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The development of integrated schooling for British Columbia Indian children Parminter, Alfred Vye

Abstract

In the era preceding European contact there were many cultural and linguistic sub-groups within the Indian population of the North West Coast area of North America. Intercommunication among the several sub-groups appears to have been limited. Although these people had varying attitudes to their young and although their training devices were informal, they educated their children systematically and with objectives which encompassed more than mere race survival. They taught the children practical and social skills and inculcated moral values by techniques common in modern times. The first non-Indians to arrive in the area widened the horizons of the inhabitants somewhat, and had the Indians not been subsequently overwhelmed by waves of settlers, their adoption of a new and broader culture might have progressed more rapidly. They were, however, isolated by a system of reserves and relegated to an inferior social and economic status which tended to aggravate their time-honoured distrust for outsiders. The missionaries, with financial assistance from the Federal Government, first provided the children of British Columbia's Indians with a measure of segregated, formal education. Their efforts met with limited success. Some literacy, nevertheless, was achieved enabling the majority to accept the Christian religion and providing a foundation for the better organized education program which was to develop. After World War II when the Indians themselves began to remonstrate, other citizens became concerned about the ineffectual education being provided to Indian children. Two results of these protests developed concurrently—the Government of Canada took a series of steps which vastly improved the existing system of segregated schools and the public school authorities, with the active support of federal officials, aggressively undertook to integrate the Indian children into non-Indian schools. With the full consent of their parents, almost half of the Indian pupils have now been integrated; the remainder continue to receive their education separated from other Canadian children. There are two major difficulties in increasing the proportion of Indian children attending the public schools: [ ... ]

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