Chapter 4

Historical Treatment of the Métis in Education

The History of Métis Education

Larry Chartrand, Tricia Logan, and Judy Daniels, in their literature review for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, make it clear that the history of the education of Métis children in Canada merits special attention, as the experiences of Métis children had both similarities with First Nations children (which should not be ignored or forgotten), and differences (which should be acknowledged).  They explain:

For the most part, neither the foreign civil or religious authorities showed much interest in the formal education of Métis children in the early stages of evolution of the Métis Nation. By the end of the eighteenth century, there were two distinct groups: the Red River Métis who occupied the Red River/Assiniboine basins and the Great Northern Plains of what is now the northern United States and the prairie provinces; and the country-born whose ancestries were essentially Cree and Anglo-Saxon.

From that period on, there was a smattering of interest in the formal education of children of the country-born by Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) employees who fathered children mostly among the Cree of the Woodland area. These initiatives were in violation of the formal policy of the company, which did not want to be burdened with the children of its employees. (Chartrand, L.N., Logan, T.E., and Daniels, J.D., 2006)

Beginning in the mid 1840's, however,

The Catholic Church effectively denied the Métis parents a meaningful role in the education for their children by establishing mission schools in Métis communities. This meant that control remained in the hands of the church. The parents had no say in how the schools were administered or what the curriculum would include. One of the most controversial education practices of the church-run schools was the attempt by the church to obliterate the culture of the Métis by substituting their Michif language for that of what is now the French Canadian language. They deemed the Michif language inferior to the formal, universal textbook French taught in schools throughout the world. While the Métis people saw the need to educate their children, they resented the cultural conflicts the church imposed upon their people and most of them did not like the heavy emphasis on the teaching of a French-based curriculum and the prominence of religion in school. (Chartrand, L.N., Logan, T.E. and Daniels, J.D., 2006)

In addition to forced language and sprituality, Métis children, like First Nations (and Inuit) children, were not immune to the many abuses experienced in residential schools. The experiences of Métis children was often different in that "Métis students felt that they were outsiders among the First Nations students and the non-Aboriginal staff. Métis children were often treated as second class citizens since churches did not receive sponsorship for Métis students. Evidence suggests that Métis students were made to work longer and more often to maintain the upkeep of the school to earn their education." (Where Are the Children: An introduction to the Métis residential school experience).

While First Nations survivors' experiences are the foci of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, "thousands of predominantly Métis children who attended Île-à-la-Crosse and other residential schools have not been recognized by the federal government...But the Métis National Council, provincial Métis federations and survivors continue to fight for recognition and accountability." (S. Cuffe, 2012).

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