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Programs for Native People by Native People Kirkness, Verna J. 1976

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.. \ PROGRAMS FOR ~NKfIVE PEOPLE BY NATIVE PEOPLE Vez>na J. Kirkness.. Education Director National Indian Brotherhood.. OttaJJJa.. OntaPio. ' Education programs for native people have become the target of serious criticism. Programs are criticized for their lack of relevance to native people. for their band-aid treatment of natives, for their lack of native involvement in design and implementation. and for the failure of governments to respond to the native position which is to direct and control our own educational destiny. Programs with these shortcomings must undergo drastic change in structure, in substantive content and in methodology. Education must realistically depict the. Native perspective. What is the Native perspective? We believe in obtaining an educatibn that respects and enhances our identity. permitting us to retain those aspects of our culture which are meaningful to us, while at the same time, learning the culture of the dominant society from which we can choose those aspects essential for adequate functioning in the modern world. We believe in education as a preparation for total living and as a means of providing us with a free choice of where to live and work. We believe the education system must be designed to meet the needs of the total community by including offerings to people of all ages. Our philosophy embraces the concept of Indian control of Indian education. We believe: C 1) 2) education should be controlled by the community it serves. education is most effective if it involves the community in the educational process. 3) education is most effective if it utilizes the concept of cultural relevance to further its academic ends. 4) education must encompass traditional patterns of learning which emphasize: a) independence b) self-reliance c) observation I d) discovery e) practicality (empirical) f) respect for nature 5) 	 education is progressive and not regressive, therefore failure should be virtually unknown. Our philosophy is recognized as a broad framework into which we incorporate the following general goals: 1) 	 To have more Indian people wOrking in all aspects of the education system. 2) 	 To utilize the community and its people as resources to the fullest extent possible. 3) 	 To provide programming as identified by the community to people of all ages. 4) 	 To employ only staff that is sensitive to the philosophy of Indian education. 5) 	 To provide a curriculum and materials that will develop and nurture a positive self-image of the learner as an individual and as a member of the Indian race. With this philosophy and these goals in focus, the following will serve as examples of how we interpret these into practical methods: 1. 	 Curriculum: a) 	 Language- Objective: i) to provide the native language­ speaking child with the opportunity to use his own language as a medium of learning, particularly in his early school years and to introduce him to the English language through the approach of being taught IIEnglish as a Second Languagell • ii) to provide the bilingual child with the opportunity to continue to develop his native language as well as the English language. iii) to provide the English-speaking native child with the opportunity to learn his native language. 2 Result: 	 1) communication between generations will be maintained and enhanced. 2) respect for language (culture) will be maintained. 3) learning per se. will not be jeopardized because of lack of facility with the English language. Language is the principal means by which culture is ~ccumulated, shared and transmitted from generation to jgeneration. b) Social Studies Objective: i) to recognize the experience and knowledge with which the child enters school and to build ~ this knowledge and not beside i.... e.g. In the primary grades in discussions of ''The Family". teacher must be aware of the Indians "extended family" concept. ii) to present an account of history in an accurate and positive sense. Historical contribu­ tions of Indian people to Canadian society must be emphasized. True history must be revealed at all levels. iii) to put into perspective, Indians' events of the past for the purpose of underst.anding the present situation. iv) at every stage. to build upon that which is familiar to the child through his experience and moving to related areas that will broaden his outlook. Result: 1) enhancement of self-image 2) enhance image of himself as an Indian 3) expand his knowledge The non-white minority mentioned most in social studies textbooks is the North American Indian. It is bad enough that any group should be subjected to prejudicial treatment, but the fact that Indians are the native people of this country and that their children are required to read these texts compounds the immorality of such treatment 3 ---~---~-	 --~-........ .........-­ c) CommunicationSkills Objective: i) To make the learning of skills in speaking, reading, and writing relevant and meaningful. Children must learn these skills through contexts familiar to them. It is much easier to discuss, to read, and to write about familiar concepts, than it is of unknown concepts such as are often presented in textbooks. ii) To correlate the learning of communication skills with other subjects. e.g. in manual arts, an elderly Indian gentleman aay be employed to work with the teacher in building a birch-bark canoe, snowshoes, a wigwam, etc. Many possibilities also exist in home economics and in arts and crafts. Children at all levels could gain from such a project. Community people are the schools' most valuable resource. They> can provide the base for learning in most, if not all, subject areas. Result: 1) to gain the ability to communicate freely and thereby be able to guide his own destiny 2) to enhance his image as an Indian by his knowledge of the skills of his fore-fathers who knew how to adapt to their environment, e.g. use of birch­ bark canoe. Communication and culture are inseparable. Fpoken language is considered primary. I ~ome of the greatest orators of all time were Indian people. d) Native Studies Objective: i) to provide a combination of a) dis­ crete subjects in Indian studies and b) a foundation for the overall curriculum of the school. Discrete subjects could include Indian history, language, music, literature, arts and crafts, dance etc. The discrete subject approach is best introduced to the thirteen year-old or approximately grade 7 level. 4 I ii) to involve the people of the community in the education process by actual participation. These people are best qualified to teach the courses pertaining to Indians. iii) to involve non-Indian teachers in a learning process that will enable them to provide more adequately a foundation for the overall curriculum. Result: 1) gaining of pride in the Indian race 2) teachers will gain a better understanding of Indians and therefore direct the learning process of the child in more meaningful directions 3) parents will view the educational process more positively and this confidence will reflect on their children. 4) general attitudes toward education will grow more positive. .. f we know and understand ourselves and if others know ~d understand us. progress will be made that will ~ffect the total Canadian society. e) Materials Objective: i) to provide materials a) that reflect positively the Indian past and present. b) that reflect experiences familiar to the child. c) that will provide a foundation for the expansion of knowledge in a particular area. e.g. In learning about government. the study should begin by examining Indian Band Government. (Materials should be available for this.) An understand­ ing of Band Government will mean a better understanding of provincial and federal governments. Results: 1) greater relevance of school program 2) facili tates movement of learning from the ''known'' to the "unknown" Curriculum materials must reflect the child's world ~is culture. his values. and his experiences. • 5  f) Adult .Studies Objective: i) to provide adults with the opportunity to learn. This leaming may take the form of a) offerings from the home economics section, b) offerings from the manual arts section, c) offerings in business practice, d) offerings in learning the English language or native languages, e) offerings in basic· language .arts skills. ii) to enhance the view that learning is not a privilege for only the young to enjoy but that· learning is a lifetime process. g) Pre-Kindergarten Studies Objective: i) to provide within the school, Day Care Centres .that will be a part of the Home Economics. Manual Arts and Guidance programs. The best people to conduct pre-kindergarten classes would be grandparents who would teach the grandchildl'en the care of young children. This would allow parents to work within the school program as teachers and/or students. Results of f & g: 1) schools will be viewed as meaning­ fUl institutions providing offerings to people of all ages 2) the school will become community centered 3) the school will come to be viewed as belonging to the community and not to the teachers 4) Community control of the education system will be more natural and meaningful. The community must become the classroom and its members. its teachers. The classroom must become the community reflecting the lives of all its members. The Native movement toward self-determination is less than a decade old. During this time our efforts to articulate our desire to be involved in the design and implementation of education programs affecting us have borne some fruit. 6 The National Indian Brotherhood's policy of "Indian  Control of I'ndian Education". established in 1973 has  realized total control of education in at least twenty  Indian communities. This means that a local education  authority made up of Indian people determines curriculum.  staffing and administration needs. These schools.  contrary to what happened under Department of Indian  Affairs administration, have had fewer "drop-outs" and  have had "drop-ins".  Native teacher-training programs and Native Studies Departments have been established in many provinces. More and more, these are being staffed by Native people. e.g. BUNTEP - University of Brandon; lIEP - University of Saskatchewan; NTEP - Lakehead University. At least three - Native Studies Departments have­ Native Directors: Trent University - Dr. J. Couture University of Manitoba - Dr. R. McKay University of Brandon - br. A. Blue Several Ministries of Education now employ Native  consultants e. g •  Ontario Ministry of Education Manitoba Department of Education British Columbia Department of Education New Brunswick Department of Education . This development, though positive. is in its infancy. Progress is being made. Educational programming is changing. Our aim is to effect a true sense of identity for ourselves by recognizing traditional values while simultaneously preparing ourselves to function effectively in the larger society. I trust that these remarks have helped you to better understand our thinking, our feelings, and our aspirations in the area of education. I thank you for your attention. 7 


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