Vedaaranya Heritage Arts and Healing Festival 2016

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Ms. Marlene Starr

University of Phoenix
134 Valley View Dr.
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R2Y 0R8

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Fails in its Approach to First Nation Education

First Nation parents are the only group of parents in Canada who still do not have a voice in the education of their children. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada [INAC] determines the amount of funding. INAC determines if a school will be built on the reserve. INAC determines what curricula will be taught. INAC determines the amount of special education funding and types of services. INAC determines every aspect of First Nation education and INAC has failed and continues to fail in its approach.

Through the Indian Act 1876, the Canadian government assumed complete control of the education for the First Nations who resided on reservations. The goal was assimilation and residential schools were established to separate the children from their parent’s influence. Various religious denominations operated the schools and thousands of children were physically, sexually and psychologically abused in residential schools. The curriculum focused on rote learning and manual labor.

When the mandate to assimilate the children was not working, INAC proposed new policies to send First Nation children to mainstream schools. The First Nation leadership objected and stated that First Nations should control the education for First Nations, not the federal government. The federal government agreed to the terms in principle; however, INAC still maintained financial control and demanded adherence to its policies.

Since 1972, many schools have been built on the reserves and First Nations have had administrative control. INAC’s funding for the students who attend reserve schools has been and still is significantly less than for the students who attend a mainstream school. INAC provides double the funding (or more) if a student attends a school off-reserve. INAC’s funding policies demonstrate discrimination practices against First Nation students who attend schools on their reserves. INAC continues to undermine the educational success of First Nations.


Marlene Starr grew up in Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation in Manitoba, Canada. Her Anishinabe name is Saakajiwe i’ gaabawek and belongs to the Turtle Clan. Marlene has a Bachelor and a Masters degree in Education and she is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership. She has 18 years of experience in First Nation education and is currently the Principal of Ginew School in Roseau River First Nation. Marlene is also a published author.