In the Williche language of Mapudungün, wekimün means new knowledge; the integration of modern and traditional knowledge. The Wekimün Chilkatuwe School, located in Patagonia’s archipelago of Chiloé, Chile, integrates contemporary knowledge with Indigenous Williche cultural knowledge to produce a unique educational program that serves the needs of the local Williche communities. This school is the outcome of the Wekimün School Project, which was developed and facilitated to support a better quality of life for all Williche people – as defined by Williche people – through education that is faithful to the spirit of wekimün and based in culture, language, human and Indigenous rights, gender equity, and sustainable and inclusive governance. Each of the project’s goals were based upon principals of youth and community engagement, decolonized practices, gender equality, wellbeing, planetary health and human rights.
By building upon an existing relationship with the Williche Council of Chiefs (WCC) of Chiloé and their Williche communities our project team (made up of partners based in Canada and Chile) co-developed an education and community-focused project designed to meet the immediate and ongoing needs of the Williche communities. Community members were invited into an in-depth process of conducing a thorough Needs Assessment; community members were critical in the process of envisioning sustainable futures and determining what they wanted to learn, preserve and develop in their communities. With this, the Wekimün Project began a collaborative process to develop a unique curriculum that offers education and training designed to acknowledge and restore traditional knowledge and pride, and to support Williche people for success (as defined by them) within their communities.
This project was designed to reinforce, deepen, and expand the WCC’s current and ongoing efforts to improve socioeconomic conditions and community wellbeing in their territories. The Wekimün Chilkatuwe School continues to adapt to community needs while respecting and reinforcing traditional Indigenous cultural knowledge and practices. The Wekimün Chilkatuwe School also continues to provide Williche and non-Williche youth with opportunities to pursue education and develop skills in programs that respect and incorporate Indigenous culture, while focusing on wellbeing, gender equity, planetary health and sustainable community development.
Over the seven years of project implementation, the Wekimün Project achieved a number of important outputs. Along with providing important community engagement, employment opportunities, and the space for Williche communities to actively participate in a process of developing a unique education model that is culturally attuned for their youth and communities, the project was also deemed successful through the achievement of the following:
- 724 student participants in full length courses, workshops and engagement activities (of which 444 or 61% identified as female and 280 or 39% identified as male)
- 503 community members, government officials and non-government organization leaders who participated in meetings and informal gatherings and events
- 2 fully developed, unique curriculum programs certified at the national training level in Chile: Intercultural Bilingual Education and Sustainable Development and Intercultural Health and Sustainable Development
- The Wekimün Chilkatuwe School certified as an official technical training center, Organismos Técnicos de Capacitación (OTEC) making is sustainable through state funding
- 22 community-based projects developed and implemented to meet a specific community need
- Elaborate construction and renovations in place to further develop and implement the necessary infrastructure to maintain ongoing school operations. Infrastructure included:
- Fully renovated traditional Williche Health Centre to include offices and meeting space, a demonstrative kitchen and improved facilities for the weekly Küme Mogen health program (which is run by the Williche Council of Chiefs, was the recipient of the Experiencias en Innovación Social award by Cepal in 2005 and is recognized by the national health care system).
- Completion of an access road from the highway
- Purchase of the land on which the school buildings and outdoor teaching spaces sit, from the Bishop of Ancud to ensure sustainability of the school beyond project funding
- Fully renovated Chafun (traditional Williche building used to hold ceremonies and community gatherings) to restored ceremonial firepit, include a classroom and state of the art language laboratory (the only one of its kind in Chile, designed to teach the Indigenous language of Mapudungun), gender natural bathrooms, and improved heating and technology (wifi, smartboard, laptops for students, projector screen).
- The development of external teaching and learning spaces including two greenhouses, a variety of organic gardens and orchards, a chicken coop complete with native species of hens and roosters, a smokehouse and a three-kilometer forest path through a sacred, old growth forest – which includes an open-air teaching space and a viewing platform over a waterfall –where medicinal plants are signposted throughout.
- A newly constructed student residence building designed to house up to 28 students with accessible bathrooms, demonstrative kitchen, and common area for meetings and gatherings.
All teaching and learning spaces are accessible.
The following mini-documentary provides an overview of the impact of the Wekimün Project. Visit our YouTube Channel here for the Spanish version.