Head Start starts up
Pre-school program combines culture with academics

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 16/97) - Native youngsters got a boost Monday with the launch of Aboriginal Head Start programs in Ndilo and Dettah.

Known as Necha-Lia Gha Enitl'e Ko (school for little people) in Dogrib communities, Aboriginal Head Start is a nation-wide initiative funded by Health Canada.

"It's a program to teach kids about our cultures and language and provide academic preparation. There's also a nutritional component," explained Margaret Lyons, co-ordinator of the Ndilo and Dettah programs.

In Ndilo, two sessions will be held each weekday, one group attending in the morning and another in the afternoon. The program is open to all aboriginal youth from three to five years of age.

Because of its distance from Yellowknife, the Dettah program is directed mainly toward youngsters from that community. With a smaller number of students, it will run only in the afternoons.

Lyons noted parental involvement is an integral part of the program, and those able to come are welcome to take part in the classes.

"This was the first day of classes, but it's been a long time coming," said Lyons of the Ndilo and Dettah programs.

"In the North we're about a year behind, because of disagreement over who would handle the funding (the territorial government or Health Canada)."

A committee composed of members of each community administers the programs.

Six Western Arctic communities are currently operating or in the process of setting up Aboriginal Head Start programs. There are another seven in the East.