Implementing Indian control of education in Sandy Lake, Ontario
Sandy Lake, a reserve in North-Western Ontario, wished to assume control of its educational system, as many Canadian Indian bands had done since the federal government adopted the policy presented by the National Indian Brotherhood in 1972 calling for Indian Control of Indian Education. That policy advocated parental involvement in education and control of education for Indian children by Indian people. This research focused on the requirements for successful implementation of Indian control of Indian Education. It reviewed implementation in two other Indian Bands and investigated the current state of readiness of the Sandy Lake Band, through interviews with community residents. It analyzed the positive forces within the community that could assist Sandy Lake Band in the take-over process as well as the negative forces that must be overcome. Some members of the community were interested and anxious to take control of education. They were confident that Sandy Lake Band members had the required desire and ability to do so. Generally, there was increased community interest in having children do well in school, and parental support for improved and locally run school services. Several Indian teachers on staff had proven beneficial as role models, and their presence had increased community satisfaction with the curriculum, programming, and daily administration of the school on the Reserve. However, the majority of community members could not perceive the magnitude nor implications of the change to Indian control of their education. Residents had limited comprehension of the present system and a scarcity of skills required to make the change. There was no agreement on the purpose of education and long term goals were not defined. Those residents interviewed were uncomfortable with the lack of local financial stability and saw the negative impact of mixing politics with education. Sandy Lake's isolation from other reserves and other support systems hampered steady progress towards take-over of the education system. Implementation will require a firm commitment from the community to proceed within a specific time frame and commitment from dedicated individuals to ensure completion of this project. Stringent work plans, financial controls, and accountability procedures will have to be created. A community philosophy of education and long and short term goals will have to be developed. A dramatic increase in communication within the community is imperative. Community members will need to contribute their time, energy, and wisdom in order to make this change a success.