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Cutbacks Hit Hard On Post Secondary Students

Vice-Chief, Dutch E. Lerat

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      FALL 1987      p08  
This fall, some 200 Indian students Will not be attending post-secondary education even though they had made their plans and qualified for their chosen course of study.

Indian Affairs has moved from a ~demand based' post-secondary assistance program to a program based on quotas.

In his annual report, Vice-Chief Dutch Lerat states:

"The Federal Government is busily proceeding with implementation of the Neilson Task Report [the Buffalo Jump Report] wherein our Treaty Rights to Education and other services are scheduled for erosion and ultimate elimination. We are seeing this most forcefully at present with the capping of post-secondary resources. All of a sudden our students, who previously enjoyed the right to 'demand based' Post-secondary assistance, are being forced to line up for the assistance. Our students are being herded like buffalo to fight for capped or limited dollars. The Federal Government is now saying they will furnish assistance to only a limited number of students. The joy our students feel in graduating from high school is now to be followed by the frustration of learning that they may have to wait in line for months or years to obtain access to our basic Treaty rights to full education."

The issue has united the Indian political world like no issue in recent memory.

In August, the Alexander Tribal Government in Alberta, hosted a National Indian Education Symposium. This meeting was attended by Educators, Elders, parents, students, concerned individuals and politicians, most notably the leaders of the Prairie Treaty Nations Alliance, the Assembly of First Nations, and numerous Chiefs of concerned Bands.

The meeting was called to discuss the implementation of the new policy on capping post-secondary resources, disbursing in-school resources via formula, and special education inadequacies.

Following the meeting, spokesperson Adele Arcand and FSIN Education Coordinator, Carole Sanderson, presented the following statements to the Executive planning committee of the Department of Indian Affairs, Ottawa.

"Indian Education is viewed by Indians as an inherent right, that is the key to Indian resurgence and self- determination. This conviction was best expressed in the National Indian Brotherhood Policy Statement on Indian Control of Indian Education issued in 1972 and formally given official recognition as federal policy by the minister on February 2, 1973."

"Indian Education is without doubt, the dearest right of all those rights that our people have retained and protected. It is evident that policy adjustments are not sensitive to the powder-keg of emotion associated with this particular right. The diminishment of the Education right is an action that suggests the Government of Canada fails to realize the risks involved, let alone the obvious poor judgement in terms of investment. Canada faces the option of investing resources in Indian Education now or paying the penalty

Cutbacks Hit Hard On Post Secondary Students

Vice-Chief, Dutch E. Lerat

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      FALL 1987      p09  
for its shortsightedness in years to come."

"We come before you, concerned that our people have taken comfort in the Prime Minister's assurance that the Neilson Report is not policy and that it will not be implemented. Furthermore, the Prime Minister strengthened his commitments at the conclusion of the last First Ministers' Conference where he promised Indians and in fact, the Canadian public that he would increase his efforts to enhance Indian self-determination."

"We face a contradiction and if it persists, the current crisises will escalate. It is our intention to present to you the gravity of the problems and to state our position as to the necessary actions required to stem the crisises."

"It is evident that hundreds of students are being denied entry this year to various institutions. We wish to assert the need for suspending the post-secondary resource capping so as to permit these students immediate entry. Furthermore, we must agree to a moratorium being placed on the implementation of 'Budget and Program Changes for Indian Post-Secondary Education' as announced on May 14, 1987 by the Honourable William McKnight in his communique. This moratorium must be upheld pending full discussions and concurrence with our people. Such agreement must reflect the protection of our rights."

This statement was presented also to other politicians and officials and this work is being done in tandem with District Chiefs offices to increase pressure. Our District/Agency/Tribal Councils have assumed the lead in this issue with campaigns of telegrams, telexes, letters, phone calls and other active measures to highlite their concern. At the start of their campaign, over 300 students were being denied their treaty right to education. At the time of this writing, these efforts have achieved reduction of these numbers by close to 100 students. The efforts of Bands and District/Agency/Tribal Councils in raising the profile this crisis is most commendable and show the merit of quick and organized response to an issue of Treaty Abrogation. Particular credit is due to Chief Sam Bunnie and the Saskatchewan Indian Education Council for their attention to this crisis. Credit is also due to Chief Crowe and the Executive for bringing this issue to the forefront.