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'Trends In Indian Education': Problems Clarified At Conference

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 15 1975      v05 n07 p06  
Saskatoon - “The objective of this conference is to get information out about Indian Education Programs and to make clear some of the misunderstandings that have developed between the Indian people and the many different government agencies,” said Chief Sol Sanderson in his opening speech at the 'Trends in Indian Education' Conference held recently.

The conference was jointly sponsored by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association (SSTA), the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (DIAND) and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (FSI). Approximately 50 people were present to discuss and listen to the proposals and problems involved in Indian Education. Among those present was Dr. J. Egnatoff, President (SSTA); Mr. J. Freeman, Acting Director of Education (DIAND); and Chief Sol Sanderson, First Vice - President (FSI).

Five main topics of major concern were outlined and discussed. Chief Sanderson expressed the concern about having the same people attending most of the Indian controlled seminars that will be held in various districts throughout Saskatchewan. "It is these same people that have continued to work together in the development of Indian Education in Saskatchewan." He added that, "It is quite clear that there is still a great deal of confusion about what is really going on in Indian Education. In support the Federation has presented the Federal government with a well outlined document on the urgent need for education facilities and money for program development for Indians in Saskatchewan."

Legislative Power for Indian Education

One of the main concerns discussed was in the area of legislative power for Indian Education. John McLeod, Education Liaison Co-ordinator, Sask. Indian Cultural College, pointed out that, "Previously federal and provincial governments met and made out legislative agreements in regards to tuition, capital costs and all other expenses involved with Indian education. The federal government in turn gives money to the various provincial school boards not really caring or knowing where the money is spent."

Members of the group pointed out that there was a growing feeling that it should be the Indian Bands, through an elected educational committee, who should be conducting these negotiations in regards to funding in Indian education.

Mr. McLeod, in support, said, "It would be in order to amend certain legislations on the provincial level giving this power to each Band. Legislation allowing Indian Bands to have their own school boards would enable them to meet with the district board in their area and in turn the provincial board giving Indian people some say in Indian education. Legislation of this sort would give each Band some power to negotiate with their district school boards and would be able to make known their own special education needs."

Federal Developments in Indian Education

Nick Loslo, (DIAND), spoke for his group with regard to federal developments in Indian education. "Normally, education is a provincial duty according to the British North America Act, but the Act also says that Indians and the lands reserved for Indians is a federal duty. Therefore, all matters in dealing with Indians, of which education is a part, is a federal duty. The federal government, in turn, created an act especially to deal with Indian people, in other words, the Indian Act."

He added that many difficulties were always created in that, "The power for making decisions about Indian education is directed to the Minister of Indian Affairs who passes on his duties to other members of his staff." He mentioned that Indian people felt "Indian Bands should be the people who carry out this duty and that all things listed, that this power of the minister, should be handed over to Indian Band education boards."

The point of view of Indians was made quite clear as Mr. Loslo stated, "The basic problems is that Indian people have a totally different viewpoint on Indian education, than does the minister and the whole government as well. As a result, Indian people often have to do things they do not want to do and being able to get a proper education is also part of this."

Provincial Developments in Indian Education

Another seminar group dealt with the special concern of whether or not the provincial government should have the authority to legislate on the education of Indian people. Norman Bell, (SSTA), chairman for the group, pointed out that, "This was one of the problems being caused at the federal government headquarters on purpose to frustrate the movement in Indian education."

"It is felt that if the federal government were to pass on such power to the provincial government, that this power would seriously deteriorate Indian status, in fact, the special right of Indian people to get a proper education," said Mr. Bell and added, "The province from many opinions, both legal and otherwise, does not have the constitutional power to legislate for Indian people."

Programs in Indian Education

A summary of the programs currently being taught at the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College and the required funding for the further development of additional programs was brought out as another major concern of Indian education.

Osborne Turner, Community Education Co-ordinator, chairman for this group, in support of the programs currently being offered, pointed out that, "The Cultural College is geared toward the supplying of the educational needs of each Band and Band member," and that, "The programs being developed are as a result of needed instructors in Indian Education as expressed by the Band councils."

Current programs, such as the Indian Teachers Education Program, the Indian Social Workers Education Program, Indian Art, Indian Music and Extension Services, as well as the Audio-Visual Services were discussed and recommended for further development to meet with the increased demand by different Bands and other educational institutions.

Mr. Turner explained that, "The Curriculum Development for the College deals mainly with Indian History - from the time when Indians migrated from Asia to the first contact with the Europeans, right up to the present day."

History of Indian Education

Chief Sol Sanderson was chairman for the group expressing the concern about the History of Indian Education. Chief Sanderson pointed out that, "The government in the past adopted a de-tribalization policy outlawing many of the traditions of Indian people. Restricted legislation for Band Councils was passed and all Indian people were told that they could only have some form of Christian or European education." He outlined the many frustrations passed on to the Indian people as a result of the many government policies that had been passed on Indian education such as the '19747 Plan - to do away with Canada's Indian problem in 25 years' and the '1969 White Paper Policy'.

Chief Sanderson pointed out that. "The Indian people are now making many long term plans in the areas for providing a proper education and better education facilities for all Indians."

He pointed out that, "it is important that the Department of Education take note of this trend that they try to look at the over-all effects of many of the education plans they have at present."

He also pointed out that, "it is possible to compare the qualifications and abilities of our College staff with any other College staff in Saskatchewan."

The success of the conference in pointing out the need for better Indian education and the importance of present Indian education programs is still unknown.

In his closing remarks, Chief Sanderson added, "It is the hope of the Indian people to have people live together as well as have their children raised in a community where they are respected and are able to get along."

Chief Sol Sanderson
Chief Solomon Sanderson, chairing discussions on "History of Indian Education".
Osbourne Turner, Community Education Coordinator
Osborne Turner, Community Education Coordinator, explaining programs being taught at the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College.
Dr. Egnatoff, President of the Saskatchewan School Trustee Association
Dr. Egnatoff, President of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, addressing the delegates before they broke into groups.
John McCleod, and Clive Linklater
[Left] John McLeod, Education Liaison Coordinator and Clive Linklater, Vice-President of the National Indian Brotherhood discussing legislative power for Indian Education.