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Faculty of Medicine Kirkness, Verna J. 1966

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Verna J. Kirkness – U of M Faculty of Medicine 1966 – Page 1            Faculty of Medicine University of Manitoba February 23, 1966                     Verna J. Kirkness       Verna J. Kirkness – U of M Faculty of Medicine 1966 – Page 2  Madam Chairman, ladies...   I wish, first of all, to express my thanks for the lovely luncheon.  In my language, we say, ekosani (thank you).  Indians are very much in the news these days.  Your invitation and invitations received from other groups to have a person who is involved in work with Indian people, (speak to them) is a great indication of the growing interest and concern.  The Federal Government is aware of the problems confronting Indian people today.  The problem is acute due to the rapid population growth resulting in over-crowding of reserves and also the depletion of the natural resources of food which had been available.  There is a move toward developing industry on the reserves wherever there is possible.  For the Indian to move away from the reserve is also very difficult. He not only lacks the necessary skills to secure employment but has the added handicap of language and culture difference which make adjustment extremely difficult.  The solution to this problem is recognizing to be in education.  (Although it is obvious that even if some industries move on-reserve it is insufficient to support its population).  The young people, particularly, are being encouraged to get as much education and training as possible.  For many this means to break from the reserve.  There is evidence that many are taking advantage of this opportunity.  The numbers in our education program in Winnipeg have doubled over the last three years.  In 1964, there were some 95 students in our program.  The following year, there were 200 and by June of this year, we anticipate having a total number of 400 students.  Approximately 50 are in various high schools throughout the city or in the suburbs; there are a few in professional training; and the majority are in either pre-vocational or vocational schools.  Where do these young people come from?  The come to us from residential schools located at such places as Dauphin, Portage La Prairie, Birtle, etc.  Many come directly from the reservations.  What does the Indian Affairs Branch do to assist these young people?  The Branch employs vocational counsellors who are to be responsible for the total welfare of the students. Vocational counsellors are responsible for: 1. Finding boarding homes 2. Taking care of students clothing, personal, and transportation needs Verna J. Kirkness – U of M Faculty of Medicine 1966 – Page 3  3. Introducing them to places of recreation such as the Y.M.C.A., and the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre – visiting the various schools to discuss student progress 4. Assisting them in finding employment when courses are completed and for funding summer employment 5. A follow-up is done on the student after job placement 6. Extensive counselling is necessary throughout the student training   The first thing I mentioned was finding boarding homes.  It is only in the last three or four years that we have moved in the direction of placing students in private homes.  Prior to this, the Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A, and larger boarding houses were used.  It was felt that more personal concern would be taken if the student was to be placed with a family.  This has proven to be true.  When this private home placement began, an appeal for homes was made through the various churches.  The response was adequate enough to give us a start.  Since then our boarding house list has grown by what we would call moccasin telegraph.  Presently, the demand is just being met but we are anxious about the future.  With the great numbers coming to Winnipeg, will we be able to find enough open doors as time goes on?  I wrote down when Mrs. Decter called me and said “How does one adapt an Indian student?”  I interpret that as meaning “How does one go about applying to have an Indian student in their home?”  It is as simple as calling the Indian Affairs Branch, asking for a vocational counsellor, and telling him or her that you would be willing to board one or two male or female students.  The counsellor will follow this up by going to your home to interview you personally.  A group such as this usually wonders what they can do to help.  I would say: 1. Speak to people who may be interested in boarding a student 2. If you need summer help or weekend help, we have many students who are anxious to earn a few extra dollars 3. If you have an extra ticket to the M.T.C., a ballet, to a show at the playhouse theatre, etc there would be any number of interested young people within our group. We have no friends from which to draw for entertainment or for sports such as curling or bowling.  I hope I have been able to give you some picture of our program.  I thank you for listening to me.

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