Some First Nations positive towards education, so its not just about money

I do not view what is wrong with Aboriginal education as primarily due to a lack of federal government funding as recommended in the most recent report: “Nurturing the living spirit of First Nations students.” As this Windsor Star editorial states:

The chair of the three-member panel, Scott Haldane, president of YMCA Canada, said currently First Nations education operates in a ‘patchwork,’ which suffers due to a lack of stable, predictable funding from government.”

Well, to me “patchwork” does not suggest not enough money. Rather, it suggests that money is not allocated correctly, consistently or at all.  For example, how is it possible that the Six Nations Grand River Reserve (at Ohsweken near Brantford, Ontario), can provide the Polytechnic, a multi-faceted organization that offers a wide range of educational opportunities for its people –if it were not a priority to that Reserve’s leadership?

Yes, the Six Nations Reserve is in Southern Ontario, but consortiums could be set up in some Northern areas as well –as long as the geography can provide a future, whether it is a future using traditional skills or otherwise. Meaning, while it is not politically correct to say so, whether an area is inhabited by Natives or non-Natives,  if there is no future, if the area is a ghetto, people should move as they have done throughout history.

On the issue of setting priorities and following the money, John Ivison writes (H/T # 4 at JNW):

The federal government became simply a funding agent and, as the Auditor-General discovered, there were never any guarantees that the money earmarked for education ever reached the schools, once it was passed to the band chief and council (in fact, witnesses before the panel said, oftimes it does not).”

Ivison also writes that:

This is the situation the Harper government asked Mr. Haldane and his two co-panellists to examine. They found, with some exceptions, that there is no regular reporting on how students are faring; there is no dispensation for kids who fall behind; no early literacy programs; no way to certify, discipline or regulate teachers; and no system to monitor attendance. At least 100 of the schools were judged to be unsafe learning environments.”[My highlighting.]

No regular student progress reporting? No accommodations for kids who fall behind? No early literacy programs? No system to monitor student attendance? No way to certify or regulate teachers? Sorry, but a patchwork of funding does not begin to explain why there are those kinds of problems. However, what does explain those problems is a lack of funding, no not from the federal government, but from the leadership of the Reserves who decide how to spend the funding they receive.

However, as I mentioned at the start of this post, there are some excellent Aboriginal education programs available on some reserves, which begs the question: How is it that the leadership of some Native Bands, like the Six Nations Grand River Reserve can make education a priority, while others don’t? 

For example, the Polytechnic offers literacy programs and a diploma access program (for those who haven’t completed their high school credits), as well as, in conjunction with five universities, teacher training, nursing training, EMS and even advanced medical training.  Yes, I noticed that Imperial Oil sponsored the Six Nations high school diploma program, but all First Nations have access to government and other funding like that.

So, in my opinion then, while more money might help to improve First Nations education, significant reform will only happen when:

  1. Defenders of the status quo stop blaming the federal government for every problem;
  2. Aboriginals themselves recognize the importance and relevance of education and are willing to be accountable for the money they do or do not spend; and lastly
  3. First Nations communities become willing to relocate, temporarily or permanently (as done by their forefathers),  to where there are opportunities to lead a successful and productive life.

The crux of the matter is then, that for education to improve in Canada’s First Nations communities, particularly the poorest communities, there needs to be an attitude change on the part of everyone from the leadership to parents and students. Chiefs and Band Councils need to provide all the money that is allocated for education and Aboriginal parents need to help their children understand why education is important.

Meaning, that without that kind of attitude change, no amount of money is going to make any difference.



  1. If there are other good news stories about educational programs within or extensions of, Aboriginal communities, just leave a link in a comment and I will add updates here.
  2. Remember, the comment feature is via the talking bubble at the top right side of this post.
  3. While it is not the topic of this post, the misuse of government funds seems to be a constant topic when it comes to government funding of First Nations education programs. For example, in the spring of 2010, funding was cut by the Government of Saskatchewan for the state-of-the-art First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) — which seems to indicate that an attitude change is definitely necessary if we are ever to get beyond the notion that funding for Aboriginal services will be misused.   

14 thoughts on “Some First Nations positive towards education, so its not just about money

  1. No more money for anyone who does not work for it. Time to ween the indians from the government and taxpayer teat.


  2. Old White Guy — Not working certainly is not cultural. Native communities in days long ago were very hard working. However, they didn’t do it 9 to 5.

    Anyway, my point is that the money we spend now needs to be used for its proper purposes and at least with accountability to the people it is meant to support.

    Meaning, Aboriginal reports on education need to stop recommending more money be spent and deal with how the money that they have now is spent.


  3. Well first, lets bring their funding up at least to the local provincial level and stop cheating them, then lets get some excellent teachers and pay them $140 000 each to try to bring the kids up to standard, get a good ELP in there, bring their culture along with modern education methods and see where it goes.

    Probably one jet plane would cover the cost. Otherwise the Feds will be able to find enough criminals to fill their new jails.

    “He who opens a school closes a jail” Victor Hugo.


  4. My point Doug is that the Aboriginal communities can do what is needed themselves, using the money they have now. If any new money is spent it could be for teacher education, etc. in select geographic areas. Jails versus planes have nothing to do with anything.


  5. “there needs to be an attitude change on the part of everyone from the leadership to parents and students.”

    Yes,and if there was an “attitude change” on the part of all who do harm to others,career criminals,radical Islamists, crony capitalists, crooked politicians, the world would be a better place.
    BUT, as my Grandmother used to say,”if wishes were horses,beggars would ride”.

    It ‘s NOT racist to suggest that we DO NOT owe Aboriginals/Natives/Indians,whatever the term du jour, a living forever. If that is the Country’s policy,the situation will never change. Every Country on the planet has been conquered by outsiders at some time in it’s history and Canada is no exception. Trudeau said we can’t pay for the past,and he was right.

    The status quo on Indian Rez’s is just fine with the elites of the Rez,and the real change that everyone imagines will happen “if we just give them a chance” is as unlikely as the yearned for “Arab Spring” of last year.

    The people who want to TALK about “the Indian situation” are the problem, and they infest every branch of government, and the media. Try to put some real programs in place,and the cries of “racism” or “cultural insensitivity” are deafening,so nothing substantive gets done.

    Apartheid has to end,period. The Reservations are NOT “First Nations”,they are small towns in a large Country,and should be treated as such. The politicians on Rez’s should have the same system of accountability that the civic officials of any other town have,”cultural sensitivity” notwithstanding.

    In a nutshell,I believe the only solution to the Indian problem is to appoint an Indian who doesn’t buy in to the Indian Industry’s mode of operation,as Minister of Indian Affairs,and have him force the Indian politicians out of their corrupt fiefdoms. It will only work with an Indian in charge,to disarm the Chiefs and activists who will inevitably cry “RACISM”!

    Osoyoos Band Chief Clarence Louis might be the right candidate. Someone should ask him if he’s willing to get involved in that mire,and take a pay cut to do it.

    For the record,I’m part Indian,lived half my life in towns near Reserves,went to school with the kids from the Rez’s, and overall have great affection for the Indian people.

    But I’m sick to death of political posturing that does nothing to improve the situation,and I’ve observed that for over sixty years. We simply can’t afford the luxury of pandering anymore.


  6. dmorris — “In a nutshell,I believe the only solution to the Indian problem is to appoint an Indian who doesn’t buy in to the Indian Industry’s mode of operation,as Minister of Indian Affairs,and have him force the Indian politicians out of their corrupt fiefdoms. It will only work with an Indian in charge,to disarm the Chiefs and activists who will inevitably cry “RACISM”!”


    My maternal grandmother was Native as well. But,I was not brought up Native, so I usually hesitate to suggest anything. Obviously, however, something has to give. Interesting point, my grandmother was sent to North Bay, Ontario in the early 1900s to avoid the residential schools. She was a woman before her time in that she was a well-known female artist and seamstress in the community. Unfortunately, she died in the 1917 flu epidemic so I never got to know her — other than her memory. But, from what I have heard, she was a very hard and productive citizen before women, let alone Natives, got the vote. To think that was just a century ago, we have come a long way but have a longer way to go.


  7. I looked up when women got the vote and it started in 1916 with Manitoba, 1917 in Sask and 1919 in the rest of Canada. Indians got the right to vote in 1920 but had to give up all their treaty rights and status as an Indian to do so. It wasn’t until 1960 that that requirement was removed in the legislation.

    Meaning, we have not come so far as we sometimes think. So, whatever changes we make regarding the Indian Act or any other Act related to Aboriginal education and/or funding, we need to be forward-looking, not backward.


  8. My fiancee’s aunt works for a band school in Northern Saskatchewan. She is the longest serving white by far because she refuses to play politics or buck the leadership. To listen to stories about the school, I wonder how she has lasted as long as she has, but the biggest thing is that not only do the Leaders have to provide appropriate funding, they have to drop the politics and allow the school to be run responsibly and with accountability. Until that happens, all the money in the world won’t help them.


  9. Thanks for sharing that Oxygentax.

    The reality is, unfortunately, that our non-Native education systems are just as political, in fact may even be more political. Provincial governing party. Opposition parties. Trustees. The Unions. Board administration. Each area superintendent. Each school. The parent councils. The parents. The general public. Good lord, it’s a wonder anyone gets educated.

    The main difference however, is as you say accountability for every cent that is spent or misspent. In the public systems, there are public elections, budgets and decisions that are public, and public and government reportage. If there isn’t, the provincial gov’t can send in a supervisor.

    Yet, we see what is happening at Attawakispat with the appointment of a financial manager.


  10. As long as Canada keeps promoting multiculturalism and allowing refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants to come here from countries that support, sponsor and or endorse terrorism I don’t see a problem with giving the Natives more money. [sarcasm intended]

    We treat Muslims here in Canada who hate Jews ,Christians and our western democracy better than we treat our Native people.


  11. Russ — It shouldn’t be us treating the Native people. The First Nations are all proud peoples. They have simply learned to be victims. I think they should do things for themselves. Be independent.

    But, like all levels of government, be accountable to those who they govern and for whatever public dollars they receive. The long and short of it is, the government gives the Aboriginal communities money and then steps back and does nothing more. The leadership of those communities should be taking the money and managing it well for the good of their entire communities. Meaning, there should be no water problems, no lack of schools, no lack of school resources, fire trucks that work and housing that is safe and healthy. The fact that there is poverty on some First Nations Reserves is, therefore, not the fault of the government who gives them the money.

    But, few will say that truth because it is politically incorrect. There is hope though as there are many very successful Reserves. And, from what I have seen, most of the poverty is on Reserves so far away from civilization, that no one could succeed. Yet, they won’t move. Yet, their forefathers would have packed up and re-located if food and resources became scarce.

    That said, we are appeasing Muslims too much. But, that is for another post.


  12. @ Sandy: I agree with you totally on the Native peoples issue. As far as Muslims; wait until how good omar khadr and the Tronto 18 will have it when they all get out of prison, and yes they eventually will!
    Our government sent our soldiers into Afghanistan to fight for their freedom and democracy and to free them from the tyranny of the Taliban. We lost a 158 brave members of our armed forces doing so.
    Yet there are Native reserves that don’t have running water?


  13. All to often I we hear people saying that “they are sick of the Indians free ride“, “who do they think they are” and “why should we support those people” and yet we hear those same people saying that they “support our troops” fighting and dying in a foreign Islam country to free people that essentially hate our way of life and were behind 9/11.

    Yeah I guess we forget 9/11 and the terror that the American Muslim citizens caused…..yeah all 19 hijackers were legally allowed into the U.S. same as our Toronto 18 and our little omar khadr!

    I suggest that the Native issue is really not as big of a deal as it seems. It sure could be solved a heck of a lot easier than Islamic terrorism!


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