Aboriginal education

Full Participating Members of Society?

Reading an article titled “Lack of resources holding First Nations students back: panel”, I am a bit disturbed that Duncan, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, can be quoted saying in terms of the government’s priority and commitments that the government can make:

“…provide First Nation students with quality education that enables them to acquire the skills they need to enter the labour market and be full participants in a strong Canadian economy.”

You can read that full article HERE.

My first concern is with the use of the term “Quality education.” Yes quality education but education that works for First Nations students including cultural education and perhaps improving the current curriculum to include education of FNMI issues in the classroom even for non-FNMI students.

Then he is quoted saying that “that enables them to acquire the skills they need to enter the labour market and be full participants in a strong Canadian economy.” Be full participants in a strong Canadian economy? To me, he is suggesting that we are not full participants in a supposed strong Canadian economy. This type of discourse is what contributes to the stereotypical/racist views of FNMI groups within Canada.

I remember I wrote an earlier post I wrote about Ibbitson’s article on “Drop Out Chiefs” and I wrote,

Ibbitson continues to talk about the “broken [First Nations] education system” as if to say that the non-First Nations education is what works. Well, it doesn’t and it hasn’t been working for years. Correction, decades. That is right, I said it: The non-First Nations education is NOT what works for First Nations students. Just look at the residential school system. It is these First Nations Leaders’ decisions not to support the panel because it is only discussing a band-aid solution for separate Nations within a larger Nation. Remember Ottawa and their party dress? All just to say they did it.

You can read that full post HERE.

As a First Nations student I can’t speak for all, but I can say that what doesn’t work is that thinking we just need to reintegrate and contribute to society as full members. We are full participating members of society. We just have been excluded and continue to be excluded with comments like this.

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Mack’s Packs!

A bit of background information:

My sister is an elementary school teacher on an uncededed First Nation in Canada. An unceded First Nation means, one “that has not relinquished title to its land to the government by treaty or otherwise.” That means it does not receive monies from the government.

Anyways, my sister has decided to submit an idea called “Mack’s Packs” to the Ashoka Changemakers competition. I debating about submitting an idea that I had but decided to help support my sister. She is a hard working single First Nations woman. Most recently, she completed her masters in education from The University of Western Ontario (UWO) and last year gave birth to my first nephew. While attending UWO, Mackenzie was nominated for the Joan Pedersen Memorial Graduate Award, where her nomination reads,

Mackenzie’s thesis centres on classroom-based approaches and processes in Aboriginal education. Her nominator writes, “Mackenzie is looking for ways to enrich student learning and provide more culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy in the classroom and school. Working with Elders in her community, she has created and developed new materials and initiated new approaches to her own teaching based on the Ojibway language and traditions as understood in her locale. By honouring Mackenzie Sayers with the Joan Pedersen Memorial Graduate Award, the Faculty of Education would also be recognizing the importance of classroom-based research and classroom-based research in Aboriginal education.”

Read the full nomination HERE.

She has now come up with an idea that will help Aboriginal students, who are likely to come from single-parent households and/or low-income households. Briefly speaking her idea is comprised of the following,

Mack’s Packs is a program that gives deserving students school supplies at the beginning of the school year (September 2012) with a hope that it will continue throughout the years with the assistance of donations. This idea came to me as I am an educator and understand the importance of having students come prepared to class. Unfortunately, many students do not have the means to equip themselves with the basic necessities to do this. This program will work similar to a scholarship program where students will be invited to submit an essay on the importance of education alongside taking pride in our culture/history and who we are as a people.

I remember last September 2011 I brought home some extra supplies, like binders and paper, after my sister shared with me that her students could use the supplies. My sister also purchased some supplies for her own students at the beginning of the year with her own monies (a single, mother who teaches making a real difference). Thinking about this idea and the confidence that it can give to other young First Nation students really warms my heart.

If you are going to do anything while on the internet (and if you have facebook which makes it easier), you should vote for this (or at least consider any of the entries that interest you).

Again here is the link: Mack’s Packs!

What is Education?

This week is the first week of classes. Full classes that is.

Tuesday night I had my first social psychology class (okay maybe that wasn’t the full 3 hours but it was a nice introduction). My professor for that class asked some very interesting questions and made some equally interesting statements. A few them relating to education. One of the statements/questions was this,

What is education all about? Education is all about grades. Why can’t you just come to class and think?

I gathered what he meant by “think” was that why can’t students just come to class and just be their own. No, they have to sit there, absorb information, listen, retain information, read information, and then try to regurgitate it all at some point in some assignment or test soon or later to get that good grade.

Interesting enough. I agreed with him. Students are just wired to go to class on time, sit down in lectures, hand in assignments, receive grades. There is no checks in place to see if they actually understand or know why they are doing the work. I think that is a huge problem with education: people don’t know what good it is for especially when you can see other successful people who make it without any post-secondary education at all. In fact, some of the most interesting and most successful people I know only have their grade 12 education. So how do we convince young people, especially young Aboriginal people, the importance of education beyond just going to lectures, handing in homework, and getting good grades.

Well for one, education equals opportunity. I don’t think I would be able to do the things I have done so far in the past 5 years, and since moving London, if I had not gone back to school. Sometimes people ask me why I came London? I seriously had no plan in mind. I just came. In the end, I am glad I made such a move. I had the opportunity to meet new people, people with like-minded attitudes and people with like-minded attitudes help a lot. I also had the opportunity to work in some pretty interesting settings whether it was for volunteer or paid work because I was a student.

The one thing I learned is that people are willing to invest in you, if and only if you are willing to invest in yourself. And any financial officer/banker would say that is true. Most loans are only granted because of a certain amount of assets that reinvested into the loan on your behalf.

Education is investing in yourself.

But why is investing in yourfself important? It is important because it shows that you have control, devotion and most important power over your own self. It allows you to make your own decisions based on your own terms. Yes sometimes not all “self-investment” will be good investing, and this is a perfect example of my past summer employment. I was excited to be going to gain experience in the area of research, and that was research on Aboriginal people. By the time summer was over, I was stressed out, had learned what it meant to work in a “poisoned work environment”, and most importantly learned why it is now more important for young Aboriginal people to obtain higher education, not just because it is the right thing. For young Aboriginals, education is important so that we can have more Aboriginals working to benefit Aboriginal people and not just non-Aboriginals granting opportunities to Aboriginals.

Education, especially for young people and most specifically Aboriginal people, is about investing in your own self and gaining control and power over one’s own self. Education is investing in yourself.

John Ibbitson and Indians

Okay, so I was bit annoyed with a recent opinion piece that I read earlier today in the Globe and Mail. It was written by John Ibbitson, and apparently after I tweeted the link to the peice along with “many things wrong with this article,” I wasn’t the only one bothered by it. The opinion piece is titled “Dropout Chiefs Imperil a Generation of Kids.”

I write this post in hopes to explain exactly why I did not like this opinion piece. By the end of it, some might agree or some might say, “Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion and this is John’s opinion.” I hope that the latter will not occur because for some people the only knowledge that they have on First Nations people is from the major media outlets, and if media outlets are allowed to publish opinions like these, choice of words, choice of sentence structure and all, then it is downright absurd to say that we live in a country with media free of ignorance, stereotyping, or discrimination.

Let’s begin.

The first thing I do not like about the article is the title: Dropout Chiefs. This piece is written because of the fact that 230 First Nations chiefs are backing out of supporting the AFN’s most recent education panel. By using the term “dropout,” the piece is already giving the Chiefs a bad name.

Then, Ibbitson begins his article by calling out the Indian leaders as the culprits of “wrecking the best chance…to improve the miserable state of on-reserve schools.” I don’t think there could be any more negativity squeezed out onto the faces of those First Nations that choose to back out. The problem is not that First Nations leaders don’t want to improve the state of some of the schools on reserve. The problem is that they already know the problems of their schools; the only ones who do not know the extent is Ottawa. The panel is just another chance to “discuss” issues rather than take action on the issues. And yes, it is political but it’s not First Nations leaders trying to steal AFN National Chief’s spotlight. What is political about this all is that it’s Ottawa just putting on a fancy dress for a day, going out dancing, and then calling it quits–all just to say they did it because this piece still doesn’t say what the panel is meant to accomplish. In an earlier post titled Those Dayum Indians!, I write about the AFN education panel and mention it there first and state that “the article fails to mention what the panel was meant to accomplish.” I mean if you can’t write about what a panel is meant to accomplish and only talk about what is wrong with the other team, then what good is the panel anyways!

Ibbitson continues to talk about the “broken [First Nations] education system” as if to say that the non-First Nations education is what works. Well, it doesn’t and it hasn’t been working for years. Correction, decades. That is right, I said it: The non-First Nations education is NOT what works for First Nations students. Just look at the residential school system. It is these First Nations Leaders’ decisions not to support the panel because it is only discussing a band-aid solution for separate Nations within a larger Nation. Remember Ottawa and their party dress? All just to say they did it.

It may be a wrong thing to say as well, but the way I see this whole situation is just Ottawa forcing First Nations to collectively commit to something that individually they do not want to, and who gets called the Bad Indian in the end? The “Dropout Indian Chiefs.”

Continuing, Ibbitson talks about what is done with the federal government’s grants that are sent to reserves. He states, “with chiefs using the money as they see fit.” Well, I mean, he already cast the negative light onto chiefs by calling them dropouts and wrecking their “best chance to improve the miserable state.” So, one reading this who does not have any knowledge or background on First Nations may think that the chiefs will not use the money what it was sent to be used for: First Nations education. That is not the case. The money is sometimes used to invest into other educational initiatives. I cannot comment on those initiatives in this piece because those initiatives vary from First Nation to First Nation, and that is what key to understanding why those 230 First Nations leaders backed out–their needs for the nations differ and vary across the board.

Then in an fortunate-unfortunate situation, Ibbitson finally mentions the legacy of residential schools after calling the Chiefs “dropouts” and the First Nations education system “broken” in comparison to what? Non-First Nations aka White aka Canadian Education system?!? Not once is it mentioned in this piece that First Nations students need their culture, language, etc to be taught in the classroom to contribute to their success and help eliminate drop-out rates.

In this fortunate-unfortunate situation, Ibbitson talks about the force attempts of assimilation among a generation First Nations people, and he describes that system “dismantled and discredited.” What is especially wrong with this is that he has described the First Nations education system as “broken” earlier. Does this mean that the broken First Nations education system is equal to the dismantled and discredited residential school system? Ouch, Ibbitson.

Further, he describes this residential school era having left First Nations leaders having “suspicion” against education or “anything associated with the federal government.” Does this mean that First Nations leaders are against education entirely and any contact with the federal government at all? No. Ask any First Nations leader and they will say that the only way to improve the state of Aboriginals within Canada is through education. They will also say that it is not that they do not want to work with the federal government, rather they just want to be consulted with–Thought of as an equal in leadership in Canada. What First Nations leaders are against are any further attempts for Ottawa to take First Nations children out of their culture and way of life.

The generation of children are not being lost because First Nations leaders chose to back out. In fact, it is because those First Nations leaders that backed out that another generation of First Nations children will not be lost to further federal government decisions or legislation. These decisions to back out is about self-determination and having control over their own path to education, and I commend Chief Atleo for stating that “each region and each nation is welcome to craft its own solution [and that] no one, least of all the AFN, wants to see native leaders lose control of First Nations education.”

So I ask again, what was meant to be accomplished by holding the panel. It would be nice to have that talked about in these articles and opinion pieces rather than the “Dropout Chiefs.”

Why I am happy those FN backed out of the AFN education panel

So, I read this article on Indian Country Today titled Canada’s Aboriginal Education Panel in Place earlier today.

I was doing a bit of reading and trying to find out more about this proposed education panel. I wanted to find out 2 things:

  1. Who was supposed to be on it
  2. What was it meant to do How was this going to influence changes to Aboriginal education essentially

After reading this article, I found out that well, the panel was chosen in conjunction between the 2: AFN and Canadian Government. Good work. Then in the same article, National Chief Atleo is quoted saying,

“Our shared goal in this work is to dialogue with First Nations and other key players to advance a plan to implement sustainable solutions that put the success of First Nation children front and center,”

Okay really great. Unfortunately in that article, it only mentioned 3 people listed on the panel. Of those 3 people, not a single one was a youth. I know that the AFN has a youth council. Why wasn’t a youth rep included in that panel? I mean given that the issue is Aboriginal drop out rates or disenfranchisement, and central to those issues are youth. Wouldn’t a voice for the youth or at least some youth involvement be considered a key player in all of this? Because at Atleo says “plan to implement sustainable solutions that put the success of First Nations children front and center.” Who better than to include than a youth rep if not a few? Or maybe, the youth council would have been in attendance. Who knows?

That is all I have to say about this Aboriginal education panel.

Those Dayum Indians!

I write this post after reading a book about racial language in the English free press. It was interesting. It opened up my eyes to a lot of things that I read in the print/televised media and not just those that concern First Nations. I also write this post after watching Dave Chapelle’s recent radio interviews online.

Here you can watch it here:

Yeah, Dave Chapelle was apparently boo’d off stage in Miami at a Charity event held at the Casino that apparently belonged to the Seminoles. And apparently Dave Chapelle points out in the interview that the reason security didn’t help him out at the casino was because the front row was packed with the Seminoles. So, Dave didn’t do his show. I understand nobody wants to be on youtube or have his show recorded while at a charity event. C’mon Dave, you can’t be blaming the Indians just like everyone else out there 😉

Here you can watch Dave being boo’d off stage–very bad video I might remind you:

I feel bad for Dave. Really I do but really Dave… blaming the Indians?! Taking the easy way out.

Even a recent editorial in the Globe and Mail on the issue of Caledonia had blamed the Natives. True Costs of Caledonia editorial states:

Many simplistically say Caledonia is only about native protesters and peaceful non-aboriginals. There’s more to it than that. Some non-aboriginal protesters say it demonstrates “two-tier justice” in Canada, where first nations get away with mayhem and non-aboriginals are victimized. There’s also truth to that, but it’s not the whole story.

I don’t think this editorial can cover the entire story in one sitting. I don’t think that this editorial properly portrayed what really went down. In fact, the way this editorial was premised automatically puts a negative light onto the Natives. One cannot comment on the complexity of First Nations issues, let alone write an editorial, if they do not fully understand First Nations’ history/treaty rights. Really, they can’t.

Then in another Globe and Mail article titled National Education Panel in Jeopardy as Native Leaders Withdraw Support the picture of a confrontational Indian was painted again. The article starts out by saying that this panel was supposed to be a historical turning point between Aboriginal leaders and Ottawa but one by one more and more First Nations backed out.

I am proud of those First Nations that backed out. Those that stood up for what they believe in and what they truly want. What I am most proud of is that at the end of the article is Chief Day’s comments:

But Isadore Day, the chief of the Serpent River First Nation in Northern Ontario, said he does not see the point of having a panel to tell native communities what they already know: that investment spending and effective delivery of kindergarten to Grade 12 on reserves need attention.

The one thing this article fails to talk about is what the panel was actually meant to accomplish? I mean really do First Nations leaders need to sit around a table and discuss what, as Chief Day states, what First Nations already know.

It will be a historical turning point when Ottawa actuals take action when it comes to First Nations issues rather than holding panels where the First Nations leaders and Ottawa can sit around the same tables, eat the same food, and drink some tea.

All I have to say is time for action and time to stop talking Ottawa.

Oh, and remember peeps, this is just the newspaper and its articles/editorials we are talking about here. If all your opinions on a topic are formed because you read one or two newspaper articles/editorials, then we have a bigger issue on our hands here 😉

Importance of Education?!?!

Tonight, well…for the past few nights I have been thinking about what I should say or how I should say something to a group of people. The group of people are youth. The topic is the importance of education.

What is different about this group of youth is that they are Aboriginal youth. Well, you might think, “Yeah, well they are still youth. Youth are youth and they never really do anything unless they want to.” No, youth want to do things… like dream, have goals, and be happy.

For this group of youth, I don’t think I will have to motivate them because if they are at this gathering they already have the motivation to be THERE! And they have a desire to do different than what most expected from them–most being some Canadians and them being Aboriginals.

Yes, some Canadians hate Aboriginals. Racism still exist. Stereotypes still exist. Prejudice still exist. I grew up with it and I still witness it and am sometimes directly affected by someone’s racist actions and words.

Heck, even someone said I was “ignorant” for one of my posts titled “Stuff White People Like Do”. Ironically enough, it was a white person who was telling me this. Perhaps he missed the point of the overall post and only focused on one point rather than the whole message.

Anywho, I came across this opinion piece titled Why Aboriginal Education is Our Business in the Globe and Mail.

I like how this piece tells its readers that education “inspires young people.” My belief is that if a youth can dream, a youth can be inspired.

But how do you tell Aboriginal youth the importance of education, when some of them don’t even have a school to attend. Just take a look at Shannen’s Dream.

And how do you tell Aboriginal youth the importance of education, when as Urban Native Girl posted on her Facebook page,

‎”Only 8% of Aboriginal people aged 25 to 64 in Canada have a university degree compared to 23% of non-Aboriginals of the same age group.”

And how do you tell Aboriginal youth, the importance of education when Aboriginal history and culture is almost completely removed from curriculum/education plans. Aboriginal people–the first peoples of Canada.

I believe my greatest challenge next week will be to inspire an entire group of Aboriginal youth the importance of education but only because Aboriginal people including Aboriginal children do not enjoy this supposed basic Canadian right. In the year 2011.

And if I can’t inspire the entire group, I shall work towards inspiring at least one.

More to come on this journey!