Creating Space for Indigenous Knowledge Systems

Our youth need to learn respect for the land and to connect with the land, and the berries, and the fish, and the animals. This is why the idea of having our own School becomes important, exploring what are you going to learn in your school that connects you to your culture and the teachings. Families in our community are beginning to realize the necessity to having our own schools.” (Art Petahtegoose, 2018)

In 1972, The National Indian Brotherhood (now known as the Assembly of First Nations, AFN) adopted the Indian Control of Indian Education (ICIE) policy which was affirmed by the Minister of Indian Affairs at that time, Jean Chrétien. Firstly, this new policy called for a radical change in Indian education. This policy reclaimed the right of Indian parents to direct the education of their children. Secondly, the policy called for local control of education in which local education authorities would assume responsibility for all aspects of the education system (budgeting, spending and establishing priorities, determining the types of school facilities based on the unique needs of the community, hiring staff, curriculum development, maintenance of physical plant, adult education and upgrading courses, negotiating education agreements, education program evaluation, and provision of counselling services) (AFN, 2010). The move to adopt ICIE was viewed as a way to improve learning outcomes for Indian children and to help eradicate poverty.

However, since 1972, the full spirit and intent of the ICIE policy was never supported by the federal government in any meaningful way. Funds were never allocated by the federal government to fully implement the comprehensive learning environments and systems envisioned by First Nations leadership and educators. In 2010, the AFN Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) and the National Indian Education Council (NIEC), recognizing that the challenges identified in 1972 remained relevant and that the underlying principles of the ICIE 1972 policy still applied, recommended that the 1972 ICIE policy be updated. At the AFN General Assembly in July 2009, the mandate was given to revise the policy. The revised document, First Nations Control of First Nations Education 2010, reaffirmed the First Nations’ vision of lifelong learning and reasserted the First Nations’ inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights to education (AFN, 2010).

More recently, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action identifies seven calls to action that deal specifically with education (TRC, 2015). These calls deal with the elimination of educational and employment gaps, address the discrepancies in education funding, spread awareness about the income and educational attainments of Aboriginal people compared to non-Aboriginal people in Canada, and draft new Aboriginal educational legislation that include a commitment to sufficient funding. Interestingly, this new legislation contains some of the same elements as the NFCFNE 2010: greater parental and community responsibility, control and accountability, parental participation in children’s education, and respecting and honouring Treaty relationships.

Learning Activities

  1. Since the 1970s with the introduction of the Indian Control of Indian Education policy document by the National Indian Brotherhood, Indigenous communities have been attempting to take greater control over their educational systems. Indigenous communities continue to struggle with similar challenges today.

    1. Why do you think those challenges persist?

    2. What will it take on the part of the federal government for significant changes to be made?

  2. Do some research on your own about developments in Indigenous education systems.

    1. What evidence demonstrated that greater control by Indigenous communities over their own educational systems will enhance the quality of life for Indigenous peoples?

    2. What else needs to happen in Indigenous education for meaningful change to occur?

Expanding Your Knowledge

  1. For more information on ‘First Nations control of First Nations Education,. It’s Our Vision, It’s Our Time ’ go to the following website:
    First Nations Control of First Nations Education: It’s Our Vision, It’s Our Time (July 2010)



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