Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia, 1849-1989

By Paul Tennant | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER ELEVEN
Federal Government Initiatives, 1960-9

Within the federal Department of Indian Affairs during the 1960s there emerged a half-dozen policy initiatives that came to have important but quite unintended effects upon Indian political organization in British Columbia. The various policy initiatives were conceived, planned, and implemented separately within DIA, and there was little co-ordination among them. Each was rooted in the longstanding small "L" liberal ideological view that individual Indians desired to be and should be assimilated as equals into the larger Canadian society. This view ignored the attachment of Indians to their ancestral communities and tribal groups.

One of the initiatives, which has been discussed in the previous chapter, involved taking some steps towards settling the British Columbia land question. It was the only one which had its origin in explicit demands of Indians. The other five initiatives were applied to Indians across Canada. Four of these were quite specific; they concerned education, local community development, Indian advisory bodies, and consulting Indians about amendments to the Indian Act. The final initiative, conceived as the culmination of the others, was the great federal attempt of 1969 to produce a final Indian policy. 1

After the Second World War the department allowed Indian parents on reserves to send their children to public schools if they wished to, and a small number did. There was also an increasing number of Indian parents living off reserves who wanted their children to have a regular education. The widowed Ethel Wilson of the Cape Mudge Kwagiulth community was one example; she was living in Comox and her children attended public school. As a result, by the early 1960s there was a small number of Indian high school graduates, including Ethel's son Bill.

By this time the curricula, teaching methods, and general atmosphere

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