1960 – 1970

Indians are now permitted to vote in federal elections. The Department of Indian Affairs’ offices are located in Vernon and serve both the Kootenay and Okanagan Districts.

The policy of the federal government is now moving towards the integration of Indians into the public or religious day schools and the phasing out of residential schools begins. Fiscal arrangements are being negotiated between the federal and provincial governments to allow for the payment that would have otherwise gone to the Church organization operating the residential school to be now made to the province directly. The Master Tuition Agreement is signed near the end of this decade. The White Paper is also published at this time. This paper, which was introduced by the Trudeau government, recommended the complete dismantling of the Department of Indian Affairs, and the abolishment of the Indian Act. First Nations strongly objected to the recommendations and they were not put into effect.

Alcohol is beginning to have a major impact on the Ktunaxa communities with the newly acquired rights of citizenship opening up access to previously prohibited substances. The breakdown of the once strong family structure caused by the residential school system has had a severe and lasting impact on the Ktunaxa communities. Child abuse and neglect are reported frequently as children are now staying at home and attending day schools. The high alcoholism rate results in high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects in newborn children, a condition unknown to anyone at this time.

Parents are given, for the first time in years, regular custody of their children. Many of them do not have any preparation for this responsibility. Multiple generations of residential schooling have resulted in a loss of traditional child-rearing knowledge and an existence in a cultural void. A lack of opportunities to acquire this skill and knowledge means failure as parents, in the eyes of the Indian Agent and Child Welfare Authorities.

The ‘60’s Scoop’ is the result of years of social isolation and cultural genocide. It is a time when Indian children are systematically removed from their homes and placed in foster care or adopted out permanently. Their parents can’t care for them as society now expects them to be cared for. There are cases of Ktunaxa and Kinbasket children being adopted by parents in foreign countries without the knowledge of their Ktunaxa families.

Some students are still housed at the St. Eugene’s residential school, but the classrooms are no longer operating regularly. The Ktunaxa children from St. Mary’s reserve are bused into the Catholic school in the City of Cranbrook. Parents of these children are to become responsible for overseeing their children’s education for the first time. The public school system is a foreign place to both the children and their parents. Many children are leaving school before graduation.

Curriculum in use in the public schools often reflects a poor image of the aboriginal population of Canada and the general public has little or no understanding of First Nations’ history or culture. Further cultural clashes are apparent and First Nation children are now minorities in their classrooms.

Ktunaxa children are often placed in special needs programming automatically, without cause. Indian Education is administered by the Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education. Funding is transferred to the provincial government from the federal government on a per capita basis, regardless of the success or continued attendance of the student. There is no mechanism for accountability to the First Nation. Most Ktunaxa parents do not feel that they have any rights or place in the education system – this is what they have been told and shown for the past 75 years. The education system has not treated Indians well in their representation in curriculum, etc. and the general population has been educated to understand Canadian history from a very one-sided perspective.

The population of the Ktunaxa Nation is now growing dramatically; however, it will later be discovered that the majority of the children being born are fetal alcohol affected. The impact of this reality will prove to be overwhelming in the future.

The Bands of the Ktunaxa Nation are collectively organizing themselves politically to deal with the many issues affecting their communities. Pressure is being put on the Department of Indian Affairs to reduce their interference in community affairs. Inherent jurisdiction is being asserted by many First Nations and civil disobedience is now becoming common. A number of community members have now become formally educated and are politically active at a local, provincial and national level.