‘Coming Home’ – A Conversation with Brian Standingready

A conversation on current issues, change and hope within our communities, schools and Nations

As the Treaty Education Alliance continues our work toward a unified Indigenous education system rooted in Inherent and Treaty Rights, we are honoured to hear from community leaders about the important issues facing Indigenous Peoples – with a focus on developing and nurturing children and youth as future Nation Builders.

On the challenges facing indigenous students in current education systems

Well – I’ve experienced it. I have lived it. I’ve been through the Residential Schools, the Federal Day Schools, and the provincial system. I understand what worked and what didn’t work.

Many of our young people don’t know the history, traditions, customs and ceremonies of our ancestors. Because of the education systems that were imposed on us, we’ve lost our languages, and our identity.

In many cases, we don’t know who we are.

You read about it every day. Kids joining gangs, getting into trouble with drugs and alcohol and so on. I’ve heard of quite a few kids who have slept in cars and went to school the next day. When looking toward building our own school systems, we need to build in supports so situations like these aren’t happening.

How can we support these students? How can we help them grow?

This support isn’t found in a government institution – it is found being with family. With your own kind. In a safe place.

Many of our children live in fear. We need to support them by letting them know they are loved. That they have a place they can call home and feel safe. That they begin to know who they really are and where they’ve come from and be proud of that.

We have to provide the education – reading, writing, arithmetic. But if we can have all of these additional support services, we can provide comfort. A lot of times, the classrooms and the teacher – that is their family.

‘Everyone needs a place to call home’

What changes would a new system present?

One thing I have learned is that we can’t depend on governments to do it for us. If you really want something, we have to do it ourselves. We need to go back to our history.

We need to get control back – not just the financial aspect, but the curriculum development. We need a hand on the pen, so we can re-write our history in a way taught by our elders. Programs that take our youth out of the classroom – many times you need to experience things to learn them.

Our people have rich histories that we should be proud of. Those histories are not being taught in a way that respects our cultures, languages and beliefs. But we can change that. We can be confident in who we are as people and begin to work towards healthier communities and individuals.

Brian Standingready
White Bear First Nations

Brian Standingready is the former, long-time Chief and Councillor of his First Nations over more than 30 years. His leadership has been instrumental in shaping and demonstrating examples of local control in many areas including gaming, education, governance and economic development. Brian is a sought after advisor, including to the Treaty Education Alliance who is heading to negotiate a new lifelong learning system with Canada that implements the promises of the Treaty Rights to Education and the First Nations’ Inherent Rights.