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P.A. Residence...Who Speaks For Indians?...Centre Of Controversy

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JANUARY 1973      v03 n01 p06  
It seems whenever Indian people wish to progress and move ahead there
are those among us who insist on dragging their feet and lose confidence in their own people.

Such is the case of the Indian council of the Diocese of Saskatchewan for the Anglican church.

It has been common knowledge for sometime now that an all Indian Board of Directors would be set up and a number of changes made.

At the Prince Albert District Chiefs meeting on December 12-13-14, the Chiefs formed a board of directors to take over the control of the school.

In their brief the Indian clergy stated that they felt the Indian people were not ready to take over control of the residence and that if they did it would not remain a Christian Institution.

"We believe that we are speaking for the people on the reserve when we maintain that the connection of the residence with the Anglican Church must be preserved. We believe that the people on the reserves want the present arrangements to continue for sometime to come. The parents of the children, especially those on the Northern reserves, support the residence because of the church connection. They wish their children to be brought up in devotion to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. If the church connection is severed many parents would no longer allow their children to go to the residence. We believe that we are speaking for the people when we say that we wish the present arrangement which provides for an Anglican chaplain to be continued whether or not the Indian people take over the administration of the residence."

The question of who speaks for the Indian people was quickly answered when the chiefs took over and formed their own board of directors.

The church's tactics of trying to divided the people failed to work this time.

Actually it was not entirely the church's fault. Although the brief was typed up on an Anglican church letterhead and supported by Bishop Short, the person behind the brief was school administrator, Dave Lawson.

He is the one person who stands to lose the most with an Indian takeover. In the past six years that he occupied his present position he has consistently not taken the students' best interests into consideration.

For example, the gymnasium is not available to Indian children most week days, but rather is being used by children from Prince Albert. The home atmosphere is severely lacking and while the new facilities are very nice the children are not allowed to play inside since they might damage the showplaces.

The children prefer to stay in the old barracks because there they can at least enjoy themselves.

While Mr. Lawson has gone out to impress the white community, he has left the Indian children out of his fine sounding plans.

Does the church really stand to lose? The chiefs who now form the board of directors are religious men. Both Gilbert Bird from Montreal Lake and Miles Venne from La Ronge are staunch members of the Anglican church and it appears highly unlikely that the church will be cast aside in the wake of a takeover by a bunch of "heathen Indians".

A few years ago the boarding schools were to be phased out. Indian people weren't consulted (as usual) and they wanted them to remain. Our people saw a potential for those schools beyond the regular boarding school concept. Their facilities can be adult education centres, training centres or residences for high school and University students. While the Indian people fought to retain them they saw virtually no support from the white community. Now that we are taking over the residences and cry comes up from the white community that we aren't ready.

At the present time child care workers are trained at Calgary where they are trained "to cope with disturbed children!" This is the common failing of nonIndians. Just because we are Indians they feel we are different or "disturbed" Indian children in all schools are channeled into remedial classes or technical programs.

Child care workers in the future will be trained at the F.S.I. Cultural College in Saskatoon and the emphasis of the training will be on practical experience.

Federal employees have little to worry about anyway. C.U.P.E. (Canadian Union of Public Employees) will fight for its members and new jobs will be found. Civil Servants are well taken care of now. Will the non-Indian staff be fired? Rumors circulating around the province all point to a purging of all non-Indian staff. These are the types of rumors which are started by people who foster the idea that Indian control means reverse racism. Indian control means simply that Indians take over the responsibility of their own education. Any non-Indian who is doing a good job need not worry about his job security.

The church brief states, "we are concerned that preliminary to assuming the responsibility for the administration of the residence by the chiefs, several Indian people should be assigned to the staff of the residence for a period of years to learn under the direction of the administrator the skills necessary for its efficient operation." "A period of years," is far too long. Indian people are perfectly capable of taking over the residence immediately. In fact they should have years ago. If everybody fostered such a cautious attitude, we would still be living in caves.

Last fall Dave Seeseequasis started training with the school administrator at Duck Lake student Residence. This April 1st, he will take over.

The trend today is for Indian people to take over a larger amount of control over their lives. Education and the bringing up of the children is one area that has suffered the most. The church has a long tradition of supposedly helping the underdog and pressing for racial reform. It will be very sad and a black mark against the church if they continue to stand in the way of progress.

Children at play Children at play on the school grounds