Indian and Metis Education: Present Realities and Future Directions
Compiled and edited by Mills Consulting (1992)

SSTA Research Centre Report #92-15: 52 pages, $14.

Overview

Opening Remarks

Guiding Principles of Successful Practice

"The Vision" for Indian and Metis Education

Present Realities and Suggested Directions

  1. Racism
  2. Identity
  3. Dropouts
  4. Mobility
  5. Professional Development
  6. Community Support
  7. Curriculum and Instruction
  8. Governance
  9. Planning
  10. Funding
  11. Commitment
  12. Communication

Summary

In 1992, a provincial forum was organized by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association to identify new directions for Indian and Metis education for Saskatchewan boards of education. Participants shared success stories, ideas, and a vision for Indian and Metis education in Saskatchewan. This report provides a summary of ideas shared at the forum.

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The SSTA Research Centre grants permission to reproduce up to three copies of each report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA Research Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available from the SSTA Research Centre.
The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.


Overview

The number of early school leavers of Aboriginal ancestry suggests that Indian and Metis children are not being well served by the present public school system. The Saskatchewan School Trustees Association is committed to taking action to ensure equality of educational benefit for all students.

To provide direction to the Association and Saskatchewan school boards, the Association sponsored a forum on Indian and Metis education with representatives from school boards; the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association; Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation; League of Educational Administrators; Directors and Superintendents; and Saskatchewan Education. The Saskatchewan Federation of Indian Nations participated as observers. Forty-three participants (Appendix "A") met October 13 & 14, 1992, at Jackfish Lake Lodge, Cochin for the forum on Indian and Metis education. The objectives for the forum were:

Through small group and plenary sessions (Agenda, Appendix "B") participants shared success stories, ideas, and a vision for Indian and Metis education in Saskatchewan. The following report is a summary of the ideas shared at the 1992 SSTA Indian and Metis Education Forum.


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Opening Remarks

Ken Krawetz, President

Saskatchewan School Trustees Association

"The Saskatchewan School Trustees Association is pleased to sponsor this Forum to provide an opportunity for examining Indian and Metis education issues.

Our Association is organized to promote a climate in Saskatchewan supportive of excellence in education for all children. For the people of Indian and Metis ancestry, the Association can accept no less than equality of education outcome and representative participation within the governance of public education.

This Forum is the first step of an Association strategy designed to highlight needed improvements in Indian and Metis education. A new relationship must be developed with Indian and Metis input and cooperation at all stages to give meaning to the unique relationship between the Indian and Metis community and the public education system in Saskatchewan. Parental involvement is crucial to the development of curricula, instruction, and resources that will help children to be successful at school. Alternative models of representation for Indian and Metis parents and community may have to be examined. School boards should be broadly representative of the cultural mix of the community. Increasing the governance role of Indian and Metis peoples is essential."

Alpha Lafond, Elder

Muskeg Lake Reserve

"Holy spirit, guide us in our actions our thoughts and our words.

What I have to say comes from me and my experiences over the years in education. I have seen many changes and improvments, one of the biggest being the move away from the residential type of schools. I attended an Indian residential school in the 1930's and 1940's. There were no high schools, so when we finished grade seven or eight, if we were still not sixteen, we had to do other kinds of work like sewing. That is my educational background.

When I came back to the reserve and began raising my family, I wanted my children to have an education that was equal to that of the neighbour's children. Today more than ever, we have to prepare students to meet the changes and challenges of the 21st century. My own children have successfully learned to cope with today's changes, earn a livelihood, and also be active participants in two worlds. I can take part in the white man's ceremony and I can also go to the Indian ceremonies and be equally comfortable. I feel that I can contribute in my own way to either world. This is what I want to see for my children and grandchildren.

Indian people want their children to know who they are and to know their identity. Indian people never have had an equal voice in their children's education. Indians have always had to beg the provincial government for legislation and convince the provincial governments that we had a right to have representation and voting powers. In the 1960's I began to appear at local board meetings. I could not vote and I could not make motions. I kept telling my people we had a right to be represented and to have full voting privileges. Finally in the 1970's, the government made legislation to allow Indian people to sit on school boards. I had lobbied for ten years before that was granted.

Two aspects of Indian education must be clarified. The treaties were signed by the Indian people with the understanding that the government would provide education in exchange for the land. But the Government has turned around and passed legislation to govern the Indians. Through the Indian Act Indians did not give up the right to govern themselves. The treaties ensured my people that our education was bought and paid for with the land exchange. It has been difficult under tuition agreements. When the band wanted to enter a joint school agreement they got money for new buildings and they received tuition for the Indian students. In the beginning Indian affairs was very generous. Indians have requested native teachers input for changes to curriculum and testing. Bands have concerns about the format and bias of tests. These are never addressed, they are usually just ignored. I have never questioned the curriculum. I assume since it came from the province it was suitable for my children to get an education.

The joint school board is diminishing, Indian people want control of their childrens' education on reserves. It is up to those who want this for their children.

Thank you for listening."


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Guiding Principles of Successful Practice

During the opening session of the Forum, "success stories" were shared. So often we focus on the half empty glass rather than on the half full one. During this sharing participants celebrated those initiatives which seemed to be making a positive difference in the education of Indian and Metis students. (Appendix C). While reviewing these initiatives, several foundational guiding principles of effective programs for Indian and Metis children were identified.

The focus on the student in the classroom is of critical importance. Through these nine principles of successful practice students are supported either directly through modular programs, satellite schools, language programs, the active involvement of Elders, and guidance counsellors or indirectly through parent involvement in the child's learning, role models being present in the schools, professional development for educators and support staff, the curriculum and instruction, and through partnerships in governance. This is facilitated by committed leadership.

With the focus on the individual there is the flexibility to really make things happen for students in the classroom. The stories of successful practices illustrate this.

School teams developed a plan of action to incorporate culturally-relevant materials into courses of study, and to provide courses of study and course offerings which more clearly reflect the cultural context of the community.

Dennis Lokinger, Director of Education

Northern Lights School Division

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The Northern Lights School Division is taking an innovative approach to educational change. The division is using the Indian and Metis Education Staff Development Program offered through Saskatchewan Education as the vehicle to effect positive changes as they relate to their Education Equity Plan. A seminar, attended by 90 Northern Lights board members, local trustees, community members, central office staff, and teachers and administrators from each school was held in La Ronge on September 20th-23rd, 1992. These school community teams participated in activities that were designed to promote reflection and planned action for change according to local needs. Follow up meetings are being planned to provide on-going support.

Barry Eidsness

Saskatchewan Education

The Spiritwood high school administration invited a number of our staff to attend a workshop conducted by Chris Lafontaine of the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Regina. The informative workshop concentrated on a comparative analysis of Aboriginal and white cultural morals.

Denis Tetu, Director of Education

Northern Lakes School Division

PARENT INVOLVEMENT

Our native home school liaison workers are actively making contact in the community. Hired by the Board, they have encouraged a greater involvement of parents.

Ren‚ Poisson

Saskatoon Catholic Schools

Two of our schools, Wadena Elementary and Robert Melrose Elementary, continually invite native parents to travel with the students as chaperones on education trips. In all instances where the native parents have gone they have contributed significantly to the success of the trips. In many cases they are able to add a new dimension to the learning experience.

Harvey Bowers, Director of Education

Wadena School Division

We are working together with the reserves to develop a list of Aboriginal curriculum resource people who will be able to come into our schools and share their expertise.

Wes Prosser, Director

Kamsack School Division

SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS

A guidance counsellor of Indian ancestry was hired to work at Stobart High School in order to provide services to the Beardy's students. The role of the counsellor varies, but his greatest emphasis is in the area of attendance and working with the problems Indian students may experience while attending school.

Wayne Fehr

Program consultant - High School

Saskatchewan Valley School Division

The Chief and Council for the Little Pine Band has not been able to offer Grade XII at their reserve school and for the past 6 or 7 years, their Grade XII students have attended a variety of schools throughout the province. This has not been very successful for the students. Beginning this fall, 11 Grade XII students from Little Pine will be attending Cut Knife High School which is only 14 miles away. The agreement for this arrangement is cost effective for the Wilkie School Division and Little Pine Band, it expands the co-operative initiatives between Cut Knife and Little Pine Band communities and most importantly improves the educational program for all Grade XII students and their parents.

Ray Johnson, Director

Wilkie School Division

The Punnichy Satellite School, an example of a financial and educational partnership between an Indian Band and a School Division, was created and organized to prevent students from dropping out of school.

Don Schindelka, Director of Education

Last Mountain School Division

FOCUS ON THE INDIVIDUAL

We have a teacher who is concerned that each year there are a few students who for a variety of reasons are not represented at interviews or school events by a parent or advocate. Her mission was to ensure that contact would be made on behalf of every student in her classroom even if it meant that the school go to the home.

This project involved the simple approval of releasing her from the classroom with substitute coverage. We were impressed with the impact of this.

North Battleford School Division # 103

A very successful story in the area of "Indian and Metis Education" is the Home/School Liaison program in our school.

The Home/School Liaison position was created in 1989. The woman involved has enhanced our communications with the community and helped increase parental involvement. She also helps orient new students (particularly native students) to our school. Her duties now include a percentage of teaching time as well.

She is an excellent role model for our native students.

Howard Witty, Principal

Creighton School

ROLE MODELS

The ITEP program began in 1972-73 and is celebrating many successes. We have had almost 350 graduates during these years with hundreds more of our former students moving into other roles of leadership in the community. Graduates of the ITEP program have become teachers, principals, directors, co-ordinators of language or language instructors, and band chiefs.

Orest Murawsky, Director

Indian Teacher Education Program

Employment Equity has been a vehicle for impacting on attitudes and creating change at Prince Albert School Division No. 3. Over a number of years, the proportion of staff of Aboriginal ancestry has continued to grow.

We are continuing with this plan, expecting at some point to have our staff reflect our community.

While employment has been significant, the inservice program, special events, introduction of Native Studies and Cree instruction, acquisition of more suitable materials and other modifications has proven very valuable.

G.A. Streeton

Supervisor of Special Services

Prince Albert Public Schools

The Elder's Program was initiated at Duck Lake to address the problem of poor student attendance as well as to provide a positive influence in the area of student discipline. The project began half way through the last school term and met with varying degrees of success. However, the program was perceived as being of benefit to students and based on that premise could be expanded to include other schools this year.

One of the purposes of the Elder's Program was to assist Indian students to understand, appreciate, and to internalize the practice of Indian culture, Indian tradition, and Indian Religion. The presence and interaction of the students with the elders was to serve as a "stabilizer" for some of the Indian students who were having difficulty with school.

Wayne Fehr

Program consultant - High School

Saskatchewan Valley School Division

COMMITTED LEADERSHIP

When we held Parent-Teacher Interviews on reserve we had a 30% turnout vs. 10% turnout. We go out in November and March.

Loon Lake - Punnichy

I work directly with NORTEP and SIFC Teacher Education Programs as a sessional lecturer in math education. We are also involved with interns from SUNTEP, SIFC and ITEP and we have three schools actively involved in the Indian and Metis Education and Staff Development Program.

Mike Fulton, Director

Indian Head School Division No. 19

PARTNERS IN GOVERNANCE

Our tuition agreement ensures meetings between the Board of Education and the Chief and Council on the reserves.

Wes Prosser, Director

Kamsack School Division

Gordon Indian Band and Last Mountain School Division have enjoyed a long standing partnership that has been mutually beneficial. Working together to provide good educational opportunities for Indian children has been the focus that has kept the partnership together. In working together toward the same goal a feeling of mutual respect and trust has gradually developed.

Don Schindelka, Director of Education

Last Mountain School Division

Joe Duquette High School in Saskatoon is a successful example of equally shared governance in a tri-partite agreement. The partners are Aboriginal parents, the provincial government and the Catholic School Board.

Ren‚ Poisson

Saskatoon Catholic Schools

FLEXIBILITY

In the 1991-92 school year we established a discussion group that involved a couple of our staff with native parents. The group was loosely organized and was put together by one of the Native Councillors.

We placed considerable stock in the advice and discussions that took place and sought advice on several matters related to the needs and expectations of Aboriginal students and parents.

North Battleford School Division # 103

The Punnichy Satellite School was created and organized to prevent students from dropping out of school.

Don Schindelka, Director of Education

Last Mountain School Division

Indian Head High School staff has gone to Carry the Kettle Reserve for parent teacher interviews the past several years rather than holding them in the school.

Mike Fulton, Director

Indian Head School Division No. 19


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Vision For Indian and Metis Education

We are living in a time of transition. Since Oka in the summer of 1989, there is a sense of increasing optimisim in the Aboriginal community and a growing determination never to accept less than equal again. This is also a time of individual and community healing. Many issues that influence education have come forward and must be addressed.

Through small group discussion participants identified that during this period of transition, Indian and Metis students require a uniquely Aboriginal place to serve as a secure home, a place of nurturing. A place with "Tawow" - a place to go where one will feel welcome and know that your needs will be met. Every school with Indian and Metis students should have such a special "nest" within the school. Such an Indian and Metis place promotes communication and involvement, not isolation or segregation. This nurturing environment enables students to be themselves and to make their contribution to the wider community.

Participants cautioned that if such a special place and educational equity cannot be realized within existing structures, a parallel Indian controlled education system may evolve. Parents would be free to choose the system considered best for their children. Saskatchewan's public education system would be challenged even more strongly to respond. During this time of transition, communities must work and learn together how to best meet the needs of Indian and Metis students. This is a time of testing new ground and learning from past efforts and developing new structures and approaches. During this period of transition, these and other issues must be addressed before successful integration as one community is possible.

The vision for the education of Indian and Metis students which began to emerge from the Forum discussions was one of an education system without racism where all children, including children of Aboriginal ancestry develop a positive self concept and benefit equally from the education system. The vision presents a system in which parents are engaged in the their children's learning and work with the school in building a community for learning. Participants also shared images of their visions for Indian and Metis education, some of which are illustrated here.


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Present Realities and Future Directions

ISSUES, CONCERNS AND SUGGESTIONS

Participants at the Forum identified several issues to be addressed as we strive to achieve the vision:

More specifically, the following twelve major issues to be addressed were identified.

Participants also suggested several strategies for addressing the challenge of each issue.


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Issue #1: Racism

Deliberate and systemic racism underlies many of the issues facing Indian and Metis education. Schools must address this barrier before students will be able to achieve equality of benefit.

Suggested strategies include:

o Build community understanding about the negative effects of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.

o Implement a policy on racial incidents to indicate that racism will not be tolerated in schools.

o Mandate cross-cultural education for all teachers and post- secondary graduates.

o Develop cross-cultural sensitivity as a goal for all.

o Review testing practices to ensure they are fair, appropriate, relevant and credible.

o Review all school programs to ensure equity for all children. (For example, extra-curricular programs may require restructuring to be open to Indian and Metis children.)

o Examine the causes of racism within your school and community.


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Issue #2: Identity

Participants at the Forum believed that many Aboriginal students are confronted with an identity crisis - being uncertain about who they are and where they fit in the larger community. To succeed, these students may benefit from support in understanding their history and developing positive self-concept and self-esteem.

Forum participants suggested several strategies to support Aboriginal students in developing a greater sense of personal identity:

o Offer programs to assist all children in learning and appreciating Indian history and culture. (Saskatchewan Education has developed the Native Studies program.)

o Ensure that appropriate Indian and Metis role models (teachers, administrators, etc.) are in every school.

o Offer a place of nurturing and welcome: "Tawow" in every school for Indian and Metis students.

o Develop leadership through support for programs like the Indian Teacher Education Programs.

o Advocate for Indian and Metis children in a caring way.

o With caring and guidance, develop student ownership and responsibility

o Focus on the individual student's uniqueness, ability and potential.

o Validate each student's experience through respect and understanding.

o Support the integration of Indian and Metis content in the Core Curriculum


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Issue #3: High Drop Out Rate

The number of early school leavers of Aboriginal ancestry suggests that Indian and Metis children are not being well served by the present public school system. Greater efforts on many fronts must be launched if the public education system is to remain a viable option for children of Aboriginal ancestry.

Forum participants suggested several strategies that may assist Indian and Metis students to complete high school.

o Ensure that a place of nurturing and welcome - "Tawow" - is encouraged in every school for Indian and Metis students by creating a "nest".

o Develop "Stay in School" initiatives.

o Enhance Indian and Metis teacher education programs.

o Provide support for local program adaptation and curriculum development.

o Explore business partnerships, co-operative programs, work placement for summer months, and an emphasis on life skills and curricula which are interesting and relevant to Indian and Metis students.

o Make the school accessible through busing, age/grade deceleration, satellite schools, and modular units of study or instructional pods.

o Explore early intervention programs.


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Issue #4: Student Mobility

Many Indian and Metis students are relatively mobile for a variety of reasons. Since it takes several weeks for student records to catch up to a student, a good deal of time is expended in assessing students for their placement. In addition, students are at a disadvantage when placed in new classrooms where their strengths and weaknesses are unknown and where they are frequently starting again at square one with classmates, school norms, and programs of instruction.

Forum participants identified that continuous education is hampered by high student mobility, and they suggested several strategies to explore:

o Develop a method of "tracking" students within the province.

o Improve communications between schools and among agencies.

o Individualize programs in units or blocks to enable students to pick up where they have left off (instructional pods).


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Issue #5: Professional Development

Professional development is essential for all educators and current teacher pre-service offers little preparation for working in a cross-cultural setting. The Aboriginal and cross-cultural professional development programs available are not being fully utilized. Despite this, there is an increased need to extend the awareness and skills of all school division staff regarding Aboriginal and cross-cultural issues.

Professional development, both preservice and inservice is critical to introducing bias-free, cross cultural materials into Saskatchewan classrooms. The present school structure may be limiting to progress in these areas. In Saskatchewan there is currently a shortage of Aboriginal teachers, especially at the secondary level.

Forum participants suggested several strategies:

o Change existing school structures where necessary to accommodate ongoing inservice for teachers and administrators on Indian and Metis issues.

o Increase support for Indian teacher education programs and extend them to secondary levels.

o Promote the programs with Indian and Metis students.

o Encourage community involvement in delivery of school programs.

o Require all teachers to complete cross-cultural education courses.

o Offer incentives for urban-rural teacher exchanges.

o Participate in the Saskatchewan Education inservice program.

o Have Native Studies classes taught by qualified Native teachers

o Include more cross-cultural training during the four year teacher education program through integration.

o Enlist administrative support.

o Take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to professional development.

o Teacher inservices can create awareness of Indian and Metis content in classroom.

o Bring resource people into the school.

o School divisions can support TEP programs by placing pre-interns and interns in their schools.

o Curriculum changes are needed in classes like social studies.

o Parental involvement in decision making.

o Public awareness.

o Staffing - more Indian and Metis role models.


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Issue #6: Community Support

A strong "community" of family and neighbours of the students' is critical for truly effective learning to take place. Some parents are leary or hesitant about getting involved in a school system that holds no warm memories for them. The time is right to create more positive memories about Saskatchewan schools for healing to take place.

Several strategies were suggested by Forum participants to provide community support:

o Include Aboriginal early learning centers as a part of the school system.

o Offer a receptive climate of caring, a "nest".

o Use the school facility as a community center.

o Invite Elders to become active in the school.

o Reach out into the community rather than remaining in the school.

o Representatives on local and division boards.

o Home and school associations.

o Liaison worker - between home and school.

o Parent involvement in fund raising events.

o Parent/teacher interviews outside of the school.

o Take the library out to the reserve to get parents involved with reading.

o Parent councils - may have some responsibility for hiring staff.


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Issue #7: Curriculum and Instruction

The continued development of curriculum and support materials with Indian and Metis content and perspectives requires support and program development in Indian languages requires special attention.

Currently there is a loss of Native languages and a gap between the curriculum as it presently exists and the needs of students. Is it relevant and meaningful to Indian and Metis students? Some students in grades 7 - 9 question learning French when their Native languages are not being taught in their schools.

Forum participants suggested several strategies to include Indian and Metis content and perspectives in all curriculum and instructional resources:

o Validate Indian languages through policy.

o Work toward authentic integration of Native Studies into existing programs while avoiding a "heroes and holidays" approach.

o Explore instructional tools that may enhance student learning (cooperative learning).

o Survey courses and programs currently available.

o Honor parental ownership and involvement in what their children are learning and how they are learning it.

o Adapt curricula to meet local needs.

o Take an inventory of people in the community who can act as resources and a meaningful link to the curriculum for the students.

o Integrate Native Studies courses and content.

o Offer Cree instruction in schools (role model).

o Purchase more Indian and Metis resource materials.

o Consider the Headstart-like programs and prekindergarten (readiness skills).


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Issue #8: Governance

Forum participants identified governance and partners in governance as both an issue and a guiding principle to effective practice.

Although good things are being done in this area, there is currently a lack of involvement of Indian and Metis people at the policy making level.

"A new relationship must be developed with Aboriginal input and cooperation at all stages to give meaning to the unique relationship between the Aboriginal community and the public education system in Saskatchewan. School boards should be broadly representative of the cultural mix of the community, and increasing the governance role of Indian and Metis peoples is an important aspect of this goal."

SSTA Indian and Metis Education Council 1991 Action Plan

Indian and Metis representation is crucial at all levels. Forum participants suggested several strategies:

o More cooperation among urban, rural and band systems.

o Review outdated tuition agreements.

o Examine existing interagency overlap.

o Facilitate ownership of schools and communities.

o Work with bands to ensure band representation by population in organizations.

o Continue home and school liaison programs.

o Review the purpose of the schools in order to better meet the needs of the majority of students.

o Develop ways to support curriculum and instructional improvement through governance.

o Recognition of successes.

o Participation in governance in division and district boards.

o More direct involvement by bands and tribal councils and less of INAC resulting in more responsibility for Indian people.

o Expand the Community schools concept.

o Curriculum change.

- Native studies.

- Indian Languages

- Core Curriculum subject areas


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Issue #9: Planning

Strategic planning for Indian and Metis education is crucial. Currently there may be structural restrictions that are not enabling for long range, long term, proactive, flexible planning.

Forum participants saw the need to articulate a plan for public education for Indian and Metis students which would include solutions to academic, political, economic, cultural and social problems. The planning should be proactive and broad ranged, while being flexible to meet a diversity of issues. They saw a networking of partners (tribal councils, band councils and public education partners) to be essential to this plan, and that discussions should be the mode of operation and not conscription. The planning would need to focus on all aspects of equity (i.e. hiring policies, curriculum and instruction and governance).

Forum participants suggested several strategies:

o SSTA liaise with Indian and Metis counterparts.

o Review plans with the provincial government.

o That partners move in a lock-step collective action.


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Issue #10: Funding

Forum participants explored funding issues to identify ways new initiatives might be funded and they suggested several strategies:

o To look at new and innovative ways of doing things, including budgeting.

o Better integration of support services.

o To use a collaborative, cooperative approach to funding.


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Issue #11: Commitment

A lack of genuine commitment to enhance meaningful education for Indian and Metis students was seen as a barrier or an issue by Forum participants. Responding to Indian and Metis education issues warrants special attention.

Forum participants identified several strategies to enhance genuine commitment to Indian and Metis education:

o Meaningful involvement of communities.

o Identify school division needs and services and appropriate delivery strategies.

o Develop a strategy to provide board development related to Indian and Metis education issues.

o Enhance school board decision making by developing trustee knowledge and skills.

o Lobby for increased funding.

o Hire Native teachers in all school divisions.

o Cultivate a commitment to meeting the individual child's needs in his or her education.


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Issue #12: Communication

Interorganizational relations are critical for the achievement of common goals. Communication and coalitions could be pursued with organizations working to improve Indian and Metis education (Gabriel Dumont Institute, Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, Saskatchewan Education, Indian teacher education programs). Communication is also critical in providing a community with information and making connections with the community.

Forum participants identified several strategies to work for improved co-ordination and communication of information relevant to Indian and Metis education issues:

o Visible leadership to broaden the information base, extend awareness and support, provide a forum for networking, and enhance communication.

o A provincial information clearinghouse could be developed to make historical and current information available with strategies in place to assess changes and progress.

o Identify the information that is available, establish networks for access, and provide leadership in building an information base on governance, funding, and trustee development.

o Principals and vice-principals meet with band council during council meetings.

o Newsletters into the community.

o Board members meeting with band education council and education committee.

o Partnerships with local businesses with businesses hiring Native students and participating in work education programs.

o Education equity.

o Headstart Program.

o Lobbying groups becoming more proactive and vocal.


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Summary

"From the point of view of Aboriginal people, the educational question is primarily political and cultural: that the schools have not been shaped by people of Aboriginal ancestry. Therefore, Aboriginal children have experienced dissonance between the culture of their family and upbringing and that of the schools. In addition, acts of racism and discrimination against Aboriginal people have damaged the ability of children to feel good about themselves and participating in schools."

Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation Indian and Metis Education: Background Paper 1992

While there was not agreement on every detail, a general consensus emerged from the Forum. It was agreed that: Individuals, communities, and all of the educational partners have an important role to play in ensuring equality of benefit for all children; and that a good deal of action is imperative at the community level.

Forum participants identified four foundational characteristics of successful innovations:

1. Greater Involvement of Indian and Metis students and their parents in the process of education . . . at the policy making level, in the classroom, as role models, and supporting events that say "Yes! Indian and Metis culture, heritage, and contemporary worldview are valued and respected in our schools and communities."

2. A genuine recognition of the need for change . . . which is supported through governance and policy changes; a proactive, long-term, flexible plan; and, appropriate funding. Actions do indeed speak louder than words.

3. Affirmative action . . . and a sincere commitment at all levels to explore broad-ranging creative solutions.

4. People who have lobbied for change . . . individuals who have made a difference in trying to clear the way for change and innovations that are true to the vision of Indian and Metis education.

A very strong theme identified at the Forum was that of a "nest", a uniquely Aboriginal place to serve as a secure home and a place of nurturing. Such an Indian and Metis place promotes communication and involvement, not isolation or segregation. A nurturing environment enables students to be themselves and to make their contribution to the wider community.

The nest is necessary in this time of transition and exploration as a short-term support for long-term integration. The nest may take the form of a special place within existing schools, separate schools within the public school systems, or separate systems altogether. This is an imminent next step toward an equitable education for Indian and Metis students in Saskatchewan. It may be a time for "discovery of self" before a "sharing of self".

Forum participants indicated that it is time for a new relationship to develop between the Aboriginal community and the public education system in our province. We can ill afford not to take action! Communication, empathy, commitment and mutual respect are the corner stones to the development of the partnership necessary to move toward the vision of Indian and Metis education.

The glass is both half empty and half full for Indian and Metis students in our province. We have all come a long way together since the days of Alpha LaFonde's schooling and there is still a long way to go. How we work together on the journey is every bit as important as achieving the vision.

The SSTA organized this Forum to celebrate the "glass-half-full" and to discuss ways to fill the "glass-half-empty". What is the Association's role at this point? It must consider its relationship to Indian Band schools. Should the Association's mandate be extended as an umbrella organization representing all school systems or just the existing public and separate school boards? Aside from political participation in the Association, should structures be established to offer Association services and benefits to Indian controlled schools?

The message of cooperation and collaboration among all partners involved in education was very strong at the Forum. The work of the Forum will help the Association and Saskatchewan school boards develop strategies to ensure equality of educational benefit for children of Indian and Metis ancestry.

"Just as it takes many poles to hold up the teepee, it takes many people working together and many issues brought into balance to achieve the vision of education for Indian and Metis students."

Rene Poisson


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