A question Canadians often ask: Why do First Nations students receive special treatment? Many students find it unfair, but personally, I do not think that they know the reasons why we are treated like this. I would not call the things we receive “special treatment”, but rather a way of trying to resolve the issue of nearly decimating our culture. As a First Nation student, I believe that the school system owes it to the Aboriginal students to help us learn of what was taken away from us.
European Canadians decided to open residential schools for First Nation students. The Europeans believed they were superior; they thought that it was the right thing to do. The point of the residential schools was to assimilate the First Nation people into their culture. They called it “Killing the Indian in the child”. Aboriginal children were torn away from their communities and families. Most of them never made it back. Siblings were not permitted to interact with each other in the schools. This was enforced to break family ties. This resulted in many of these residential school children ending up with lacking parenting skills, which meant that they often ended up abusing their own children. The residential schools punished children for speaking their own languages or for practicing their own faiths. This created a massive loss in First Nation languages. This all happened because of cultural genocide.
Many children were killed in residential schools. Those who were not came out badly hurt, physically and emotionally. Many children who managed to escape have PTSD, struggle with drug abuse and alcoholism, violence and domestic abuse. Some have even committed suicide due to this trauma.
This may be in the past now, but First Nation people are still damaged. So much of our culture has been wiped from existence, most of which we will never be able to get back.
Another big complaint students seem to have is the free lunch program in the Aboriginal room. What they don’t seem to realize is that the lunches are for anyone who needs them. People are allowed to use anything offered in the Aboriginal room, no matter what their culture is.
With the decline in our culture, most Aboriginal students do not know anything about their culture. With the Aboriginal room, as well as the Aboriginal graduation provided in our school, students are able to learn so much more about our ancestors and ourselves.
In the Aboriginal room, I have learnt how to make dream catchers and how to do traditional beading. I have learnt about my spirit animal and all of its different teachings. I have started doing fancy shawl dancing and now know all the different types of dances there are.
In the aboriginal graduation we get to come together with all the other aboriginal students and celebrate how far we have made it. The Aboriginal graduations are a very important event for First Nation students, as graduation rates for Aboriginal students are very low in most schools. That is why so many Aboriginal students switch to KSS. Here we celebrate their culture and encourage them be themselves.
Without the Aboriginal advocates, these are things I would have never learnt about my culture and myself. I believe that the “special treatment” is simply helping First Nation people in doing what we can to pull ourselves back together. That is something that should be celebrated, not put down.