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Teachers say schools on reserve like ‘residential schools all over again’

Duncan Campbell Scott was the Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1913-1932. He once described the purpose of residential schools as a means to ‘take the Indian out of the child.’ Today that is known as cultural genocide.

Duncan Campbell Scott was the Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1913-1932. He once described the purpose of residential schools as a means to ‘take the Indian out of the child.’ Today that is known as cultural genocide. But is cultural genocide of First Nations people a thing of the past? It seems colonialism is alive and thriving in federally controlled schools on the Six Nations territory under the authority of current Superintendent of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC, formerly Indian Affairs), Dan Dunnigan. 

Duncan Campbell Scott was Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1913-1932 and it became his mission to see to it that every Native child would be assimilated into mainstream Canadian society. Today that is known as cultural genocide. Many Native schoolteachers on Six Nations feel that current Superintendent Dan Dunnigan is repeating history as what teachers describe as ‘residential schools’ all over again.

Duncan Campbell Scott was Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1913-1932 and it became his mission to see to it that every Native child would be assimilated into mainstream Canadian society. Today that is known as cultural genocide. Many Native schoolteachers on Six Nations feel that current Superintendent Dan Dunnigan is repeating history as what teachers describe as ‘residential schools’ all over again.

Three Ongwehoweh school teachers on Six Nations have brought their concerns to the Two Row Times in the hope that the community will become more aware of what is going on. In fear of losing their jobs for speaking out against their employer(s), these teachers wish to remain anonymous and will be referred to as: Mrs. A, Mrs. B and Mr. C. All three have made claims that Dunnigan is selectively hiring non-Native teachers over qualified Native teachers.

Mrs. A explained, “We are quite concerned with where our schools are going. We feel we are going down fast in the sense that we’re starting to lose our identity. It’s like walking back into residential schools. There’s a huge lack of respect with not only Dunnigan but with the non-Native teachers he is hiring as well.”
“Non-native teachers are very ignorant of who we are but I should mention, there are a few who are trying and are passionate about what they do. Dunnigan causes a lot of division by putting in a lot of non-Native staff on Six Nations. Morale is very low.”

Mrs. A claims that Dunnigan’s hiring process is leading to him choosing non-Native teachers over qualified Native teachers. “He took over the hiring process. There are qualified Natives applying for jobs but he’s hiring non-Natives instead.”

Mrs. A explained, “A couple of years ago we had to sign an Oath of Loyalty. Once we signed it, it meant we could not embarrass our employer. We have our own Oath of Loyalty that supersedes his and that is the Great Law. Everyone is now scared to speak out against Dunnigan in fear of losing their jobs.”

“Non-Native teachers are not culturally sensitive. This is like residential schools all over again. Very few supply staff are Native. We’re trying to teach our kids ogwehoweh values and we can’t accomplish that when Dunnigan is hiring non-Natives.”

“Dunnigan is also giving the term contracts to Native teachers which means every year they have to re-apply for their jobs, while the non-Native teachers get the inderminate contracts, which means they don’t have to reapply every year and their job is basically guaranteed to them. I know a young passionate teacher who had 2 years teaching experience. Every term he had to reapply for his job. Last year he was denied another term and Dunnigan gave his position to a non-Native who had no experience.”
“We’re just tired of all the bullying, intimidation and threats. There are only three reserves left in Canada that are still run by AANDC, the rest are Band Council operated. Tyendinaga, Six Nations and Cold Lake First Nation, Alberta are the last reserves in Canada that are directly run by Indian Affairs. We are the last 3 fighting AANDC to uphold their responsibility to First Nations people. But in 2015, AANDC plans on handing over that responsibility to Six Nations Elected Council.”

“The EQAO testing is another thing. Children are not required to take this test but Dunnigan won’t tell that to the parents. Most parents think their children have to take this test when in fact they don’t. This test is a huge issue with a lot of Native teachers because it is not culturally sensitive and leads people to believe that our children aren’t as bright as children off-reserve.”

Mrs. B had this to say, “My biggest concern is educational leave. You get a year off with pay in a contract position as part of a collective agreement. One Native teacher wanted to take a year off from teaching to further her education. She had been teaching for 17 years. The person who got it was non-Native. Everyone else was denied.”

Mrs. B explained, “Some staff just hate going into work. Staff morale is low. The community needs to know what is going on in our schools.”
Mr. C explained to the Two Row Times, “Dunnigan is a sore subject with a lot of teachers on the reserve. He has definitely tossed over quite a few qualified Native teachers in order to put non-Natives in our schools. Jamieson has primarily non-Native teachers.”

“I supplied at Jamieson once while he was the principal there and another senior teacher told me to avoid him if he happened to be in the school because he probably wouldn’t be very pleasant. And she was right, I bumped into him and he practically interrogated me, asking what I was doing in ‘his’ school. I was never asked to come back and teach after that.”

The Two Row Times contacted Dan Dunnigan, “I retired last year as Principal but the Director of Education asked me to come back part-time as Superintendent. I was principal at Jamieson and J.C. Hill for six years and spent 2 years as Superintendent (of Indian Affairs) before that. Regarding the hiring policy, I don’t directly hire teachers or supply staff. I have sat on interview panels in the past but not recently. There is a series of processes; no one creates their own rules.”
In an official statement to the Two Row Times, Susan Bertrand, Communications Officer for AANDC stated, “As of June 9, 2014, there are 139 teaching staff members at the Six Nations of the Grand River federal schools. Seventy-seven percent, or 107, are self-identified Aboriginal persons.” This would mean that 32 non-Native teaching staff on Six Nations are currently employed on the reserve. Bertrand also stated, “With respect to allegations related to hiring and contracts, if employees want private information, the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) process is available to them.”

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  • R Thomas
    June 26, 2014, 2:33 pm

    Dan Dunnigan….wolf in sheep clothing…. teachers have valid points. Just as a community member and watching things unfold from the various sidelines… I see our funding dollars being filtered very rapidly into the pockets of non-native people & businesses *personal opinion*

    REPLY
  • Duck Green
    June 19, 2014, 3:41 pm

    I would like to know what “self-identified Aboriginal Persons” means, can anyone ?

    REPLY
    • Jen MtPleasant@Duck Green
      June 19, 2014, 9:57 pm

      Basically all you need to say is that you are ‘Aboriginal’ in some way or form, absolutely no proof is required or asked. I seen this happen before when I was going to university and I worked at the Native Centre. One year we had around 80 ‘self-identified Aboriginal’ students yet we could actually only find about 10-15. One student who was Asian came into the centre once and self-identified as Aboriginal, he actually got confused on the application form and didn’t know what it actually meant.

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