Third is education. School is very important! This why I’m here because children before grade 5 had already lost hope.


Well the three or four things I would like people to know about me is. One, I do not like broken promises. Two, I do not like seeing my siblings going to school in washrooms. And three, I would like them to know too that I AM NOT GIVING UP.


1.I’ve been going to school in these washrooms for eight long struggling years now. I do not want my younger brother and sisters thinking those portables are proper schools.
2.Education is important because in the future you’ll have a better life. Because without an education, you wouldn’t have a job or go anywhere at all.
3.I would tell them to pray and be strong. To stand up for their rights and never give up.
4.Because the New School Campaign is growing. There are a lot of supporters around the world. There are even a lot of questions for Minister Strahl.


Inspiring others

1.Of course, I would support others even though they are Non-natives. I would help around and do whatever I can to support. This is why we are made the circle. One is red, one is yellow, the other is white and the other is black. We are all the same. We keep the circle strong!


2.So that he’ll [Minister Strahl} know that we will not wait for another eight years. He knows that we are sick and tired walking back and forth outside in the cold winter, the cold wind, the cold rain, the hot sun. He knows that. It’s just that he doesn’t understand. If he did understood he could’ve just give us a school just like that!


3.I would tell them [other children] not to be afraid. To ignore people who are putting you down. To get up and tell them what you want… what you need!


4.I would tell them to think about the future and follow they’re dreams. I would tell them NEVER give up hope. Get up; pick up your books, and GO TO SCHOOL. But not in portables.



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