The education of Canada's Indian peoples : an experience in colonialism

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Gustafson, Robert Walter
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A commonly accepted premise among Canadians is that the Canadian nation evolved from a state of colonialism. It is not noted that this evolution has been retarded in the case of Canada's Indian Peoples. The words imperialism, colonialism, under-development, and modernization are often utilized, but very seldom are these terms applied to indigenous peoples within North America. The wealth of material by Canadians and Americans regarding overseas areas and the scarcity of similar analyses within borders of those countries seem very suggestive. Foreign areas would seem easy targets for comfortable analysis; too many twinges of conscience might result from internal analysis. The purpose of this study is to examine the situation of the Indian Peoples of Canada to determine whether they exist in a state of colonialism and, if so, to ascertain the role of education in maintaining this state. If findings allow, recommendations will be made regarding the direction of education that would counter this trend. This is a crucial area of study as the Indian Peoples form a substantial part of the Canadian population; a substantial part that has multiplied eight times in the space of seventy-five years and a part that continues to expand at a growth rate double the national average. Monetary and population pressures have forced government cutbacks in programs on reserves, forced increased migration to urban centres and forced more confrontations between the dominant society and the Indian Peoples. Unfortunately, the problem seems to be exacerbating and the confrontations destined to become more frequent and violent. Education is seen by Third World countries as an investment and an answer to development problems - is this a valid assessment? Regarding Canada's Indian Peoples, can and/or is education helping or hindering development? Or, is education simply a reinforcing mechanism for colonialism? Is education an answer, or part of the problem? Does the process of colonialism establish a mind-set that makes escape impossible? The answer to all, or any, of these questions should prove useful in determining future educational policy and developmental planning for Indian Peoples...