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Cultural College

Director: Rodney Soonias

Three years ago, in 1969, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians presented the Department of Indian Affairs a proposal for a Cultural College. In that proposal, the Federation emphasized that the cultural institution it had in mind was not of the typical North American variety, one which gathered crowds of young people into expensive structures of mortar and pounded into them, skills, that would ensure the continued existence of a technological society. We were recommending the setting up of a college that would carry its function to where the students were. More important yet, the college we visualized was not to bend its efforts in instructing people to create better and better machines. It was to be a college that would focus its work on human beings and help people to become better men and women. To achieve such a goal, the college would set up research and training programs to revive and advance Indian culture. For example, Indian music and dance art would be given a chance to develop so that Indian people might, once again, experience some of the joy and beauty that their ancestors knew; or the Indian people may once again know the spirituality that enabled their forefathers to live in harmony with their natural surroundings.

Further we felt that a cultural college would encourage and train Indian students to research the areas of Indian history, anthropology and sociology so that they could portray a picture of Indian society, both in the past and in the present, that was a little closer to the truth than is to he seen in books published by white writers and Hollywood movies. It was also suggested that the dismal plight of Indian education might be remedied if Indian children could be taught by teachers of their own race who share their feelings and thoughts and experiences.

We felt that such a college was needed by the Indian people, that it made sense and we asked for money to set it up. Some token money was made available, and the Federation attempted for a couple of years to operate a Cultural College with those meager funds. However, we are pleased to report that this year the Federation has finally succeeded in persuading government to see the light of reason and grant funds to the extent of $500,000. For the operation of a college that purports to reach Indian communities all over Saskatchewan, do research in fields that have been neglected so far, assist in training of teachers for Indian schools, act as watchdog to ensure a good quality of education in Indian schools, and finance continuing research in education generally, $500,000.00 is not really very much money. Yet, a start is being made.

The Indian Cultural College would consist of four major components:
(1) Culture Centre
(2) Community Education
(3) Action Centre
(4) Teacher Training
(1) Culture Centre

The Culture Centre would institute an extensive research program on various aspects of Indian culture, e.g., music, dance, painting, sculpture, folklore and Indian religion. The research program would also spread to the fields of anthropology, archaeology, sociology, history and politics, to compile authentic and interesting accounts of Indian past in Canada, with special concentration on the Saskatchewan area. Furthermore, the Culture Centre would arrange for the distribution of its research work to the Indian people and through necessary incentives bring about a renaissance of cultural activity among the Indian people of Saskatchewan.

(2) Community Education

It seems quite evident that educational programs developed in Canada are intended to train people to cope with a technological-urban way of life. All Indians of Saskatchewan do not live in cities, nor, indeed, do they feel any temptation to absorb elements of a culture caught in the vicious cycle of production and consumption. Hence, for social and environmental reasons, the educational needs of many Indian communities are quite different from those of urban-oriented Canadian society. To fulfill these needs, the Community Education section of the Indian Cultural College plans to assess the educational needs of our communities and with their cooperation develop programs for their education.

(3) Action Centre

The Action Centre will have the dual function of analyzing all aspects of the school system for Indian children and implement swift action to improve the quality of education for Indian children. This work will require examination of existing school curricula, textbooks being currently used, teaching methods, parent-teacher relationships and guidance counselling in schools. In fact, it will mean being concerned with everything that affects the education of children. It is expected that in carrying out this work, the Action Centre would act in cooperation with school committees, the Department of Indian Affairs and teacher-training programs.

(4) Teacher-Training Program

This program is attempting a bold and new idea to train teachers suited to the emotional, cultural and academic needs of Indian children. Candidates for this training program would be selected by the Indian communities; the criterion for selection would not be just academic standing but would also include suitability of the individual for teaching in Indian schools. The training of the teachers would consist partly of university classes and partly of extensive practicum work in specially-selected Indian schools. The practicum work would be conducted under the guidance of competent teachers from the schools, and the best available Indian and non-Indian educationalists who would be visiting the student-teachers quite frequently. The course-work of the Teacher-Training Program would emphasize particularly study of subjects of special significance for Indian children, e.g., Indian culture, history and psychology. The whole program would operate in conjunction with the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Campus, under the direction of an Indian Coordinator.

Furthermore, there will be three service sections which will provide various services to all four components in the Cultural College:
(1) Administrative and Support
(2) Library and Technical Services
(3) Research and Consultative Services

(1) Administrative and Support Services Section

Will handle all finances for the Cultural College. This will include such things as payment of salaries, rental of office space and vehicles, purchase of materials, and maintenance of records.

The Administrative Officer in charge of this section will report directly to the Director of the College, and will work closely with the Coordinators of each of the four components.

(2) Data Bank Material of the Indian Rights Research Project and the Education Task Force

It is suggested that, for the time being, equipment such as video-tape, photography, tape-recording, etc., could be coordinated through this section. This will ensure that equipment which will be needed by different components and programs can be stored and managed by one central clearinghouse.

(3) The Research and Consultative Section

Will be available to assist the Director and the Coordinators of the different components in carrying out their work.

Director: Rodney Soonias