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1980 – 1990


The Ktunaxa Nation is one of many First Nations in Canada attending constitutional talks. The National Indian Brotherhood is transformed into the AFN and new energy is found in a united political front. Education is a priority issue for British Columbia First Nations.

The Ktunaxa Nation Land Claim Declaration is presented to Ottawa. The declaration describes the Ktunaxa Traditional Territory and its relationship to the Ktunaxa people. Sovereignty is asserted by the Ktunaxa Nation.

The Constitution Act, 1982 of Canada is passed, with Section 35 reading:

(1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(2) In this Act, “aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada.

(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1) “treaty rights” includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.[3]

The Penner Report, which is released by Keith Penner, chair of a House of Commons Committee, urges Ottawa to recognize self-government in the constitution. Like the previous Trudeau White Paper, the report recommends that the Department of Indian Affairs be dismantled; however the paper strongly recommends that self-government be encouraged and funded, as an order of government similar to that of the provinces. The Report didn’t have much impact, but did spark further discussion on self-government and its place within the Canadian society. Bill C-52, the Liberal’s first self-government legislation, would soon follow.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires that the Indian Act be amended, as Section 12. 1. (b) is in violation of sexual discrimination clauses. Bill C-31 is passed and many Indian women who lost their status are applying to have it reinstated. This Bill does little to reconnect many families that have been affected by years of discrimination, and communities are feeling the impact of increased populations without the increased funding to provide additional services.

The Kootenay Indian Area Council is organizing most of the political affairs of the Ktunaxa Nation, and is managing many programs to deliver services to its constituents, the members of the Columbia Lake, Lower Kootenay, St. Mary’s, Shuswap and Tobacco Plains Bands.

Court action in British Columbia brings a focus to aboriginal rights and title. Industry and in turn government are concerned about the effect of Indian land claims on business in the province. The B.C. government still does not want to confirm the existence of aboriginal rights and land title in the province.

The Ktunaxa participate in a number of research activities and investigative processes, initiated both internally and by government, to seek resolution to the difficulties being experienced by First Nations learners. Post-secondary funding policies are restrictive and the Master Tuition Agreement continues to hinder the ability of First Nations to impact school district decisions. The lack of control over resources limits the ability of the Ktunaxa to exert their inherent jurisdiction.

The Ktunaxa Nation begins to focus much of its energy on the advancement of education issues, as education is seen as crucial in carrying out community development work. The Nation’s communities are building up capital assets and administering more social development programs, and trained staff and management are needed to support this development. A major economic development initiative is being considered for the St. Eugene’s Residential School site, and individual communities are also embarking on economic development ventures.

In general, the results of Ktunaxa and Kinbasket students in the school system are very poor when compared to those of the system as a whole. This is not a concern of the provincial government; the provincial school system continues to receive federal funding directly on a per capita basis for all status Indian students attending their schools on September 30th of each year, regardless of their educational success or continued attendance. In-school suspensions are a common way of keeping students registered until the nominal roll date passes. Very few Ktunaxa students are reaching graduation with a Dogwood Certificate.

The result of the historical treatment of First Nations is highly visible in the communities; alcoholism and family dysfunction continue to be a major concern. Although alcoholism is being combated through treatment programs, the residual effects of the intergenerational abuse and its associated social dysfunction will plague the communities for many years to come. Almost all of the resources coming into the communities are being allocated to social programs. Economic development can not occur in any meaningful way until social issues are brought to the forefront and the capacity of the communities’ human resources increased.

The new Master Tuition Agreement is to be signed by the federal and provincial governments, much to the dismay of First Nations. There are still very few opportunities for the communities to participate in the public school decision-making process, and funding continues to flow to the districts with no audit process to hold the province accountable for the allocation of these resources to First Nation learners.

The level of funding provided to Band schools does not allow for the provision of services needed to encourage successful learning. The incidence of special needs learners among the Ktunaxa and other First Nations is disproportionately high.

Provincial budgets allocate a targeted fund for aboriginal education, to be used for a number of specific support programs. The 1701 reporting process initiates the grant, as aboriginal students are identified. Again, there are no requests made by the District for input from the First Nations community into the allocation of these resources.

The new federal government publishes the report from the Task Force to Review Comprehensive Land Claims (Coolican Report), which recommends major changes to the current federal policy. Soon changes are introduced which do not require extinguishment of title as a precondition of negotiation.

The Bands of the Ktunaxa Nation are becoming frustrated by the lack of interest given to their concerns by the local school boards. In order to demonstrate the seriousness of the situation, the Kootenay Indian Area Council Bands recommend that the parents from their communities keep their students home from school until the funding deadline of September 30th has passed. This would mean that the districts would not receive funding for Ktunaxa or Kinbasket students. The block rate at this time is approximately $5,000.00 per student. The districts finally agree to discuss education issues with the Bands.

The St. Mary’s Band established a Band Operated school.

The amended Master Tuition Agreement allows local education agreements to be signed between the First Nation and the public school district. The Bands will receive the tuition funding directly and negotiate the purchase of services from the districts locally. The Ktunaxa sign the first Local Education Agreement in the province, with School District No. 3 Kimberley. The other districts serving the Ktunaxa communities follow this lead and a funding agreement is negotiated

The Bands of the Kootenay Indian Area Council form the Ktunaxa/Kinbasket Independent School System Society and become a registered Independent School under provincial law. The Society negotiates a funding agreement with the Department of Indian Affairs to allow for the future negotiation of local education agreements. The Society assumes responsibility for aboriginal education within the Ktunaxa Traditional Territory and provides support and resources to both community and public schools.

The Assembly of First Nations (National Indian Brotherhood) publishes their study Tradition and Education, Toward a Vision of Our Future. This report can be summed up in the following statement:

“…deficiencies in existing federal, provincial, and territorial legislation, policies, administrative practices, and programs which affect the education of First Nations students require changes to be consistent with First Nations self-government. Any proposed changes to legislation, policies, procedures and practices must have the approval of First Nations.”[4]

The B.C. First Nations Congress is formed, following a renewed interest in land claims and aboriginal title issues. First Nations recognize the importance of political alliances in addressing this long-outstanding and fundamental issue.

The federal government caps funding for post-secondary education and allocates the funding based on a per capita formula with a block amount per person between the ages of 18 and 34 being allocated to the Bands, rather than an application base as before.

Premier Vander Zalm flies to a blockade at Seton Portage and announces that the province is finally ready to discuss land claims.

A report on post-secondary education for Native learners in the province of B.C. (Green Report) is published. The report was based on four principles, which speak generally to the right of self-determination and self-government and how education supports these processes. The role of government is seen as one of providing accessibility to education, not control over it. The report does have an impact and the province is now considering ways to increase the support to First Nations learners within their post-secondary system. Support for the establishment of First Nations institutions is also demonstrated.