Nation-Based Sovereign-Based Government

First Nations Education: What Does This Mean?

October 18, 2019

Treaty 2 territory – The past three weeks have been spent familiarizing myself with the work of the FNT2T in and around education, but also researching what other First Nations across what is now Canada have done in their own territories.

We know that our ancestors had their own systems of education prior to the arrival of the newcomers. Most of those systems consisted of learning from our parents, families, extended family, community as well as the land and nature. Learning was life long. Often times, older people would watch little ones observing natural gifts; later, those little ones would be paired up with an adult, a mentor, a knowledge-keeper, who had the same gift(s). This functioned as a mentorship in education.

First Nations advocating to regain control over the education of their young people has been going on for quite some time. In 1972, the National Indian Brotherhood released a paper titled “Indian Control of Indian Education.” This paper outlined what is required for First Nations to (re)gain jurisdiction over education. It called for “radical change.” Since then, a number of studies and papers have been released advocating for the same. Today, First Nations continue this advocacy as they strive “to make education relevant to the philosophy and needs of [First Nations] people” (National Indian Brotherhood).

There are First Nations who’ve established Education Acts. There is the Mi’kmaq Education Act (1998) which “is An Act respecting the powers of the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia in relation to education” (Justice Laws Website, Government of Canada). It is an “[a]greement [that] has allowed participating First Nations to exercise jurisdiction over the education of their students” (Canada Gazette, Part 2 Vol. 145 No. 21, 2011). Further, in B.C., there was the establishment of an Education Jurisdiction Framework Agreement between Canada, British Columbia, and the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) which “created a new legal entity, the First Nations Education Authority, and established the legal foundation for the creation of Community Education Authorities through First Nations’ laws” (FNESC). Through this Act, “First Nations have a strong foundation that will enable them to govern their own education systems on-reserve and work with the BC public education system as a partner for learners who attend school off-reserve” (First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education, FNESC). Thus, First Nations, in their own uniqueness and diversity, are continuing the work of previous generations in (re)gaining control over their education systems.

What will be important for FNT2T and the amazing work that they are already doing, is to continue to think about the important question of “What is First Nations Education?” Most, if not all, believe that it must entail our ways, languages, practices, and more. These must be at the center. In exercising sovereignty, it is believed that First Nations should have their own Education Act(s) which establishes and asserts their inherent right to education. This will be a topic of discussion in the upcoming weeks as LLL visits FNT2T. And the hope is that community members will take part and lead this important discussion that will guide the future of First Nations Education in Treaty Two territory.

Last modified: October 19, 2019

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