Saturday, May 17, 2014



PO BOX 1000 KAHNAWAKE QC, JOL 1 BO TEL: 450  632-8770

FAX: 450 632-8042

Wednesday, April 09, 2014 

Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada

Office of the Prime Minister 
80 Wellington Street Ottawa, ON

Prime Minister Harper: 


Established by the parents of Kahnawa: ke in 1968 as an act of self-determination, the Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee holds the mandate to govern and oversee quality education services for  all programs  under the Kahnawa: ke Education System.

The Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee serves as the legal entity empowered to uphold thefunctions  of the Kahnawa: ke Education Responsibility Act, as reflected on the Kahnawa:ke Education Center Resolution #KEC99-2000-0I , May 11, 2000. 

The Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee (KCSC hereinafter), on behalf of the parents of Kahnawa:ke and with support from our community, firmly oppose any and all versions of Canada's proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (FNCFNEA herein after) (also originally known as FNEA). This was clearly conveyed to in our direct letter to you dated January 14, 2014, and that position stands true today. It must also be clarified that neither, nor any representative of the AFN have any legal right to negotiate on behalf of the parents and or community of Kahnawake as they in no way possess any delegated authority from our people. Any and all versions of this imposed legislation are unacceptable and must be abandoned as it in no way responds to the true needs of our community.

The recent letter received by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake from Mr. Valcourt April 7, 2014 seems to imply that five priority areas in the FNCFNEA were met in the most recent version of the FNEA; however we as a community have in no way participated in any negotiation process and/or consultation process with the federal government and our terms to abandon the Act have not been responded to in any capacity.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, National Chief Shawn Atleo, and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt, portraying to the country that this legislation responds to the needs and wishes of Indigenous Peoples is in fact dishonorable and inaccurate. The proposed legislation and how it has been unilaterally developed behind closed doors with false leadership is insulting. The FNEA ignores the decades that the Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee has successfully exercised jurisdiction over, controlled, and managed education in Kahnawa:ke.

As indigenous Peoples we demand that, if in fact any First Nations Education legislation is submitted to the House for consideration without the free and prior consent of our community we will be entitled to an exemption from any and all versions of a First Nations Education Act.  It is unacceptable that the legislation has no OPT OUT clause for communities such as Kahnawake who have an exceptional record of success in education. This legislation will in fact bring our community based education system backwards.

Kahnawake has established control of our own educational system and operates schools based on sound pedagogy that places Kanien'keha:ka language, culture and values at its core in order to,"...fulfill their life goals in contemporary society while honoring our ancestors and building our futures through seven generations thinking."   - The Mission of the Kahnawake Education Center. 

We take pride in our accomplishments and continue to develop, implement and monitor our school success plans.

In 1996, the people of Kahnawa:ke created and accepted a constitution that serves as the foundation for education in our community. In Kahnawa:ke, education is the responsibility of the KCSC, and not of the "council of a First Nation" or any "authority" that the federal government puts in place to oversee First Nations Education. The board of the KCSC is elected by the parents of the students who attend our schools. In 1999, we undertook the Kahnawa:ke Education Blueprint Strategic Planning sessions with parents and the community and planned for the future of our children's education. We still follow this plan today and are currently working at upgrading our Strategic Plan. In 2000, we developed and accepted by resolution our own Kahnawa:ke Education Responsibility Act. We have education policies that are in place and followed by our educators. We are an active member of the Regional Management Organization, the First Nations Education Council, through which we share policies and best practices for our mutual benefit.

Attached is a Historical Annex that demonstrates our persistence in continually developing the Kahnawa:ke education system.

The KCSC is responsible for overseeing and ensuring the provision of curriculum that is equal to if not better than that of the provincial system. Our graduation rate is comparable to that of provincial schools, even though we receive less funding than the provincial schools. Many of our students go on to post-secondary education. None of our students has ever been turned away from higher education because their diploma was not recognized. We have been touted as a governance model by many indigenous communities. We continuously work to improve the education services that we offer to our community without provincial or federal interference . .

The education system in Kahnawa:ke works so well because it is our own. We made it and we are proud. Education in Kahnawa:ke is what self-determination looks like. It is nation building, healing, and successful.

The FNCFNEA does not respect our inherent rights as Indigenous peoples to govern ourselves and to take responsibility for our children. It places the Canadian government once again in a paternalistic position to impose Quebec teaching ideologies, as was done in the Residential and Indian Day school eras. The proposal is a denial of our customs, constitution, institutions, laws, and policies. It disrespects our people, and our traditional and cultural ways of taking responsibility for our children. There is no problem in Kahnawa:ke that the proposal would solve; the FNCFNEA would only undo our accomplishments. We do not need to be dictated to on how to implement education in our community, as we have been doing so successfully under our own control for over 30 years.

As parents, we have always been an integral part of our children's education. If we were not providing the education, we were ensuring it. We were even close by when we were forced to have our children travel to outside schools. We have always been of the strong­ minded opinion that parents and families play a significant role in education. As our historical annex demonstrates, our community, led by parents, has worked diligently to develop our own education system. It took us many years of hard work and sacrifices by people who are passionate and qualified to take on such a challenge. To disregard all that has been accomplished thus far -to call it a "non-system", as did Minister Valcourt - is a blatant show of disrespect to our peoples' integrity, perseverance, and nationhood. It is an unravelling of First Nations' control of First Nations' education.

Therefore, we insist that this legislative project be abandoned and that Canada meet with us to discuss the urgent and legitimate need of Indigenous communities:  stable and adequate funding which meets the true needs for our schools. The proposed legislation portrays to address inadequate funding which plaques our school system.  In fact majority of the dollars promised is for upgrading of the school structures.  If you truly accessed Kahnawa:ke, or met with us, you would discover our schools are modem and good quality.  If you inquired with us on what educational programming we currently offer our children, we would tell you, that we offer unique language and culture in our schools, Mohawk Immersion, French Immersion and English programming for Nursery to grade 11 students. We can sit down with you and articulate to you where we need the funds for our children's education programming. Our Kanien'keha:ka students demand equitable and adequate funding to meet the needs of our education system, just as each Canadian student does.

We have the right to develop our own teacher criteria and certification, which are unique to our language and culture.

Currently, the off-reserve schools that our children attend receive additional funding to provide culture and language instruction, and after-school and sports programs. In our own community schools, no funding is allocated to on reserve schools for culture and language, as is done in provincial schools for French language and cultural instruction.

No funding is provided to us to offer sports study programs, as is the case with the MELS Sports Etude Program within Quebec. The act also disregards Pre-K and Post-Secondary student studies in its entirety. Funding higher learning is essential to ensure our people rise to their fullest, lifelong academic potential.

The people of Kahnawa:ke will not stand idly by while the Government of Canada attempts to unilaterally pass this legislation. We will resist the imposition of any law that attempts to destroy our inherent rights.

We, as a community, are working together to make sure that history does not repeat itself, as we are still living with the effects of not being in control of our education in the past.

The KCSC will not give up the fight to maintain control of our own education. It is with the strongest conviction that we state once again that we will never adhere to any paternalistic legislation regarding the education of our children.

We must reiterate that we the KCSC on behalf of the parents of Kahnawake students completely and unequivocally oppose all versions of any federally proposed First Nations Education and or FNCFNEC Act and we demand that it be abandoned immediately. 


Trina Diabo

Vice-Chairperson,  KCSC


Ø  The Kahnawa:ke Mohawks have always been involved in our children's education since time immemorial.  In the 18th century, beginning with the responsibility for Education in Native American communities that was vested within the community.  In the 1800's and early 1900s most Kahnawa:ke school children enrolled in the roman catholic separate boys and girls school taught by lay teachers and religious personnel paid for by the Canadian Government.

Ø  There was the Enfranchisement Process that was in place from the Indian Act from 1867 and phased out only in 1961.  We suffered the effects oflosing our Mohawk identity if we wanted to obtain a higher education, or chose to be a professional person.

Ø  In the late 1890, Peter J. Delisle and Peter Williams fluent Mohawk speakers began teaching and student enrolment and attendance increased. Given the improvements in the local schools under Delisle's leadership, in 1915, Department of Indian Affairs replaced him, under much protest from the Kahnawa'kehr6:non, with the Sisters of Anne.

"The government's decision to replace Native teachers in Kahnawa:ke  Catholic Schools with nuns may be the best understood in the context of Kahnawa: ke 's recent history of resistance to the Indian Act system and its growing traditionalism and nationalism. The Indian Department decision may well been an effort to contain these developments, demonstrative its powers  and implement its assimilation policies. " Gerald F. Reid, Kahnawa:ke, Factionalism,  Traditional, and Nationalism in a Mohawk Community, 2004

Ø  In the l960's the Protestant parents formed a school committee to protect their interests in the Kahnawa:ke School System. They encouraged the Catholics to do the same.

Ø  In 1968, the final vote on the acceptance of the Joint Unification Agreement. Catholic and Protestant schools parents along with Longhouse parents combined to unify the schools under one Kahnawa:ke School System to ensure quality educational services and programs and created the Combined Schools Committee.

Ø  In 1986, the Department of Indian Affairs transferred all federal teachers to KCSC, the parental educational authority of the community.  The Mohawk Council of Kahnawa:ke adopted a resolution transferring all financial responsibilities to the Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee and supports a further decentralization of Kahnawa:ke's  education system.

Ø  In 1968 the tri partite Tuition Fee Agreement with Howard S. Billings High School in Chateauguay was signed; along with DIA contribution of $250,000 for the construction and mandatory attendance for up to 500 Kahnawa:ke students.

Ø  In 1969 Jean Chretien's White Paper revealed assimilation through Education Policy.

Ø  1970- First Mohawk Language Curriculum Development Program for elementary schools.

Ø  In 1971 Kahnawa:ke student unrest at HS Billings, and has a sit in to request culturally relevant curriculum, Native staff and a Native school counselor.

Ø  In 1972 the National Indian Brotherhood, (now known as the Assembly of First Nations) put the Red Paper.

Ø  1972- Amerindian Teacher Training Program through the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi is offered to community. By 1974, Kahnawa:ke took over the responsibilities  of administering the teacher training program.

Ø  In 1972 approximately 50 Kahnawa:ke students walked out of HS Billings, and helped to create the Indian Way School, a high school under the authority of the Kahnawa:ke Longhouse funded directly from Treasury Board. The Kahnawa:ke Indian Way School was the first Native controlled high school in Canada, before DIAs official Policy  "Indian Control oflndian Education."

Ø  In 1977 Kahnawa:ke did a feasibility study on Indian Control of Indian Education, Phase 1, by Jeannine Beauvais and Phillip Deering.

Ø  1977- Kahnawa:ke College and University summer students developed Mohawk curriculum for our elementary schools under direction of the lead Kanien'keha:ka teacher for the much anticipated Mohawk Immersion Program.

Ø  In 1977 the Quebec Bill 101 Law, was introduced, stating that Native People must apply for a license to attend schools in English off reserve.  This was a direct violation of our human and inherent rights.  The Bill treated Native People as immigrants.

Ø  In 1978 the Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee held a referendum asking if Kahnawa'kehr6:non wanted its own high school on the reserve and there was an overwhelming vote of "yes" by the Community. After many parents and community meetings there was a decision to walk out of HS Billings, if they did not accept our students without a license. HS Billings could not change Bill 101, so "we" walked out in protest.

Ø  On September 11, 1978, the Kahnawa:ke Survival School was created and was strictly run with volunteer teachers, donated building and books, desks and the determination of the people of Kahnawa:ke that "we will take control of our children's education according to our needs."

Ø  In 1979 a major development was the Kahnawa:ke Survival School diploma was accepted at CEGEP and Universities.

Ø  Throughout the period of 1978 to 1983 there were negotiations with Department of Indian Affairs for operational monies and capital construction of Kahnawa:ke Survival School with the primary goal of controlling the curriculum, funding, construction and management of the school.

Ø  In 1980 there was the creation of the Mohawk Immersion Program at Karonhianonhnha as a pilot project of the Cultural Center.

Ø  In 1981 the Kahnawa:ke Education Center was created, this was an administrative body of the Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee to oversee the administration and operations of three community schools, along with services for Mohawk students attending in the greater Montreal area.

Ø  In 1982 there was the creation of the First Nations Education Council (FNEC) by concerned student counselors whose goal was to improve the communications of all Quebec communities in the development of Indian Control of Indian Education. The FNEC office was thus created in April 1985. It is still one of the most active education organizations in Canada.

Ø  In 1984 the pilot project of the Karonhianonhnha Mohawk Immersion School became part of the education system from Nursery to Grade 6.

Ø  In 1984, there was the takeover of Post-Secondary programs under the Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee.

Ø  In 1985, the AFN National Study on Indian Education identified the underfunding of Native schools.

Ø  In 1986, the Department of Indian Affairs transferred all federal teachers to KCSC, the parental educational authority of the community.  The Mohawk Council of Kahnawa:ke adopted a resolution transferring all financial responsibilities to the Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee and supports a further decentralization  of Kahnawa:ke's  education system.

Ø  199?, in conjunction with McGill University," ____” teacher certification program is offered to community.

Ø  In 1996, the Constitution for the Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee was created.

"The Kahnawa: ke Combined Schools Committee state that on behalf of the children and parents of Kahnawa:ke that we maintain the philosophy  that "We believe that Kahnawa:ke  Children have the right and responsibility to learn through a culturally based education thatpromotes  understanding and pride  in being Kanien 'keha:ka.  Parents, guardians and educators have the responsibility toprovide children with support and guidance in a proper  learning environment. All children have the ability to develop attitudes, skills and knowledge to best achieve personal  and academic excellence inpursuit  of their goals. "

Ø  In 1999, the Kahnawa:ke Education Blueprint Strategic Planning sessions with parents and community was done.  This was planning for the future of our children's Education and is still followed today.

Ø  In 2000, our Director of Education wrote a formal study on Formal Education in Kahnawa:ke. (E.J. Cross, Kahnawa:ke Education Center for over 30 years)

"Education is a lifelong process.   Traditionally before peoples  of other nations, countries and continents occupied Turtle Island, the parents,  thefamily,  the extended family including the community were responsible for  educating Kanien 'keha:ka children, our Seventh Generation.  Caretakers, peacemakers, providers,  story tellers, and elders played  an important role with parents'  in the process  of becoming a member of the clan, the nation and the confederacy, from one generation to another.

Early formal  schooling in Kahnawa:ke in the mid-to-late 1980 's were characterized as religion-based with imported curriculum taught by French-speaking  teacher of poor quality, not well attended, with low enrolment, highly political  and controversial.

Significant improvement in schooling was reported when Peter J Delisle was employed in 1900, with community political  endorsement, to be head teacher.  Peter a pioneer  in Native education believed that Kahnawa:ke children learn best when their language and culture are used as the basisfor  learning the established curriculum.

He recruited a team of like-minded Kahnawa 'kehr6:non teachers, among them another dynamic teacher, Peter  Williams."

Federal Government imposes education program.  Thepromising results of a community based education program established by Delisle and their team of Kahnawa 'kehr6:non teachers came to an abrupt end in 1913. A new Deputy Superintendent of the Indian Department replaced all teachers with teachersfrom religious orders, the sisters of St. Anne and the Jesuits. "

Ø  In 2000 the Kahnawa:ke Combined Schools Committee took responsibility to develop our own "Kahnawa:ke Education Responsibility Act."

"This Act governed all aspects of the education center for the community of Kahnawa:ke and confirmsformal recognition ofparents as the authority over the Kahnawa: ke Public Education System."

Ø  2003-2009- Three new community schools constructed to replace our ageing buildings, after years of capital expenditure negotiations.

UNDRIP Articles that support our position:

Concerning Self Determination:

Article 3

Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination.  By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue  their economic, social and cultural development.

Article  4

Indigenous peoples,  in exercising their right to self-determination have the right to autonomy or self-government  in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and meansfor financing  their autonomous functions.

Concerning our inherent right to educational services:

Article  14

1.  Indigenous peoples  have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing  education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

2.  Indigenous individuals, particularly  children, have the right to all levels andforms  of education of the State without discrimination.

3.  States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples,  take effective measures, in order for  indigenous individuals, particularly  children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible,  to an education in their own culture and provided  in their own language.

Concerning legislative consultation from states:

Article  19

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith  with the indigenous peoples  concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain theirfree, prior  and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.