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National Review Of First Nations Education

Doug Cuthand

The goals of the National Review were to examine the impact of the 1973 Indian Control of Indian Education policy; to review existing research material; examine First Nations Education in light of current constitutional amendments and to recommend improved education policy and relationships between First Nations and the Government of Canada.

The National Review was designed to analyze four aspects of First Nations education. They were to analyze the areas of jurisdiction, quality, management and the resourcing of First Nations Education. The recommendations have been broken down according to the four areas as follows:


The report states that the right of First Nations to resume jurisdiction over education affecting First Nations students in federal, First Nations, and public schools must be recognized by all levels of government.

Education which is an inherent and treaty right, must be under full First Nations jurisdiction. The legislative, executive and judicial authority of First Nations or their designates must be acknowledged by all other governments. The Federal Government however, must retain its role as a funding source.

First nations must make known their definition of jurisdiction and of First nations education. Jurisdiction is defined as an inherent right of First Nations to exercise authority, develop policies and laws, and control finances and other resources for the education of their citizens. The research recommends that any definition of First Nations education would incorporate a First Nation philosophy of education, languages and cultures.

In 1984, the Assembly of First Nations began a five-year review of First Nations Education. When complete, the final product will consist of fourteen volumes and provide an in-depth picture of the state of Indian Control of Indian Education.

Principles underlying the definition must be outlined by First Nations and acknowledged by federal, provincial and territorial governments. The Canadian public must have the opportunity to be made aware of and support the educational goals of First Nations.

The right to self government must be entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. Constitutional recognition of the inherent aboriginal right of First Nations to exercise jurisdiction over First Nations education from preschool to post-secondary and adult education will enhance the ability of the Government of Canada to deal with First Nations on a government-to-government basis.

Another proposed action includes legislative amendments to the Indian Act, providing full authority to First Nations to enter into contracts with other levels of government. Any new legislation affecting First Nations education must be flexible so as to respect the diversity among First Nations. First Nations must develop their own national and local education policies which would reflect their philosophy, cultural beliefs and practices.

Relevant policies for First Nations people residing temporarily or permanently outside their community must be developed by First Nations. In a planned and measured fashion, First Nations will assume jurisdiction over all education programs from pre-school to post-secondary and adult education.

For the betterment and promotion of education, the federal government must provide the necessary resources for First Nations to establish and maintain national and regional educational institutions.

Recognition must be given to the right of each First Nation to participate in negotiations affecting the education of their children, particularly when tuition, capital, general and other agreements are negotiated. A formal process must be developed and enforced in all school systems to guarantee First Nations and parental involvement with education authorities, from pre-school boards to post-secondary boards of governors.

Where necessary, provincial and territorial governments must make legislative changes to accommodate this requirement. All school systems federal, First Nations, provincial and territorial - must establish or enforce directives to implement in-service teacher training sessions and school curricula which address contemporary First Nations issues, including self government. In provincial and territorial

National Review Of First Nations Education

Doug Cuthand

schools attended by First Nations children, such mandates must be incorporated into tuition, general or other agreements.


The report states First Nations students have a right to education programs and services of the highest quality which incorporate culturally relevant content and academic skills.

First Nations require curriculum to teach cultural heritage and traditional First Nations skills with the same emphasis as academic learning. First Nations parents desire a focus on language skills, particularly reading, math, science, and computer skills.

First Nations must control the development of curriculum materials from pre-school to post-secondary levels to ensure that they eliminate stereotypes about First Nations and teach pride in our heritage, provide cultural content and promote feelings of self-worth.

Culturally relevant content must be recognized by other governments and all school types as a necessary component for quality education for First Nations students. It must also be appropriately resourced. Irrelevant southern curricula must be replaced by cultural content applicable to northern settings.

The government of Canada must accord aboriginal languages with official status, constitutional recognition, and accompanying legislative protection. Necessary funds must be provided by the federal government to ensure the development of: language structures; curriculum materials; First Nations language teachers; resource centres: and immersion programs. Aboriginal language instruction must be available from pre-school to post-secondary and adult education, and be acknowledged as meeting second language requirements at all levels.

Research must be funded to study First Nations learning styles which influence teaching techniques used in the classroom. Curriculum standards in federal and First Nations schools must be developed to be at least equal to if not higher than provincial or territorial standards in basic skills.

Parent/school communication must be formalized at the local levels with guaranteed parent and community representation on all education matters. At regional and national levels, education-related networking activities and organizations must be adequately resourced to increase consultation efforts, information exchanges, research and development, and long range planning.

Since there is a need for positive role models in the education system, it is necessary that federal, provincial, territorial and First Nations governments provide incentives to encourage First Nations students to train in educational para professional and professional positions.

Additional pre-service teacher training programs and regularly scheduled in-service professional development must be integrated into long range educational planning. Specifically, mandatory cross-cultural training for all non-native and first nation staff must be provided by teacher training institutions. In addition, First Nations teacher training programs must be developed.

Federal and First Nations governments must act to reduce high turnover rates of education staff by such actions as lowering student-teacher ratios and student counsellor ratios, reducing the clerical workload of teachers and counsellors, and offering staff salaries, benefits, and job security comparable to those of neighboring education systems.

As the guardians of First nations cultures, the Elders' role in cultural and language development in all school systems at all academic levels, must be acknowledged. They must be accorded professional status and appropriate compensation. Federal and First Nations schools must institute comprehensive, annual staff evaluation procedures to ensure quality instruction. Research must be funded to analyze the issue of teacher unions in First nations schools, where loyalty to federal, provincial or territorial unions contradicts the concept of First Nations jurisdiction over education.

Recruitment and selection policies and other personnel standards for education staff in the First nations and federal schools must be reviewed and improved. Improved methods of diagnosing special education students and increased special education service delivery must be resourced and offered to First nations students.

Greater numbers of special education programs must be funded to meet the needs of advanced learners. Comprehensive special education policies must be developed with the participation of First nation community members at the local and national levels. Funding must be made available to First nations governments and organizations to establish, staff and operate Early Childhood Education programs.

The problem of First Nations student absenteeism, suspension, and dropout must be addressed by all levels of government by such actions as: increasing parental and community involvement; hiring more counsellors; providing a culturally relevant curriculum; requiring cross cultural training of teachers of first nations students; and analyzing and refining policies related to corporal punishment, suspension and other infractions.

Counselling services to first nations students must include academic, career, financial, social and peer counselling, with funding available to hire additional counsellors. Staff must be available to relieve counsellors of clerical duties.

Quality transportation services must be available to all first nations students and there must be adequate resources for transportation to extra curricular activities.

Adequate funding for uniformly safe and comfortable transportation must be guaranteed on all modes of transport currently used which includes buses, boats, planes, and snowmobiles.

Adult, post-secondary education, and professional training must be funded as non- discretionary programs of the federal government to guarantee the training of first nations professionals and leaders who will contribute to

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National Review Of First Nations Education

Doug Cuthand

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first nations social, political, cultural and economic development.

First nations, not the federal government, must develop post-secondary and adult education policies and guidelines.

Post-secondary and adult training institutions must work closely with first nations communities to institute off-campus program delivery for first nation communities.

Additional first nations post secondary institutions are also required in order to bring education services more directly to first nations people.

All levels of government must ensure that quality educational facilities exist for first nations students which are at least equal to, if not better than, provincial or territorial facilities.

New capital funds are necessary to reduce the current backlog of new construction and repairs, to keep pace with facilities' maintenance needs, and, more importantly, to begin immediately to construct new schools to ensure first nations students have the opportunity like other students in Canada, to be educated in their own community.


The report goes on to state, the management of first nations education systems requires at least the equivalent of the financial, human, and material resources required in the public school systems.

New policies must be established by first nations to ensure they have control of the financial management of their education programs. When jurisdiction over education is resumed, it is imperative that an adequate formula is utilized to determine education management costs. Further, it is essential that all federal person years and other costs be identified and transferred in the process.

First nations must establish education systems which meet the needs as determined by the local first nations community.

First nations education authorities must establish long range goals and objectives which reflect preparatory stages for jurisdiction; research current, workable models of jurisdiction over education; advocate short term and long range planning, and promote ongoing evaluation and development of local education systems. Research and development of unique first nations management structures must be financed.

First nations parents, elders, and educators must have direct and guaranteed involvement in and control over the education of their children in all school systems. Such participation would be endorsed and acknowledged by federal, provincial, territorial and first nation governments. They must also have access to training programs and funds.

First nation representatives on provincial, territorial, federal or first nations education authorities must be provided with sufficient training to become familiar with topics such as school policies, regulations, and legislation so they can effectively carry out their duty of representing local community needs.

First Nations must participate actively in the development and implementation of personal policies including recruitment, roles and responsibilities and labor relations. Education Policies must reflect the overall philosophy of the community to meet their educational needs.


With regard to resourcing the report states that first nations education must be at levels equivalent to that spent on the education of other Canadians in public schools, with additional new funding allotted for the acknowledged special needs associated with first nations education.

Policy formulations for first nations education financing must be established as a priority.

First nations must negotiate with the federal government to expand the financial and human resources available by locating new dollars and developing new fiscal arrangements on education program resourcing rather than the current inadequate funding formula or year to year budgeting system.

Funding levels for first nations education must be at least equal to the provincial or territorial tuition costs, and must be augmented to meet the special costs associated with first nations education to incorporate annual cost of living increases and to accommodate expansion which goes beyond the basic maintenance of first nations education.

Education dollars must be directly transferred to first nations so funds intended for local use are not lost in federal administrative costs and overhead.

Procedures must be established between first nations and various levels of government to ensure accountability for funds received for the education of first nations students.

First nations must have the right to negotiate tuition, general and other agreements directly with the service delivery agency and to be party to capital agreements that will affect them.

New federal dollars must be found to remedy the backlog of education capital needs, such as new schools, gymnasiums, laboratories, teacherage, and group homes.

Also adequate federal financial resources must be made available for culturally relevant curriculum development, aboriginal language development, special education, early childhood education, library development, and in-service training needs.

First nations post-secondary, adult education and training programs must be funded at levels which reflect inflationary costs and enrolment increases.

The federal government must place a moratorium on cutbacks in post-secondary financial assistance to students. New dollars must be allocated to meet the demand of students entering post-secondary training.