Prelude to First Nations Control of Education at NCN/NNCEA

Traditional Education

Tepees Nelson House

For thousands of years, our people lived off the land and had “pimatisiwin,” a good life. They were resourceful, nomadic and travelled to catch fish, hunt/trap and gathered food items and plants. Learning and teaching the traditions, culture and language was normal and natural, in the great outdoors, and was very informal. Family members: mom/dad, aunts/uncles, grandparents, various knowledge keepers/Elders, etc. passed on their skills. Extended family were heavily involved. Young ones learned by listening, thinking, watching and doing. Everyone had roles/responsibilities to fulfill. There was always time for fun, games, relaxation and ceremony. This way of learning and living was forever altered when foreigners arrived and the government of Canada imposed their ways.

Residential Schools

Residential School

From the 1870s-mid 1990s, our children were sent out, at a young age, to residential schools in Manitoba (Brandon, Portage, or elsewhere) for many years and endured many abuses. This was an outright attack on our being as a distinct culture and colonialism. Sad to say, the government “of the day” thought we were uncivilized and wanted to assimilate us.

On June 11th, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a Statement of Apology in the House of Commons to all former students of Indian Residential Schools. The government of Canada recognized the harm and damaging effects done to Aboriginal culture, heritage and language. The horrific accounts of the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual abuses have been well-documented. This is at the very root of our social problems today which will take eons to overcome.

Day Schools

Miss Jackson with Cree school girls, Nelson House, MB 1910

Day schools were funded by the federal government and operated by the churches in many Indigenous communities. They were not well run and many former students endured an array abuses in their own communities too. Another version of residential schools which continued into the day school experience in various home communities.

At Nisichawayasihk, the first new federal school opened in 1974 and lasted until it was burned down in October, 1980. Temporary mobile classrooms were brought in and other available buildings had to be utilized/set up for school facilities. They were disjointed, “make-shift and inefficient.”
These were scattered around the school site. Central office was housed in one of the original school buildings built in the 1950’s. These facilities were utilized until the mid-1980s.

NCN Realities in the 1980s

NCN 1981
  • Besides the aforementioned experiences, the impacts of the Churchill River diversion and flooding of our waterways and lands created more devastation and changes to life at NCN.
  • At one time, prior to the 1980’s, NCN was isolated and everything and everyone had to be flown in by bush planes
  • There was no highway to Thompson until the late-1960s and then the highway was sub-standard for years
  • By the 1980’s, like NCN, quite a few Manitoba First Nations chose to take over their education systems on the reserve.
  • A non-system of education was inherited from the federal government
  • Our First Nation did not have fancy educational facilities or equipment that most provincial schools had
  • When the conversion to FNC happened, most homes did not have electricity, running water, power, phones, television or adequate housing. Medical facilities were limited. There was no technology. Gestetners were the latest in technology for printers!
  • Our community was much smaller than it is today.
  • There was a definite shortage of Indigenous educators and Indigenous curriculum was non-existent
  • Two duplex teacherages were constructed, one in 1970 (units 4), the other in 1980 (units 7 A & B)

Ownership & Control

The “Indian Control of Indian Education 1972 (ICIE 1972) policy articulated a statement of values which is as true today as it was at its inception. The National Indian Brotherhood (hereinafter Assembly of First Nations (AFN) adopted the policy paper “Indian Control of Indian Education in 1972. The ICIE 1972 policy was affirmed by then Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chretien, in 1973.” – AFN’S ITS OUR VISION, IT’S OUR TIME, 2010

Negotiations to take over own schooling system began in the mid-1970’s until an agreement was signed with the federal government in 1981.

In its lifespan, the Education Authority has been known as the Nelson House Education Authority (NHEA), the Nisichawayasihk Education Authority (NEA) and since November 2015, it is now known as the Nisichawayasi Nehetho Culture and Education Authority Inc. (NNCEA)

The education authority was founded on the spirit, beliefs and basic principles of “Wahbung” and “Indian Control of Indian Education.” This must never be forgotten! FNC of education at NCN began with the best of intentions but there was no written strategic plan or decent facilities.

For the last 40 years, NHEA/NEA/NNCEA has been wandering and just basically surviving. Now, that we’ve gone through “the growing pains” and matured, the next 40 years should be more pleasant, positive and productive!

Next Steps for NNCEA

Celebrating 40 years First Nations Control of NNCEA
  • A strategic educational plan is definitely needed this time for the next 40 years!
  • Continued implementation of the Planning for Alternate Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) plan of December 2016
  • Continue growth and development of our Nihitho language and culture within our school system
  • Our language and culture must be at the “heart” of our school system and the provincial curriculum has to be integrated into it
  • Best practices for Indigenous education
  • Summer school for students who need to “catch up” or need “enrichment”
  • Cultural competency of all our students and staff has to be a goal
  • Continue to prepare students/graduates for 21st century learning/teaching/living
  • Much improved staff and student attendance
  • Proper maintenance and preservation of the schools on our land
  • On-going systematic school evaluations and implementation of the recommendations
  • Community education programming so our parents can become more involved with our educational system
  • On-going participation and increased parental involvement and a volunteer program.
  • A new elementary school for Nursery to grade 6 is needed as the current one is deteriorating rapidly and too costly to repair.
  • Annual policy revision with stakeholder input
  • Continue with school system reviews or evaluations
  • A day care at the high school
  • To have a video conferencing classroom for distance education along with on-line learning
  • We need to “grow our own teachers” and have teacher training here.
  • A NNCEA Data and Research Unit is long overdue. Data driven decisions need to be made. Data provides the evidence or proof needed to assess progress/justify needs. All kinds of data can be collected to provide statistical info. Data is generally categorized into four domains: achievement data (standardized tests, teacher observations, formal assessments, etc.); demographic data (enrollment rates on attendance, drop-outs, transiency, gender, grade levels, student transportation, behavioural problems, social needs, etc.); program data can be created, tracked and evaluated; perception data gets info from stakeholders on values, beliefs, attitudes, observations, etc. like surveys. Data as such can be gathered and has to be studied/analyzed. The findings of such data gathering will help decision-makers.
  • Ongoing creation of AGA reports for the Assembly.