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Special Rights In Education

From our research it is quite evident that the Indian people of Saskatchewan are guaranteed special rights in education by treaties that were signed by their forefathers and the official spokesmen of the federal government of Canada. As an example, the Qu'Appelle Treaty, by which 75,000 square miles of Indian land was given up by Indians to the federal government, provided:

Further, Her Majesty agrees to maintain a school in the reserve, allotted to each band, as soon as they settle on such reserve and are prepared for a teacher.

In addition, during the negotiations of the treaties, representatives of the government made clear statements that the federal government of Canada would always provide education to the Indian people. For example, at the signing of the Qu'Appelle Treaty, it was stated:

Whenever you go to a reserve, the Queen will be ready to give you a school and school master.

and further;

The Queen wishes her red children to learn the cunning of the white man and when they are ready for it she will send school masters on every reserve and pay tem.

With regard to the treaties at Forts Carleton and Pitt, it was recorded that:

The Indians, in these two treaties, displayed a strong desire for instruction in farming, and appealed for the aid of Missionaries and teachers.

The latter the Commissioners promised...

As a result of such promises it is certain that the federal government of Canada made itself responsible for providing education to the treaty Indians of Canada. Furthermore, this undertaking was made for all time:

... the promises we have to make to you are not for today only, but for tomorrow, not only for your children, born and unborn, and the promises we will make will be carried out as long as the sun shines above and the water flows in the ocean.

The British North America Act also states that the Indians and Indian lands are totally under the jurisdiction of the federal government. As a consequence of this, the Parliament of Canada enacted the Indian Act to cover government relationships with the Indians, and made a federal minister responsible for all aspects of Indian education. Thus, though the education of other Canadians is under the authority of provincial governments, the position of Indian education is special in this respect. In other words, the federal government is solely responsible for carrying out obligations for the satisfaction of Indians rights to education - rights that were guaranteed by virtue of treaty transactions.

The Rights of Parents

According to common law, parents have the right to decide the manner in which their children are to be educated. The Declaration of Human Rights, which is supported by Canada, also grants this right to parents.

This point is well put by F.G. Carter, an authority in law, who says,

"I do think it is important to remember that the schools are merely the agents of the parents. The parent has the prime right of the bringing up and the instruction of the child, having the right to say how the child shall be educated, and the schools are merely the agents of the parent."

Special Rights In Education

Thus, the Indian people have the right to demand that like the rest of parents in this country they should have control over the education of their children in schools and universities. Such control should be formally handled by their elected representatives: The Chief and Band Council.

Language Instruction

The House Standing Committee for Indian Education in its report of June 30, 1971, recommended:

that the language of instruction at the pre-school level and up to the first or second year of primary school should be in the language of the local Indian or Eskimo community with secondary and tertiary languages English and/or French being introduced gradually through the pre-school and primary period and that courses linked to the local Indian or Eskimo culture continue to be taught in the local language throughout the primary level of school.

In addition to this, we propose that the Indian language should be taught by Indian instructors with the language being their mother tongue. Also, Indian cultural subjects should continue to be taught in the native language at the secondary level as well. We also recommend that if the language of the community is English, but the parents express a wish that their original Indian language should be revived and taught to their children, then that language should be taught as a secondary language at pre-school, elementary, and secondary levels.

We believe that the survival of Indian identity and culture are closely linked with Indian language. Therefore, we strongly suggest that the Department of Indian Affairs should grant appropriate funds for the training of Indian language instructors, and for the providing of Indian language teaching in Indian schools.

Transfer of Education

In 1968, the Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development received authorization from Parliament to enter into agreements with local school boards for the transfer of Indian education from the federal level to the provincial system. This was in direct violation of treaty contracts which made the federal government responsible for Indian education.

Furthermore, according to the British North America Act Indian education is within the exclusive jurisdiction of federal parliament. Therefore, the Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has no legal power to transfer that respnsibility to the provincial level. Finally, the transfer agreements were planned and carried out without giving the Band Councils concerned proper opportunity to consider the matter.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indians which is the legitimate democratic representative of the Indians of the province was not even aware of the change. It is no exaggeration to say that the transfer was being managed in a stealthy and underhanded manner.

In view of the above, the transfer of Indian education to the provinces is considered illegal by the Indian people, and by demand from Saskatchewan Indians, through the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, further transfers have been stopped. In addition, we are asking that agreements which have already been made should be opened up for review so that the communities concerned may have the opportunity to express their views on the subject properly.

Quoted from a paper prepared by the F.S.I.'s Indian Cultural College.

Two Young First Nations School Children


"Insofar as the case law now stands, it can first be stated that the courts have decided that provincial game laws do not apply to Indian reserves.

"Secondly, the Migratory Birds Convention Act and other federal legislation apply to Indians on or off the reserves."

"Thirdly, federal legislation overrides Indian treaties.

"However, and this may be stated as the fourth point, provincial laws are without contradiction subject to the terms of any Indian treaty.

"Fifthly, provincial game legislation is subject to the Natural Resources Agreements with Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta which were confirmed by the British North American Act in 1930.

"On the other hand, the Supreme Court of Canada recently decided that the same resource agreements which assured the Indians the right to hunt and fist for food on unoccupied Crown lands in the prairie provinces, were subject to the provisions of the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

"Sixthly, the preponderance of jurisprudence is to the effect that in the absence of a treaty, federal-provincial agreement or federal laws, provincial game and fish laws apply to Indians off the reserve."

Quoted from "Wither The Indian" by James A. O'Reilley, a paper prepared for the Civil Liberties Section of the Canadian Bar Society in 1969.