Chapter 5

Indian Control of Indian Education

Indian Control of Indian Education: 1972 Policy Paper 

First Nations Control of First Nations Education: 2010 Policy Paper

This module provides more information on the first education policy that was presented to the federal government by the National Indian Brotherhood on December 21, 1972. The Minister of Indian Affairs, John Chretien formally accepted the policy paper in February 1973.


We want education to provide the setting in which our children can develop the fundamental attitudes and values which have an honored place in Indian tradition and culture. The values that we want to pass on to our children, values which make our people a great race, are not written in any book. They are found in our history, in our legends and in the culture. We believe that if an Indian child is fully aware of the important Indian values, he will have reason to be proud of our race and of himself as an Indian.

We want the behavior of our children to be shaped by those values which are most esteemed in our culture. When our children come to school they have already developed certain attitudes and habits that are based on experiences in the family. School programs that are influenced by these values respect cultural priority and are an extension of the education which parents give children from their first years. These early lessons emphasize attitudes of: 

  • self-reliance,
  • respect for personal freedom,
  • generosity,
  • respect for nature, and
  • wisdom.

All of these have a special place in the Indian way of life. While these values can be understood and interpreted in different ways by different cultures, it is very important that Indian children have a chance to develop a value system that is compatible with Indian culture. 

The gap between our people and those who have chosen, often gladly, to join us as residents of this beautiful and bountiful country, is vast when it comes to mutual understanding and appreciation of differences. To overcome this, it is essential that Canadian children of every racial origin have the opportunity during their school days to learn about the history, customs and culture of this country's original inhabitants and first citizens. We propose that education authorities, especially those in Ministries of Education, should provide for this in the curricula and texts that are chosen for use in Canadian schools. (1)

The 1972 Policy Paper had 4 major sections: responsibility, programs, teachers and facilities. Each section detailed changes that would be required for education outcomes to improve and be at the same level as the rest of society.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) updated the policy paper in 2010 and highlights of the update are presented. The statement of values from 1971 are deemed to be just as relevant in 2010. The educational outcomes have improved since 1972 but First Nations children are still behind the general population in completion of high school (51% drop out rate). The federal government has continously failed to fund First Nations education in a sustainable manner. The AFN states that the federal, provincial and territorial governments never supported the policy in its full intent and purpose.(2)

The Vision Statement of the 2010 Policy is as follows:

First Nations lifelong learning is a process of nurturing First Nations learners in linguistically and culturally-appropriate holistic learning environments that meet the individual and collective needs of First Nations and ensures that all First Nations learners have the opportunity to achieve their personal aspirations within comprehensive lifelong learning systems.

The 2010 Policy has the following sections:

  • access to lifelong learning;
  • community and institutional capacity; and
  • policy implementation.

Each section has detailed recommendations in all areas of education including curriculum, infrastructure, language, early learning to post secondary, funding, and research capacity. Furthermore, outcomes to define success are also outlined that correspond with the 3 areas.

For more detailed information, follow the link at the top of the page.


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1. National Indian Brotherhood/Assembly of First Nations, Indian control of Indian Education: Policy Paper, 1972 at p. 2

2. Assembly of First Nations. (2010). First Nations Control of First Nations Education: It's Our Vision, It's Our Time. Retrieved from:

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