Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

TREATY 4: 137th ANNIVERSARY

Posted by strattof on September 15, 2011

Today, September 15, is the 137th anniversary of Treaty 4. On September 15 1874, Cree and Saulteaux First Nations and the Canadian government signed Treaty 4 at Fort Qu’Appelle. Additional signings occurred in 1875, 1876, and 1877.

Treaty 4 was negotiated by the Canadian government in order to gain land for European settlement, agriculture, and industry, as well as for the transcontinental railway that would run through southern Saskatchewan.

A key demand of the Cree and Saulteaux First Nations was for education. Since the buffalo had nearly vanished from the prairies, they wanted to acquire new tools that would ensure a strong and prosperous future. 

Under Treaty 4, the Cree and Salteaux First Nations relinquished most of current day southern Saskatchewan. In return, they received small parcels of land, as well as long-term government commitments in a number of areas, including education.

The Treaty Commissioner, Alexander Morris, promised the Treaty would last “as long as the sun shines and the water flows.”

WE ARE ALL TREATY PEOPLE

All southern Saskatchewan residents, whether Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, benefit from Treaty 4. Mosaic Stadium, for example, is situated on Treaty 4 land. So too are Wascana Park, the Cornwall Centre, and all the rest of Regina.

For the past 137 years, the Cree and Salteaux First Nations have kept their side of the Treaty 4 agreement. The Canadian government, on the other hand, has frequently failed to recognize its treaty commitments. Education, “the new buffalo,” as Blair Stonechild terms it, is one of the areas in which the government has broken its treaty promises.

BROKEN PROMISES: EDUCATION

 RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS: 1884–1996

Under Treaty 4, the government promised “to maintain a school on the reserve, allotted to each band, as soon as they settle on said reserve.” Instead, the government implemented the genocidal residential school system, with the aim of assimilating First Nations into European-Canadian society–of “killing the Indian in the child.”

Attendance at the schools was compulsory for all children aged 6-15. Parents who failed to send their children willingly had their children taken from them forcibly.

Students were required to live on school premises and most had no contact with their families for up to 10 months at a time and sometimes for years. The attempt to force assimilation also involved punishing the children for speaking their own languages or practising their cultures.

All students at residential schools experienced cultural abuse. As is now well known, many students were also subjected to physical and sexual abuse. A lesser known fact is that the mortality rate at some schools reached 69%–caused by overcrowding, poor food and sanitation, and a lack of medical care.  

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to First Nations for the residential school system.

RESERVE SCHOOLS: 2011

●Schools on reserves are funded by the federal government, while non-reserve schools receive their funding from the provinces. ●The federal government typically provides less money for schools and education than do the provinces. When this happens, the provinces usually do not top up federal funding. ●As a result, many First Nations children and youth get an unequal education just because they are First Nations and living on a reserve. 

  • A child who attends school on a reserve is funded between $2,000 and $3,000 less than a child in a provincial school.
  • Unlike provincial governments, the federal government does not provide any funding for libraries, computers, extracurricular activities, special education, endangered languages, or the development of culturally-appropriate curricula.
  • Because of underfunding, many First Nations schools are in poor condition and present health concerns, including overcrowding, extreme mould, high carbon dioxide levels, sewage fumes, frozen pipes, unheated portables.
  •  Only 20 of Saskatchewan’s 142 on-reserve schools are in good condition.

Is it any wonder that the high school graduation rate for on-reserve schools is Saskatchewan is just 38%, as compared to 90.5% for schools in the provincial education system?

According to the website of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada,The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that Aboriginal peoples enjoy the same education opportunities as other Canadians.”

SHANNEN’S DREAM

Shannen’s Dream is a campaign for safe schools and equal education for First Nations children. It was founded by Shannen Koostachin of Attawapiskat First Nation, who, in her short life, worked tirelessly to try to convince the federal government to give First Nations children the same educational opportunities as other Canadian children. Tragically, Shannen was killed in a car accident at the age of 15.

TAKE ACTION

  • Find out more about Shannen’s Dream by going to http://www.fncfcs.com/shannensdream/
  •  Ask Federal Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, John Duncan, why a child who attends school on a reserve is funded between $2,000 and $3,000 less than a child in a provincial school. Let him know that you want the Canadian government to live up to the claim stated on his ministry’s website: The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that Aboriginal peoples enjoy the same education opportunities as other Canadians: Duncan.J@parl.gc.ca or 613-992-2503.
  • Send the same message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.

“It is unacceptable in Canada that First Nations children cannot attend a safe and healthy school. It is unacceptable in Canada for First Nations education to languish with outdated laws, policies and funding practices that do not support basic standards. It is time for fairness and equity”

Shawn Atleo, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations.

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