1970 – 1980

The Kootenay Indian District Council is formed to collectively promote the political and social development initiatives of the Ktunaxa Nation.

On the National scene, First Nations have been organizing themselves to better deal with the on-going difficulties facing their communities. Education has become a priority to First Nations. The failure of the residential schools is even more evident when First Nation learners move to the public school system and are compared to other students.

The system still does not recognize that the fundamental problem with the approach to educating Indian children is that they are trying to replace a culture and history that is thousands of years old, with an entirely new and foreign concept of humanity. The ‘facts’ that they are expecting First Nations children to learn are irrelevant in their world, and the information is culturally biased. Self-esteem hits an all time low, as First Nation students clearly are reminded daily that they are different from than the other students.

The provincial government is receiving a block grant from the Department of Indian Affairs for each status Indian student normally residing on reserve and attending the school system on September 30th. This administrative process, referred to as the Master Tuition Agreement, provides for the transfer of these funds to the province from the federal government on behalf of First Nations. Although millions of dollars are transferred annually, First Nations have no say in their allocation or in the services purchased on their behalf.

First Nations are now beginning to assume control over their own schools within their communities. These schools are funded and regulated by the federal Department of Indian Affairs. Their policy suggests that they follow standards comparable to the public school system. The control afforded to communities is limited, as is the funding. The Lower Kootenay Community establishes a Band-operated school.

A Ktunaxa woman is elected as the Area ‘C’ Rural Representative to the Cranbrook Board of School Trustees, a position she will hold for two terms. Education is a major focus of the Ktunaxa Nation and many young people are being encouraged to pursue post-secondary education. Although few learners achieve the qualifications to enter post-secondary training, those that do are generally successful. The capacity of the Ktunaxa Nation to participate in mainstream politics is expanding rapidly and the Nation is highly visible at both the provincial and federal levels.

Occupational Skills Training is considered by the government to be a more relevant education to provide to Indians, and many students are discouraged from entering programs of study that would prepare them for careers in business or social development work. Post-secondary funding is accessible to most students requesting assistance, as the level of students requesting support is low.

Members of local First Nations close down the Vernon Indian Affairs’ office, which serves the Ktunaxa communities, following a sit-in.

The Kootenay Indian District Council becomes the Kootenay Indian Area Council. Education quickly becomes a priority issue. The Bands participate in many reviews and processes over the course of the next few years to state their concerns with regard to education. Curriculum in the public schools within the region does not reflect the local First Nations in any way.

The National Indian Brotherhood adopts the report, Indian Control of Indian Education, which details the experience of First Nations with respect to the education system and makes recommendations on how to improve the situation. The Department of Indian Affairs later adopts the principles of this paper but little is done to improve the situation.