First Nations in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Educational Frontiers

2005 John W Friesen and Virginia Lyons Friesen
Detselig Enterprises.

ISBN: 978-1550592931
As the twenty-first century gets underway, happenings in Aboriginal communities are increasingly gaining the attention of Canadians. Some headway has been made in several significant areas such as constitutional status, treat-negotiation, economic development, land claims, residential school litigation, and health and welfare. The number of Aboriginal youth graduating from high school has increased, and a greater number of Aboriginal youth are enrolled in post-secondary institutions… Despite these gains, however, there are a number of related frontiers to conquer if Canada‚Äôs First Nations are to gain equality with other Canadians. Six of these frontiers are outlined in this book and constitute vital topics of concern. First, is the frontier of Spirituality and the challenge is for Canadian educators to realize that Aboriginals perceive spirituality as the foundation for all learning. Another frontier is that of Eldership and the role for respected elders to play in the milieu in which their children are being educated. Language is another important frontier and the concern that without access to original languages, the essence of their cultural life will be lost. A fourth frontier is that of Self-identity, which leads into a fifth frontier, that of Curriculum. The challenge is to develop pertinent curriculum, which avoids erroneous or denigrating accounts of Alberta cultural heritage. The final frontier pertains to the Quality of teacher training, and the authors raise the question, Are teachers who find employment in Native communities properly prepared for the unique challenges they will face? Undoubtedly, these frontiers will be conquered over time as the Indigenous people of Canada continue to show their ability to survive against the odds.  
The first half of First Nations in the Twenty-First Century explores the historical background, examining how the early Europeans forced their “education” on the indigenous people of North America, suppressing traditional practices. The second half focuses on how First Nations people can take back control of their education, dealing with each of the six frontiers separately, but noting always that each one is integral to the rest. The critical message in First Nations is that achieving educational equity for Aboriginal people with the rest of Canadian citizens shouldn’t mean sacrificing traditional beliefs and practices.

–Perry Grosshans, Prairie Books Now, Spring 2006
If you’ve ever read a John Friesen/Virginia Lyons Friesen book, you’ll know that you’re going to get your money’s worth, so get ready to go out and buy a copy of their latest manuscript masterpiece, First Nations in the Twenty-First Century. …I guarantee that this 2005 Detselig Enterprises publication will entice you, educate you, enlighten you and instill upon you a sense of reality that no TV show can offer. It would take 30,000 words to decipher all the lessons one can learn in the Friesen’s latest offering, but that is another compelling reason to read the book. The Friesens’ unique writing style doesn’t lay blame, but it points out the errors; it doesn’t claim to have all the solutions, but it does provide plenty of food for thought. Most importantly this new book release goes into detail, as to why it is so imperative to imporve the education system for Aboriginal Canadians and why it never worked properly to begin with. …It’s an outstanding read and its been written for a meaningful cause.

–John Copely, Alberta Native News, May, 2005
Overall the book achieves its purpose of synthesizing information essential to educators today who are concerned with being at least somewhat informed about perspectives of First Nations peoples and how these can be addressed in the classroom….this text is effective in suggesting avenues for further exploration for postsecondary educational programs and teachers who desire more in-depth knowledge about the needs of First Nations students.

–Paul G. Letkemann, The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology
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