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Special Report: Indian Education

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      NOVEMBER 1974      v06 n09 p15  
Saskatoon - Indian efforts to gain control of Indian education are being strangled by a lack of funds and becoming bogged down in the resistance of civil servants at all levels. As a result, nearly 1,000 Indian children in this province are missing school altogether and many more are having to cope with the poorest of physical facilities.

The great promises inherent in government acceptance of the National Indian Brotherhood's "Indian Control of Indian Education" policy have been thwarted by arrogant officials who flagrantly disregard both the direction of Indians and their own government, and whom seem intent on destroying the initiative and determination of Indian people.

Bleak Picture

Such was the bleak picture painted for Indian Affairs Minister Judd Buchanan during his recent tour of western Canada and he was asked by the Indian leaders presenting the views to step in and give firm direction to his staff to overcome the problems.

Education dominated a meeting with Mr. Buchanan here Oct.11 as the education committees from Thunderchild, James Smith, Muskeg Lake, La Ronge and File Hills all presented the minister with briefs detailing their bands needs. [see related stories this issue]

F.S.I. vice - president Solomon Sanderson also presented the minister a long list of specific changes and examples where civil servants have hindered Indian people in their efforts to carry out the letter and spirit of the Indian Control of Education policy.

Many of the department's action appear to be deliberate harassment as for example when department officials delay decentralizing funds to bands in order for them to meet payrolls and when they delay paying legitimate bills contracted by bands, Mr. Sanderson said.

Nearly 1,000 Indian children are missing school altogether and many more are coping with the poorest of physical facilities
"The effect of this on employee's morale is that their efficiency and degree of dedication to the job is lowered administrators find themselves in the position of having to hire fellow Indians without feeling secure in the knowledge they will be able to meet payroll requirements."

"The consistency and extent of these problems can only be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to frustrate the initiative of Indian bands."

Solomon Sanderson
Solomon Sanderson

Interpretations of policy by officials can differ from district to district and even from band to band in the province, Mr. Sanderson said. The problems, for instance, encountered by the Thunderchild Band in its efforts to obtain a school for that reserve, point up the arbitrary manner in which decisions are made in the department and their insistence on determining "what is right" for Indians, he said.

Programs Cancelled

In August, regional director Orest Zakreski unilaterally cancelled the adult upgrading on reserves program, the noon-lunch program reduced education assistance and placed a moratorium on band staffing, yet "we have observed the continual growth of the Department of Indian Affairs the increase in their personnel's salaries, the increase in their administrative costs and yet the only alternative pursued by the department to reduce costs was to attack those programs initiated and controlled by Indian people or to cancel those programs that fundamentally affect the success of Indian children in the school system."

Instead of joint action between Indian people and the department to solve the problems of education, "we have been forced into psychological warfare games."

"The dialogue is dead, the thoughts that a new approach was to be developed, that the concept that Indian people were to be freed from past bondages has been but a false hope," Mr. Sanderson said.