Ball, Jessica. “As if Indigenous Knowledge and Communities Mattered: Transformative Education in First Nations Communities in Canada.” American Indian Quarterly 28.3/4 (2004): 454-479. Project Muse. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
At the publication of this article, there were approximately 700,000 First Nations peoples in Canada, making up about 2.5% of the population. Ball emphasizes that the average age of the First Nations population in Canada is 25.5 years old. Compared to the average age of the rest of the Canadian population (35 years of age), the comparatively young First Nations population “presents many challenges but also some unique opportunities” (455). As explained at length in further bibliography posts, the negative repercussions of the enforced residential school system has left generations of First Nations without knowledge of their own culture, traditions, language, and history. The effects go beyond this, and “Although the long era of enforced residential schooling for Indigenous children is now over, its negative impacts on self-concept, parenting, social cohesion, and the intergenerational transmission of language and culture remain” (455). In an attempt to counter these crippling effects of the residential schools, a successful generative curriculum model has been introduced. This brings Indigenous knowledge into the process of learning and teaching by community Elders, coupled with Eurowestern theory, research, and practice. “First Nations leaders have linked improvement of developmental conditions for children to the reconstruction of their cultural identity, revitalization of intergenerational transmission of culture and traditional language, and reproduction of culturally distinctive values and practices in programs for children and youth” (455). Active movement towards improved community health, social and economic development, and education is a pursuit of many First Nations communities in Canada, and the impact of total, informative education at a young age is integral in the success.
This article is important to our research because it emphasizes how important a change is at this time in the Canadian education system due to a growing population of First Nations youth. It also points out that cultural values and practices are tremendously important in fostering communities.
Cotter, John. “Alberta students to be taught legacy of Indian residential schools.” CTVNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
Spence, Nicholas, and Jerry P. White. “First Nations Educational Success: Assessing Determinants Using a Social Context Lens.” Thompson Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.
The BC Teachers’ Federation was founded in 1917 and incorporated as a benevolent organization in 1919. The BCTF achieved full collective bargaining rights in 1987. It “aims to work for the rights of teachers and students in promoting public education”. Gail Stromquist is the Aboriginal Education Coordinator at the BC Teachers’ Federation. She has been involved in a number of programs and organizations that give a voice to Aboriginal education issues and concerns.
In her introduction, Gail Stromquist outlines the history of education in Aboriginal communities. She mentions that in Aboriginal culture, all children were nurtured, and “Aboriginal children with challenges and exceptional abilities would find a position within the community, [where] their contributions were also valued and respected” (2). Stromquist goes on to recount the damage inflicted on First Nations culture by Euro-Canadian colonizers. Stromquist designates the damage of residential schools as trauma. One of the repercussions of residential schools was that “family systems were shattered…the role of grandparent was displaced…[and] parenting models were all but lost” (Stromquist 2). Residential schools have affected the way that Aboriginal families feel about the Canadian education system. It is noted that Aboriginal people are still not being referenced enough in textbooks and in classrooms.
There is a movement towards change, however, and teachers across British Columbia are striving to include more Aboriginal voices in their curricula in order to be more representative of Canada’s beginnings. A movement towards Aboriginal traditions being taught in schools is emphasized and recommended. It is understood that Aboriginal voices should and must be heard to improve the Canadian education system.
Tactics for acknowledging and integrating Aboriginal knowledge and traditions are listed. Aboriginal education statistics are listed and show a slight but steady increase in numbers of graduating Aboriginal students from 1993-2006.
This document is useful for our purposes in that it details the strategies being used by the teachers’ union to deal with the repercussions of residential schools. It also raises a number of valuable points about the effects of the trauma of residential schools on the way Aboriginal families view education. It spells out ways in which teachers can begin to move forward and allow Aboriginal voices to be heard in the education system. We can use this document to understand current initiatives that are being taken by British Colombian teachers and schools to improve Aboriginal education.
Aboriginal Report 2008/09-2012/13: How Are we Doing?. British Columbia Ministry of Education, Nov. 2013. PDF File. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Baluja, Tamara. “First Nations School in B.C. Passes Traditional Ways on to Next Generation.” The Star.com, 23 Nov. 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Baluja, Tamara. “Paul Martin gives Canadian Schools a Failing Grade in History.” The Globe and Mail, 10 Sep. 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Deranger, Susana. “Our Home on Native Land: The Celebration of Colonization in Canada.” Briarpatch Magazine, 1 Jul. 2011. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
“Health Resources.” Indian Residential Schools Commemoration Project. Anishinabek Nation, 2013. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
LaFrance, Jean and Don Collins. “Residential Schools and Aboriginal Parenting: Voices of Parents.” Native Social Work Journal 4.1(2003): 104-125. PDF File. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
CBC’s timeline of Canadian residential schools provides a basic outline of the history and progression of residential schools. The site states that in 1620: “Boarding schools [were] established for Indian youths by the Recollets, a French order in New France…. This form of schooling lasts until the 1680s.” in 1847: “Egerton Ryerson produces a study of native education at the request of the assistant superintendent general of Indian affairs. His findings become the model for future Indian residential schools. Ryerson recommends that domestic education and religious instruction is the best model for the Indian population.” The terms “domestic education” and “religious instruction” are key here, they are terms we will be exploring as we navigate the current state of education and we will attempt to make connections to the old ways of teaching through these avenues. The context of “religious instruction” in the 1800s was predominantly that of the Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist religion, none of which were native to the First Nations’ people. It is important to note that CBC marks no change in residential school curriculum or culture from 1860-1974, which signals the hundreds of years that First Nations’ children were subjected to forced assimilation by Canadian religious groups. In 1974: “The government gives control of the Indian education program to band councils and Indian education committees,” and in 1979 15 residential schools still remained in operation in Canada.
Residential schools changed the way in which aboriginal people viewed education and left a wake of trauma. It is important for our research to take the history of trauma into account in order to address how the education system should be adapted considering its history of abuse.
“Recollets” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.
Hanson, Erin. “The Residential School System.” UBC Arts Indigenous Arts Foundation. Web. 5. Apr. 2014.
The Canadian government has attempted to back pedal in recent years in response to the destruction that the Indian Act left on Canadian First Nations. Specifically, the apologies and financial compensation from the Canadian government reflect the attempt to correct the negative impact that the residential school system had on First Nations culture, language, history and traditions. In February of this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a second attempt at tabling proposed changes to the First Nations Education Act. The proposed legislation gives First Nations control over their education system and “enables the incorporation of language and culture programming in the curriculum.”
This legislation was met with mixed reviews and feelings amongst First Nations peoples. Blood Tribe Chief Charles Weaselhead stated that “We agreed to host this national announcement, but in no way endorse the proposed legislation in its present form.” On the other hand, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo stated “Today is a victory for First Nations leaders and citizens who have for decades, indeed since the first generation of residential school survivors, called for First Nations control of First Nations education.” Prime Minister Harper hopes to have the tabled legislation approved and in effect at the beginning of the next school year.
This article tells us what the government is currently promising to do. It also illustrates that dialogue between the government and First Nations people is still fraught with problems. The government is introducing solutions without consulting with all First Nations bands and this should be changed in the future.
“Indian Act.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
Tailfeathers, Arnell. “Stephen Harper FNEA Announcement at Kainai.” YouTube. YouTube, 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.
There are several programs in Canada that are designed to bring more awareness to the history of the First Nations’ people and shape a better future for all Canadian citizens through education. Stephen Huddart and Erin Montour write about a few of these programs in their article, “Indigenous Partners, Nor Prisoners,” for the Globe and Mail online site. One such program is called the Stop Now and Plan program (SNAP). Their website explains what SNAP is principally about: “It is a cognitive-behavioural strategy that helps children and parents regulate angry feelings by getting them to stop, think, and plan positive alternatives before they act impulsively.” One advocate of SNAP is Bobby Crane, a Canadian indigenous youth who overcome a childhood plagued with behavioural problems through the fore-named program. Mr. Crane actually believed in the program so whole-heartedly he later became SNAP’s first youth leader-in-training and since has gone on to become a successful entrepreneur in Regina. Montour and Huddart write:“As Canada moves from a narrative of past failure to one of future possibilities, it is critical that we give more attention and support to these young leaders and the partnerships that sustain them.” The article also highlights two other important Indigenous educative initiatives: The re-shaping of Dechinta Bush University’s postsecondary education program and Youth Fusion. Erin Freeland Ballantyne and Kyla Kakfwi Scott whom Montour and Huddart inform us are: “one “settler” and one Dene” cofounded Dechinta Bush University near Yellowknife. They are working to better the Canadian curriculum regarding First Nations education by “…reshaping postsecondary education by integrating academic courses with traditional knowledge”(Montour and Huddart). In the same vein, Youth Fusion is is an award-winning charity founded by Gabriel Bran Lopez that establishes innovative partnerships between targeted schools, universities, and private companies in an effort to lower school dropout rates, by creating and implementing long-term projects that engage youth in learning and keep them interested in school (taken from their website). Montour and Huddart suggest that Youth Fusion has a special focus which, “….is reversing high school dropout rates in Quebec Cree and Inuit communities with university students who move there to work alongside local youths and educators to help make school relevant and interesting.”
It is initiatives like these that promise a deeper understanding of the true Canadian history and propel us into a more accepting and open future as a nation. This program illustrates for us some of the initiatives that are being taken to improve the education system for First Nations youth.
“The Stop Now and Plan Program” The Stop Now and Plan International Website. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.
Sterritt, Angela. “Dechinta” Dechinta Bush Univeristy: Learning off the Land. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.
“Youth Vision Organization.” Youth Vision Jeunesse. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.
Katie Hyslop is a reporter for the online publication, The Tyee. She is a graduate of UBC’s journalism program. She currently lives in British Columbia and writes about poverty and homelessness issues within the province.
The article examines ways in which the school experience for Canadian students may be improved upon. While initiatives for improving education for aboriginal students are on the increase there needs to be a significant evolution in what the rest of the country’s students learn about aboriginal culture.
Hyslop cites an online poll that asked Canadian citizens their opinions on the relationship between aboriginal people and the government. The findings were that most respondents thought that aboriginal people are treated well by the government and that they receive too much government funding. Yet the reality of the present situation of aboriginal communities in Canada is much different than public opinion would suggest. Debbie Jeffery, executive director of the First Nations Education Steering Committee in B.C. believes “that Canadians for the most part are in denial of their level of understanding” of aboriginal issues. Education is recommended as the best defense against ignorance yet the Ministry of Education has been slow to implement curricula that would improve B.C. education. Currently aboriginal courses are offered to most B.C. students as “optional” or “alternatives” to social studies or English. Aboriginal history is currently taught in bare facts, and is often one-sided, depicting aboriginals primarily as passive witnesses of Canadian history rather than as active citizens.
Students want increased aboriginal content in their curriculum at school. The slow implementation of the B.C. Ministry of Education’s re-vamped curriculum (which fails to mention changes to aboriginal content) has prompted some school districts to take matters into their own hands. School District 57, for example, has taken initiatives to “assign different aboriginal learning focuses to all five of their school ‘families’: a high school and all of its feeder schools.” The understanding and awareness fostered by this new approach to education “is what’s needed to restore the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples in Canada.” A number of post-secondary institutions, such as UBC, are also taking steps to recognize and improve aboriginal representation in their course selection and curricula.
This article is extremely important for our purposes because it addresses a number of short-comings with the current education system, offers steps for improvement, and examples of people who are currently working to intervene and implement revolutionary change. It also offers us the example of SD 57 which will allow us to further base our dialogue on that district’s ideas about how to foster understanding and awareness of aboriginal issues.
Anaya, James. “Statement upon Conclusion of the Visit to Canada.” United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, The United Nations. 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
Assembly of First Nations. Structural Transformation & Critical Investments in First Nations on the Path to Shared Prosperity: Pre-Budget Submission. 12 Aug. 2011. PDF File. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
B.C. Ministry of Education. “Overview to BC’s Curriculum Transformation Plans.” BC Ministry of Education. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
CBC News. “Living Conditions for First Nations ‘Unacceptable’: Fontaine.” CBC News, CBC. 6 Feb. 2007. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
Prime Minister of Canada’s Office. “PM Announces an Historic Agreement with the Assembly of First Nations to Reform the First Nations Education System.” Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. 7 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
“The Five Foci.” Aboriginal Education Department, School District No. 57. Feb. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
Sherlock, Tracy. “Draft B.C. Curriculum Redesign up for Discussion.” The Vancouver Sun, Sun Media. 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
Smith, Teresa. “Canadians think Government is too Generous with Aboriginals, Poll Says.” Postmedia News. 30 Jun. 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
At the time of publication, Verna J. Kirkness was Associate Professor Emerita at UBC. She is of Cree heritage and her work within the field of Aboriginal education spanned over four decades. She was the recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1994 and the Order of Canada in 1999.
Kirkness reviews two of her papers on education, “Indian Education: Past, Present, and Future” (1985), and “Our Peoples’ Education: Cut the Shackles, Cut the Crap and Cut the Mustard” (1998) to determine the issues and challenges that have led to the current approach to aboriginal education in Canada.
In “Indian Eduction: Past, Present, and Future,” Kirkness discusses the past, present and future of “Indian” education. In the past, aboriginal people had their own approach to education that was centered on the belief in the Great Spirit. Education was the responsibility of all adults in the community, and teachings addressed “the total being, the whole community, in the context of a viable, living culture” (16). Residential schools provided a basic, albeit harshly structured, education that was designed to prepare students for domestic, Christian life. Many children lost their lives in residential schools, and the livelihood of cultural traditions were severely threatened. Aboriginal society as a whole was weakened by residential schools which caused cultural conflict, alienation, poor self-concept, lack of preparation for jobs and life in general (16). Residential schools were replaced with a concept of integration which involved aboriginal youth attending public schools. Yet according to Kirkness, the schools did not truly integrate aboriginal culture with respect and recognition, rather they were more about assimilating aboriginal youth to non-aboriginal society. The result was evidence of “alienation and identity conflict” among aboriginal youth as a result of being “caught between two cultures…[the state of being] outside of, and between both [cultures]” (17). A one-sided view of history and knowledge has been presented to Canadian children. Kirkness recommended a Canadian history which “attaches honor to the customs, values, accomplishments and contributions of this country’s original inhabitants” (18). Reflecting on the paper, Kirkness identifies the ongoing problem of interjecting parts of aboriginal culture into curricula rather than basing curricula on culture.
In 1998 Kirkness wrote “Our Peoples’ Education: Cut the Shackles, Cut the Crap and Cut the Mustard.” In that paper she illuminates the traditional use of storytelling which featured “tricksters of learning” to educate children on the values of humility, honesty, courage, kindness, and respect. When this paper was written, little effort had been made to overall the curriculum of Canadian education. Kirkness recommended an ‘independence’ education that would honor aboriginal cultures including their values, languages, and contributions to Canadian progress. In her reflection on the later paper, Kirkness concludes that aboriginal education in Canada has been historically ineffective. Only recently (in 1999) had aboriginal people become involved in the design and delivery of aboriginal education.
Kirkness sees the prospective of aboriginal education as beginning with process rather than content. In her view, the whole community must be engaged to take ownership of contemporary aboriginal education. Only with the involvement and activism of the entire community can aboriginal education begin to be seen as a “holistic and cultural phenomenon” (29).
This article is tremendously important to our research in that it offers a recent historical perspective on how aboriginal education has involved. Kirkness’ juxtaposition of two articles written at different times emphasizes the broken promises of the Canadian government and the failure of Canadian society as a whole to honestly represent aboriginal culture in its educational institutions. Kirkness also highlights the psychological, structural, and societal repercussions of biased, ineffective educational institutions. This article is also important because of Kirkness’ own journey through Manitoban and British Columbian educational systems and her perspective as a First Nations woman.
“Aboriginal Programming.” Free The Children. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
Chief RedArrow. “Rolling Thunder Seeks a Message for Turtle Island: The Seven Laws of the Great Spirit.” Bird Clan of East Central Alabama. 27 Jul. 2004. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
Kennedy, Mark. “Stephen Harper’s First Nation Education Act Might Continue Assimilation, Shawn Atleo Says.” Postmedia News, Canada.com. 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
Murdoch-Gibson, Sebastian. “Residential School Syndrome.” The Argus: The Student Voice of Lakehead. 1 Mar. 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
“Residential School Basics.” Indian Residential School Resources. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
Visser, Baj. “‘Trickster Spirit’ to Entice Aboriginal Youth.” The Calgary Journal. 1 Mar. 2011. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
Levin, Ben. “Aboriginal Education Still Needs Work.” The Phi Delta Kappan 90.9 (2009): 689-90. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Levin discusses the state of aboriginal education in Canada in 2009. He sadly reports that: “Education outcomes for Aboriginal people lag significantly behind overall Canadian norms. For example, in 2006 nearly 40% of Aboriginal people in Canada had not completed secondary school, compared with just over 20% of the total population”(689). Although this may seem like a failure at first glance, he claims that educational attainment has actually seen an increase over the past twenty years: “A generation ago, Canada had hardly any Aboriginal college or university graduates; now, there are thousands. The proportion of Aboriginal people who are high school graduates has grown from 54% to 66% in the last decade”(689). These statistics bode well for the continued improvement of our Canadian education systems in coming years. As more aboriginal citizens seek higher education, Canada should increase its aboriginal content in its educational curriculum by introducing more classes that focus on First Nation culture to support this growth. As much as we can hope for a brighter future for aboriginal youths, we have to work for it and recognize the socioeconomic factors holding children back from getting a better education, as Levin says: “Many of these communities [First Nations reserves] continue to suffer from poor housing, lack of fresh water, lack of infrastructure, lack of employment, and the associated problems of substance abuse and depression”(689). Although education rates are improving, they are by no means an indication of a full resolution.
This article presents a statistical assessment of the current education system and how it is affecting aboriginal youth. This is important for our research topic as it outlines some of the issues with the education system while also presenting positive improvements that are being made.
Faries, Emily. “Closing the Gap for Aboriginal Students.” Government of Canada Educational Research Board. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Noel, Alain. “Aboriginal Peoples and Poverty in Canada: Can Provincial Governments Make a Difference?” Département de Science Politique Université de Montréal. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Robyn Smith is a graduate of the UBC Journalism program and now writes for The Tyee, the CBC, and other publications. Olemaun, also known as Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, is the co-author of the children’s book Fatty Legs.
As a child, Olemaun begged to be allowed to attend residential school in Aklavik, Northwest Territories because she so badly wanted to learn how to read. She spent two years at residential school where she endured bullying from caregivers, an education aimed at eradicating her Inuvialuit knowledge. A cruel nun at Olemaun’s school called her Fatty Legs and Olemaun responded by characterizing the nun as the Raven and by standing up to her tormentors. Olemaun’s triumph in the face of the adversarial residential school system is encouraging for children and adults, non-aborginal and aboriginal alike.
Fatty Legs has been welcomed by teachers trying to fill a void in teaching resources for the topic of residential schools. Although there is greater acknowledgement in recent years that residential schools need to be in the curriculum there is a lack of resources to facilitate education. Pokiak-Fenton and her daughter and co-writer, Christy Jordan-Fenton, have now written a sequel to Fatty Legs called A Stranger at Home that documents what happened when she returned home from residential school.
Pokiak-Fenton is now writing a picture book for younger children to aid their education of the impact that residential schools had on aboriginal families, roots, and language.
This article is important for our dialogue on aboriginal education because books that tackle the uncomfortable subject of the systematic abuse of aboriginals in stories that engage children are an important tool for the education system. Pokiak-Fenton is a good example of ways in which the injustice of residential schools may be countered and overcome. The success of Fatty Legs demonstrates that there is a need for this kind of Canadian literature. It also demonstrates the power of oral storytelling and how it can be successfully adapted to a book format.
AnnickPress. “Fatty Legs Book Trailer.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 22 Dec. 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
“Fatty Legs: A True Story.” Annick Press. Annick Press, 2014. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
Fleming, Samantha. Raven in Mythology. 1998. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
Quill, Greg. “Residential School Memoir Fatty Legs Signals a Future for First Nations Literature.” The Star.com, 25 Feb. 2012. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.
Shapka, Megan.”A Moment with Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton.” The Word on the Street: Lethbridge Book & Magazine Festival, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.
J.D.M. Stewart writes about the importance of education in re-shaping our future understanding of aboriginal history. Thus far our attempts have centered around the Truth and Reconciliation Commission who work towards this goal to mend the relations between aboriginal and non-aborignal citizens of Canada: “There is an emerging and compelling desire to put the events of the past behind us so that we can work towards a stronger and healthier future.” The TRC recently held its last national event Sunday in Edmonton in which it stated the healing of the past begins with the education of the future: “After following the commission’s work and reading its documents carefully, it is clear that the TRC believes education is one of the keys to meaningful reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.”
This quote by TRC commissioner Wilton Littlechild echoes the importance of the education of Canadian children in broadening our understanding of aboriginal culture and brightening our future (precisely what our topic is focused on):
“Once children in Canada, not just young children but also the critical age of the teenagers and the early university grouping, know that history, I think it will be very significant in terms of changing Canada for the better.”
– TRC Commissioner Wilton Littlechild
“Our Mandate.” Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2014.
Stewart, J.D.M. “Education is the best path to reconciliation on residential schools.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.