I started school in Buffalo Narrows in 1951. I was six years old. I did not know how to speak any English. My family only spoke the Cree language, which is a mixture of Cree and French. The language is now called Mitchif. Where did that word come from? Anyway, I went to school in Buffalo Narrows up to grade 4. It was very hard to learn the English language. Especially hard with the many strappings we received when caught using our Cree language. This is probably the reason, there are not too many in Buffalo Narrows that use their native tongue. In the middle of grade 4 my family moved to Ile a la Crosse, that was around 1955. I attended school there until I turned 12 years of age. Shortly after turning 12 my family moved back to Buffalo Narrows. I suppose my parents were a little nomadic following the seasons for work. My parents worked in fish plants, mink farms, also did some fleshing of mink and stretching the mink. The smell used to be terrible. Today you can buy mink oil for softening skin. Who would have thought that awful smell would be worth anything. In 1957 /58, I was sent to the convent in Ile a la Crosse. The barge was the transportation at the time. There were no roads except for winter bush and ice roads. The barge took all day to arrive in Ile a la Crosse, the barge travelled down deep river, which is now called Macbeth Channel. I was very lonesome while in the convent, it was a good thing the nun’s kept us busy. Our days were filled with attending mass twice a day going to school and doing chores. I used to enjoy eating carrots and turnips for snacks, also our breakfast which consisted of porridge and fresh bread, even though the porridge was sticky. One of my chores used to be to set dinning room table for the priest and also to clean it afterwards. They always had an abundance of food. Of course the mission had a very large garden, and a large root cellar where all potatoes and other vegetables were stored for winter use. The older girls in the convent got to sew and do canning. My brother Frank was also in the convent. He went to the convent before I did. I used to see him in church, but we seldom spoke to each other. I also saw him in school, we did not speak in school. Not when you have to hold your hand up only for answering questions. I was so happy when late fall of 1959 our parents showed up to take us home. We went in a small boat to cross over to Burnouf’s as it’s called, because there was no road in or out of Ile a la Crosse. The ice road to Burnouf’s is still in use today. It cuts off 30 km on highway 155. When we arrived across the lake there was a new gravel highway going to Buffalo Narrows. Apparently my parents had been working on the highway. My father worked as a labourer and my mother was cooking for the road crew. This was the reason we were in the convent. Like I said before, my parents were kind of nomadic. When I returned in 1959, I did not return to school. I should have started grade seven. I was needed at home to go out to work. So I worked a waitress and did a lot of ironing. Clothes used to come off the clothes line wrinkled. So there I was doing tons of ironing, now I don’t like to iron. I always say the clothes dryer does it all. In 1961 or 62 I attended a vocational school in Saskatoon. The school is now called Siast. I took an up grading class there, which upgraded me to a grade 11. This time going to a city school was difficult. There was a lot to learn about city life. Coming from a small community, where everyone still hauled their own water, washed clothes using a scrubbing board and using outhouses. Like my husband says “ we used to poop outside and smoke inside, now it’s the other way around”. Back to city life, my roommate and I used to receive ten dollars a month each, spending money. We would receive these cheques that were as large as big envelopes. Her and I had to budget our money very carefully, so that it would last us a month. We only took the city bus if we really needed to, otherwise we walked everywhere. Today the times have changed. There are so many more opportunities for our aboriginal people today. There is funding for schooling or to become an entrepreneur. Our culture today is a lot like years ago we still fish, hunt, and gather. We have a lot of resources in our Northern lands. Mining gas, oil, uranium, gold, logging, fishing, hunting. In closing I would like to state that our young people have the best of both worlds, European and Aboriginal.
Aboriginal Education in the North
Done by: Nathan Kiezie
Hi! I’m Nathan Kiezie from Buffalo Narrows, and I chose to do this topic, because I know a little bit about it from other classes and from presentations that were done at our school. Also, my grandma tells stories about when she went to school. I also thought it would be interesting if I got to learn more about aboriginal education that happened when I was not around to see it for myself. I heard a lot of different stories over the years about education and how difficult it was back then, and how it has evolved from the past to the present day.
Aboriginal education in the past was only done orally through oral teachings. Oral Teachings were a combination of stories, ceremonies, traditions, medicine wheel, medicines, dances, and arts & crafts. One major form of oral teaching was storytelling. They were not only for entertainment, but to educate and inform the youth about their history, culture, and their identities. Elders and Healers, were the ones that usually shared this knowledge with the younger generation, and it would get passed down from generation to generation for a long time to come. The stories taught lessons, morals, history, and practical knowledge.
In 1910 , churches and the government assimilated Native peoples. Residential schools were the main method of assimilation. Children were taken from families by priests and police officers. Schools were ruled by Catholic, United and Anglican churches. Between 1820 to 19 69, 26 residential schools were administered by Anglican churches. The government was involved in 130 schools across Canada. Children were not allowed to speak their language or they were punished. Children between the ages of 7 to 15 had to attend residential school. The children were not allowed to talk to or play with opposite sex, even if they were family members. They were only allowed to talk for a few minutes on Christmas holidays.
Until up to the 1950’s children were to attend classes for half a day, and work on a farm or do laundry or other chores for the other half. Some of the schools failed to provide education and were using the children as unpaid labourers. Eventually the schools were expected to pay the students for labour. Residential schools to children was like a nightmare. In some cases they were exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse. Malnutrition, illness, and ill treatment lead to a lot of deaths of residential school children. In 1969 churches stopped running schools and the Indian bands took over, and the last residential school closed permanently in 1996, in Canada.
The National Indian Brotherhood (NIB) wanted to only focus on First Nations education. The NIB was later changed to Assembly of First Nations (AFN). In 1972 the NIB stated they wanted “Indian Control Of Indian Education”. They wanted to control their own education, and to educate young First Nations of their culture and way of life. One goal from AFN was the reinforcement of identity. They wanted to be consulted with over education. They wanted aboriginal student to learn their own language, and culture. Now this is policy of AFN and Canadian government.
Today we learn about the history of First Nations and Métis peoples. We also learn about when European settlers came into Canada. In school we have cultural camps where we learn about the traditional way of life like fishing, hunting and trapping. We also have traditional meals in school, and we have cultural days/games. We have knowledge of our ancestors and our history. Our present day education system with learning about the past, the present along with all the technology offers us more opportunities and prepares us for life.
I interviewed my grandma about her education when she was young. Her name Is Bernice Marguerite Seright, maiden name Durocher.’ She was born on July 21st, 1945 and is now 66 years old.
Calliou, Shrilyn. ""Indian Control of Indian Education". Native Rights News." 30 January 2009. Alliancefor Indigenous Rights. Web Blogspot. 22 April 2012. Hanson, Erin. "Oral Traditions" First Nations Studies Program. The University of British Columbia. 2009. Web. 2012 April 21. "Indian Residential Schools in Canada." Uploaded by Mudhooks, 17 February 2008. Web. Paul, Daniel N. Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. Picture. Residential School. First Nation Homelessness. n.d. Photo. Seright, Bernice. Personal Interview Nathan Kiezie. 20 April 2012. The Winnepeg Art Gallery. "Storytelling: Oral Tradition". . 2002. Web. 21 April 2012. Thomas Moore before and after his entrance into the Regina Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan in 1874. Library Archives Canada. Photo.