Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Learning to Dance the Pow wow: Stepping in time with Terrance Goodwill

Terrance Goodwill
The Great Grass Dancer Terrance Goodwill came to the University of Manitoba to teach a class (EDUA 1500 Aboriginal Education) about the great culture that he loves and supports. He was there on Oct 1, 2013 with Education teacher candidates who are training to become teachers and who will most likely be confronted with the need to address Aboriginal issues within the classroom, because even in Winnipeg many of the students will be First Nation and Métis.   

Taken from StatsCanada. The Aboriginal population living in Winnipeg is much younger than the non-Aboriginal population. In 2006, the median age4 of the Aboriginal population in Winnipeg was 26 years, compared to 40 years for the non-Aboriginal population.
In 2006, about half (49%) of the Aboriginal population was under the age of 25, compared to 30% of non-Aboriginal people. Furthermore, only 4% of Aboriginal people were 65 years and over, compared to 14% of the non-Aboriginal population. Three in 10 (30%) Aboriginal people in Winnipeg were children under the age of 15, compared to 17% of their non-Aboriginal counterparts (see chart 1). For more details on the age distribution, see table 1 in the appendix.
Aboriginal children aged 14 years and under represented 17% of the census metropolitan area's children. Just over a third (36%) of the First Nations population was 14 years of age and under. Similarly, children in this age group comprised a third of the Inuit population (33%). For the Métis population, about a quarter (27%) were aged 14 and under.
2006 Aboriginal Population Profile for Winnipeg

 The words Great are used because as the video demonstrates Terrance was able to use teaching techniques so naturally and involved each of the students in what he was doing. Also the students had a good time, but also learned about the history of these dances. These classes are excellent in both social studies as well as physical education because students must move, but also understand the historical changes going on in First Nations communities and the movement from celebrations to powwow from spiritual to more commercial aspects of modern culture.  Teachings like this make for greater cultural understanding, but also cross cultural competency and make the learning of students more relevant.
George Councillor, & Freeman White were the singers. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Investigating the Child and Family Services of Manitoba: A History of State Parenting

Manitoba Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard came to the University of Manitoba on Oct 17, 2013 to speak about his new report on the child welfare system in Manitoba. While speaking to the teacher candidates in the Aboriginal education class he talked about his long journey in gaining greater knowledge of many of the faults of system in Manitoba. It seems that while there are many caring individuals within the system the state as the final decision maker within our institution makes for a very poor parent. It seems that state can never be a loving or caring parent to the actual parents. The current CFS system is quick on the gun not taking due process to assess families and simply just removes the child. It is a poor parent indeed. 

Jon Gerrard and Robert-Falcon Ouellette 
While listening to Jon Gerrard presentation I was struck by the number of children currently in care. There are very few in Manitoba who will not say the child and family services model is broken. When a child is taking into custody they could be moved 15 times in a 7 year period. While this is certainly due to a number of reasons some being the child was returned to the parents a number of times and the placements in foster families was of a short duration. Other nations have similar problems, but they are experimenting. England is doing something completely different in the providing of services to families and ensuring the protection of children.

Some English Child and Family workers instead of having large case loads will only be assigned a few families. The working day will often begin at 7 AM when they arrive at a family’s home and consist of getting the children out of bed and packing them off to school. The workers must be tough because some parents will tell them to f*&^* off. They will also video tape the going on in the home and replay what transpired to the parents in order to find better actions to different circumstances such as when kids are screaming and parents are having trouble coping. We need a Grandmother program here in Manitoba someone to demonstrate good parenting and help keep people on track at home and in looking for working and education. Manitoba currently has over 9 700 children in custody. They have become an industry in and of themselves. These children have been removed either voluntary or forcibly from the custody of parents who are unable to ensure the basic needs of their children. The great majority of children move from short term to short term placements. The system has become a self-perpetuating machine that is unable to innovate or change.

While in many cases the removal of children from biological parents care may be the best course of action for the long term interests of the child. This is especially true if they can be placed in caring foster families on a long term basis. The province though is a poor substitute for the love of a parent. Due to the nature of bureaucracy little long-term human love is given these children and the provinces becomes like a cold parent or worse a dead-beat parent.  People need to learn how to be a parent from a Grandmother. Manitoba should institute a similar program as found in England and as talked about in your presentation the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. Families should not be forced into the program, but many who are eligible will surely gladly sign-up for the extra help in the fight to keep their children. Families should sign a contract about certain behaviors. The English experience finds that only 15% of families will break the contract forcing the government to proceed with the removal of the children. This is a stark improvement over current rates. Too often families will meet with bureaucrats a few times in a year as we are learning in the Sinclair enquiry. We need programs that develop a sense of relationship with not multiple agencies, but one individual who allows them to better understand what actions they need to take in order to keep their children.

As we continue to maintain a system which creates a class of people that are locked into perpetual poverty and dependence upon the state, many are asking for a different way of managing child and family services. The role of the province in the daily lives of people should only be in extreme circumstances, but their role should be insuring that people have the tools and are able to get back on track. As the families are better able to perform in their personal and social responsibilities they gradually should see less of the provincial grandmother, but some parents need the chance to learn those parenting skills and the role of the state is to provide the tools so the individual can create the life that all human being deserve.    

The principal problem is that often statistics are difficult to find and to compare between jurisdictions. It is quite easy to find the information for countries such as England. When a child has been in care of the state they are 50 times more likely to not finish school. Children are also likely to repeat the same patterns of behavior with their own off spring. They are 66 times more likely to see their children taken into custody. The cost for each child in custody is 67 777$. I suspect the statistics are the same here in Manitoba, but that is difficult to ascertain. There is an enormous amount of money being spent by CFS. Sometimes you ask would be better off cutting a check to each parent in order to vanquish the poverty of the family.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak and (Human) Treaty Rights

On September 18, 2013 the Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs came to the University of Manitoba to give his vision for treaty rights and relations between First Nations (or Status Indians - there was a whole debate surrounding this term) and the federal government.  GC Nepinak has been very controversial in the past year having very closely aligned himself with the Idle No More movement and has presented a opposing vision of the relations that should exist between First Nations and the Federal government. While some have accused him of trying to destroy the Assembly of First Nations when you hear CG Nepinak speak you hear someone who is concerned that the current system is not working for First Nations peoples and the current approach in dealing with the federal government is in fact not allowing First nations to be strong and self-reliant peoples, but peoples living in dependence. 

GC Nepinak has now set up another national organization of a Treaty Alliance which hopes to bring recogogniztion and respect of the treaties that have been signed by the crown and First Nations. He was introduced by Dr Niiganan Sinclair (UManitoba). He partially addressed the idea that his work is not only so he may challenge for the position of GC of the Assembly of First Nations, but promote greater understanding between Aboriginal peoples and Canadians. He certainly demonstrates that he does not beleive the approach used by current AFM leadership is working. I should note he never actually said he was interested in being CG of the AFN, but there seems to be an undercurrent pushing him to this position.

CG Nepinak is asking for a return to a original understanding of the treaties. It is a very difficult line to walk between building and destruction An Elder said to me it is easier to destroy than to build or we can live in two ways, the path of chaos or the path of the good life. It will certainly be an on going debate for years to come. If the work of GC Nepinak in Manitoba and all treaty territories to change the way First Nation peoples deal in their relations with the federal government and all Canadians starts gaining greater traction, we must remember where it started. 

To Learn More (Video)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Education Elder Verna Kirkness: A Life Building Education and Human Rights

At the studio just after the interview
 This is a two part 40 minute interview with Elder Verna Kirkness about her life in education and the building of the new field of Aboriginal Education. Verna has recently released her memoirs about her 50 year career in Aboriginal education. Creating Space: My Life and Work in Indigenous Education. She describes in great detail the roles and philosophy that she took to building the dream for equality and capacity for Aboriginal peoples to choose their own education system based on quality. While her early career started in Indian Residential Schools as one of the only Indigenous staff she slowly grew to understand her personal fields of influence that she could create  for a safer place that was more respectful of the students.

Verna explained that every few years she would change jobs looking for different experiences. Over time these jobs led her to become part of the pioneers in Aboriginal education working in small communities to the assembly of First Nations to the University of British Columbia. Her work eventually allowed her to help in the building of the First Long House of Learning... Well as Verna said `I am talking too much you should read the book [or listen to the interview].'

The book is published by University of Manitoba Press. 

To Learn More (Podcast)


Part II

posing before we start with Verna and Albee Eisbrenner

adjusting the microphone
Asking the tough questions with Kamila Cecelon