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The Saskatchewan Indians were very concerned about developments in Indian education in 1970. At that time, agreement had been reached without proper consultation with the Indian people, to transfer control of education in northern Saskatchewan from the federal to the provincial government. At the same time, Chief David Ahenakew and his staff had uncovered a memorandum of agreement stating control of education in Saskatchewan would be transferred to the provincial government shortly.
As a result, the Education Task Force was established to do research which would eventually lead to providing a firm basis for recommending and implementing improvements within the educational system of Saskatchewan for the benefit of Indian people.
In his remarks, Mr. Soonias said: "White children are always a few grades ahead of the Indian children. The White child starts school at an early age, learns to be proud, goes on to complete his grade twelve because the educational system is geared and structured for him."
The Task Force found that 94% of Indian students do not complete Grade 12 and the drop out rate peaks between Grades 4 and 6.
"The Indian child commences school at a later age, he has to learn another language, and the culture he learns from birth does not prepare him for the white educational system he has to go through," Mr. Soonias said. "The Indian child is faced with discrimination, he learns to be ashamed of his culture as well as his identity. Therefore, he can only go up to a certain level before he is rejected, he does not know where to turn to, and as a result, he is brought down again," Mr. Soonias said.
Mr. Soonias also said that an Indian student is forced to struggle and live with an image. "An Indian enrolls in a technical institute and in most cases you will find him taking courses in carpentry, brick laying, etc. You look at a white student, you find enrolled in dentistry, office administration, law, etc."
Mr. Soonias stated: "The main findings of the Task Force is the Indian people must be involved in the education of their children, and they must have control of education for their children to be able to go in a new direction and bring about the birth of a new era in Indian education in Saskatchewan."