PEACE RIVER - Treaty 8 Chiefs are being asked to approve an education commission proposal to transfer programs from the Department of Indian Affairs to the Treaty 8 Education Commission that was established by the chiefs in November, 1984.
One of the first achievements of the education commission was a study of the area to find how the people of the Treaty see education.
The study (commonly referred to as the Sage Study) pointed out many of the problems which Indian students face when they go to school.
"Most often," notes the education commission," they" feel that their problems and their feelings are ignored and, as a result, their problems are not addressed, they receive little help and support, and many of them give up and leave school. It is not that teachers and counsellors and administrators don't care, it's just that, too often, they don't know how to handle the problem or educators have an interest in seeking students succeed, our children see them as not having a genuine and continuing interest in their educational welfare."
The Treaty 8 Education Commission says: "We need to be in a position where these educators feel more responsibility for student progress, where they feel more pressure upon themselves to do a better job. It is unlikely that they will ever feel that pressure from the Department.
According to the education commission, the two Department counsellors that serve the entire Treaty 8 area "are required to look after the welfare of every student in the area, including those in post-secondary institutions."
As well as the counselling duties, these two people are also expected to take
on many administrative duties. "With the huge amount of paperwork required by the government," says the commission, "the result (is) that students are often neglected and they may terminate their schooling.
The Treaty 8 Education Commission is proposing to the chiefs that the following actions be taken:
All bands sign a Band Council Resolution agreeing to the transfer of student support functions;
The commission to be allowed to negotiate a transfer agreement with the Department of Indian Affairs for the amount of money now being spent;
After the transfer has taken place, the commission employ as much staff as it can afford to pay, and with the appropriate educational and cultural qualifications to carry out the programs.
"In order for the transfer to be successful," the commission states in its proposal to the Treaty 8 Chiefs, "there must be unity amongst the chiefs. Our people, and the depart-ment, must see that our political leaders are united to provide better education, and they have risen above the idea of getting as much as possible for their Band at the expense of others."
If the chiefs accept the proposal, the commission says counsellors will be freed from most of the tiresome departmental paperwork and will be able to pay more attention to student welfare and progress, and students will have access to people who care and who are dedicated to helping them succeed. As well, says the commission, the selection of boarding homes will be done more carefully and with more attention paid to the need
to have homes that are in tune with Indian students.
Advantages and Drawbacks
The Treaty 8 Education Commission says there are many advantages to the proposed transfer:
"There is an urgent need for the commission to be responsible for programs if it is to continue working. The department is not prepared to continue funding a body that has no responsibility. At the same time, there is an urgent need to address the problems that were identified in the Sage Study. Using a broad-based Treaty area approach to our education problems instead of a narrow Band-based approach, we can have more success with our student.
"We return the control of our educational destiny to ourselves. Although we may never be able to escape from the rules of the department, with a bord base of funding from these programs, we will be able to be much more flexible than the department can
be and yet still remain within those rules.
"Your commission sees one major drawback to this proposal," the education commission notes in addressing the Treaty 8 Chiefs. "Acceptance of it means that individual bands will not control their own educational program, nor will they have direct control over the funds that are spent on their children's education."