From Humble Beginnings: Indian Education now Flourishing in Saskatchewan
Birth of Indian Education • The story of Indian-controlled education in Saskatchewan is a relatively new one, having developed only in the last three decades. • In 1972 a policy paper entitled “Indian Control of Indian Education” was penned by the National Indian Brotherhood. • The report contained a statement of the philosophy, goals, principles and directions that would form the foundation of any school programs for Indian children.
Fundamental Philosophies of Indian Education • "each adult is personally responsible for each child, to see that he learns all he needs to know in order to live a good life." • "As our fathers had a clear idea of what made a good man and a good life in their society, so we modern Indians want our children to learn that happiness and satisfaction come from pride in one’s self, understanding one’s fellowmen, and living in harmony with nature."
Education Must Recognize and Include Traditional Values • Ideals can be found in legends and in the Aboriginal culture. • "We believe that if an Indian child is fully aware of the important Indian values he will have reason to be proud of our race and of himself as an Indian," • "When our children come to school they have already developed certain attitudes and habits which are based on experiences in the family. • School programs, which are influenced by these values respect cultural priority and are an extension of the education which parents give children from their first years. • These early lessons emphasize attitudes of self-reliance, respect for personal freedom, generosity, respect for nature and wisdom.
Aboriginal History Taught in Schools • "It is essential that Canadian children of every racial origin have the opportunity during their school days to learn about the history, customs and culture of this country’s original inhabitants and first citizens. • We propose that education authorities, especially those in Ministries of Education, should provide for this in the curricula and texts which are chosen for use in Canadian schools."
Reaction to the Report • Change. It was a task that proved to be frustrating as the system was prepared to transform itself only very slowly. • New policies were met with open resistance by civil servants at many levels • Indian bands hoping to establish their own schools struggled to find funding.
1974 – A Break Through Year • In Saskatchewan as several bands began to take charge of the education of their children. • The James Smith Reserve in northeast Saskatchewan where the community of 1,500 took the first steps in developing their own school system. • Due to an unfortunate incident where children of the James Smith Reserve were targets of a “racially motivated incident” the children were removed from the Kinistino School. • The band council ordered the establishment of a makeshift school, which would accommodate 350 students. (Within weeks the facility was operational)
The People Take Chargeof their Destiny • Suddenly it was not just only a committee that only listened to grievances, but a committee that could give direction to the band council and band members," Burns said. "It’s something that had never happened before". • The people of the reserve began planning for a new, permanent school, one that would reflect their values. • When it opened in September of 1974, the school was different: • Other innovative measures, such as a "contract" approach that would see a student undertake to achieve a specific educational objective. • The development of courses that reflected local Cree history from an Indian perspective were introduced. • Of the 62 staff members and 43 were James Smith band members. • Fifteen teachers’ aids were hired, all of them parents of children attending the new school. • Teacher’s aids could speak Cree, an asset that enhanced the students’ comfort levels.
Winds of ChangeThroughout the 70’s • In 1976, the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College and the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC) were officially opened. • SIFC was created through an agreement between the FSIN and the University of Regina, which recognized SIFC as a federated college of the U. of R. • From modest beginnings - a mere nine students were enrolled in 1976 - SIFC has grown to an annual enrolment of 1,300 students. • The late Ida Wasacase, a member of the Ochapowace First Nation, served as its first director from 1976 until 1982. A recipient of the Order of Canada in 1982, Wasacase was internationally respected for her dedication to Indian education. She was also named the SIFC Outstanding Indian Educator of the Year in 1990.
Linda Pelly-Landrie • Almost 30 years after the release of the National Indian Brotherhood’s Indian Control of Indian Education report, Indian educators and leaders have much to be proud of. • Linda Pelly-Landrie, president of the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre, there are many challenges yet to be met. • "We have come a long way in the last 28 years," • "We have done many things properly and as a teacher, I’m not ashamed of what we’re doing badly. I’m proud that we’re doing as well as we have with the resources we’re given." • "We are coping with change on such a scale, and of such rapidity, that we are now engaged in what I call whitewater teaching." She said. "We are paddling frantically through social rapids, trying to keep our kids and ourselves off the rocks."
Cautious Reminders To Aboriginal People • Pelly-Landrie also sounded a warning for educators who may have lost sight of the vision that was front and center 30 years ago. • "We have moved too far left and have become white oriented. Our form of education has been to embrace the provincial system," said Pelly-Landrie. "We must relearn to trust ourselves." • "Customs, beliefs and language must be part of the school program with culture incorporated into the curriculum programs, she continued. • "Language and culture should be the basis for education. It is crucial for an awareness and understanding to take place as to how we want to incorporate these fundamental values in our education system."
Cautious Reminders To Aboriginal People continued… • "For too long, we have depended on others to do things for us," she said. "We must learn to accept our own potential as First Nation people and demand that our needs be met based on an equal relationship. • "Being governed by others is no longer acceptable." • "And, just as the National Indian Brotherhood has opined almost 30 years ago, change must be undertaken in order for Indian controlled education to remain viable," Pelly-Landrie said. • "Perhaps our greatest challenge will be to clear the way for a new kind of school, and foster a learning that will arm our children to face and overcome anything that a chaotic future has in store."