Journal of American Indian Education
Volume 12 Number 3
From British Columbia:
W. T. Stanbury
W. T. Stanbury is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration, University of British Columbia. The author gratefully acknowledges the substantial financial assistance of the Donner Canadian Foundation which made this study possible. He also wishes to acknowledge the valuable efforts of research assistants Jay H. Siegel and Ken Waldie.
Historically research on Canada’s native Indian population has been concerned with those living on reserves. The recent Hawthorn Report is an example (see Note 1). However, an increasing proportion of Canadian Indians no longer live on reserves—this is particularly true in British Columbia (see Note 2) where between 1962 and 1972 the proportion of "legal or status" (see Note 3) Indians living off reserves increased from 14.2% to 33.5% of the total population of 49,000. During the same period, the total Indian population grew at an average annual rate of 2.5%, while that of the off-reserve population grew at an annual average of almost 12%.
The B.C. Association of Non-Status Indians estimates that there are 60,000 non-status Indians in British Columbia. They define a nonstatus Indian as "a person who, although genetically and culturally an Indian, is not registered as such by the Department of Indian Affairs of the Federal Government. The Canadian government, through the Indian Act, has laid down certain definite rules for defining who is, and who is not, an Indian. This ‘race by legislation’ act has given rise to many strange cases whereby a person with no Indian blood, whatever, may legally be classed as an Indian; whereas a full-blooded Indian may legally be classed as white. . . . Membership in the (Association) is open to any person of one-quarter or more Indian blood, who is not a registered member of an Indian Band."
Data for both the status Indians living off reserve and the nonstatus Indians were obtained from special surveys conducted during the summer of 1971. Stanbury, Fields and Stevenson (see Note 4) obtained a sample of 1,095 B.C. Indians living off reserve--an almost one-in-six sample of Indians age 16 to 65. The survey conducted by the B.C. Association of Non-Status Indians obtained interviews from a total of 1,309 persons (see Note 5). The non-status respondents were concentrated in the northern and central interior areas. of the province. The sample of B.C. Indians living off reserve was more geographically representative of the total off-reserve population.
While 41% of the non-status sample were male, 55% of the sample status Indians living off reserves were male. In terms of the age distribution the sample of B.C. Indians living off reserves was very close to that of the total off-reserve population (see Note 6). The proportion of the total sample of B.C. Indians living off reserve by age cohort, with the comparable proportion for the non-status sample in brackets, was as follows: age 15-19, 21.1% (6.7%); age 20-24, 23.1% (18.2%); age 25-34, 32.4% (30.6%); age 35-44, 16.7% (21.2%) and age 45-64, 15.7% (18.3%).
Some Earlier Studies
Jamieson reports that for a representative sample of 35 bands with a total population of almost 36,000, the proportion of the population educated past Grade 9 did not exceed 7.2% for any band. For 16 bands, the proportion was less than 3% (see Note 7). Volume II of the Hawthorn Report points out that of 8,782 Indian students enrolling in Grade 1 in 1951, only 4,544 enrolled in Grade 2. Of the same group, only 2,090 enrolled in Grade 7, and a miniscule 341 enrolled in Grade 12. Of those, 141 completed Grade 12 in 1962 (see Note 8).
Fields and Stanbury obtained unpublished 1961 census data to compare the level of education of B.C. Indians living on reserve with that of the entire B.C. population (see Note 9). Their data indicated that for those age 15 and over in 1961, 15.4% of B.C. Indians living on reserves had no schooling--ten times the rate for the total B.C. population. For Indians 65 and over, three-fifths had no schooling as compared to 4% of the total B.C. population. Two-thirds of B.C. Indians age 15 and over had only an elementary education in 1961. This was twice the proportion of the general population of the province. Even in 1961 the strong inverse correlation between age and education for B.C. Indians was obvious. In the age cohort 20-24 years, one-third of B.C. Indians had a secondary school education while only 10% of those in the 35-44 cohort had achieved this level. In 1961, only 12 B.C. Indians of over 20,000 living on reserves (age 15 and over) had acquired a university degree. In comparison, 3.3% of the total B.C. population had acquired a university degree in 1961 (see Note 10).
Arthur Davis’ study (see Note 11) of 157 Indians and Metis living in three Saskatchewan towns in 1961-62 indicated that 152 had completed Grade 8 or less. One-half of these persons had completed Grade 4 or less. The level of education of a sample of 104 Indians and 98 Metis living in Winnipeg in 1957 was markedly higher than that reported by Davis. One-quarter of the Winnipeg sample had completed Grade 9 or more. Forty percent had completed Grade 6 or less. As in the other studies there was an inverse relationship between age and level of education (see Note 12).
Data from the 1960 U.S. Census for male reservation Indians age 14 and over indicated that 9.6% had no schooling, 50.4% had an elementary education, 34.4% had a secondary education and 5.6% had some university education or a university degree (see Note 13). These data suggest that in 1960, the level of education of U.S. Indians was significantly above that of Canadian Indians if the statistics we have cited were representative of the level of educational attainment around 1960. The clear inverse relationship between age and education was apparent for American Indians in the following data for male Indians living on reservations as recorded in the 1960 U.S. Census (see Note 14).
In a little over four decades the median number of grades completed increased 2.6 times. Nagler’s study of 148 Indians living in Toronto (1964-66) showed a similar inverse relationship between age and educational attainment (see Note 15). Of those 14-19 years of age, 63% had nine or more years of schooling. In the 20-29 age cohort, the proportion was 65%, while in the 30-39 years of age cohort only 30% had nine or more years of schooling. Interestingly, of those 40 years of age and older, 38% had completed nine or more years of schooling. However, of those 40 and over, only one-sixth had a Grade 12 education as compared to one-quarter of those 30-39 years and almost one-third of those in the 20-29 age cohort.
Level of Education of British Columbia Indians
One of the principal promises held out by the dominant society to members of minorities is that if they acquire the level of education and training comparable to members of the dominant society then their upward mobility is assured. Following is an examination of the level of educational achievement of B.C. Indians living off reserves.
One-quarter of the sample have completed the sixth grade or less, and only one-sixth have completed high school or better. In fact, only 2.3% of the sample had completed one or more years of university, and four out of the total sample had acquired a university degree. Over three-fifths (62.1%) have completed the ninth grade or less.
The level of education varies considerably by region of residence in 1971. For example, no one in the prison sample of 61 has completed high school, where 32.3% of persons resident in Vancouver have done so. Only 5.1% of Okanagan residents have achieved high school graduation or better. Since the variation in the proportion who have high school graduation is much less among the various cultural linguistic groups than by region, there is some reason to believe that the more highly educated Indian people gravitate toward the metro Vancouver area. While 58.6% of the Vancouver sample had completed Grade 10 or better, only 30% of the sample of residents of Vancouver Island had achieved this level. In the Northern Interior, the proportion was 24.5% and in the Okanagan it was only 19%.
Because the educational attainment of B.C. residents is significantly greater than that of Canada as a whole, Table 1 compares the sample to both B.C. residents and all Canadians. The Indian-non-Indian "education gap" depends strongly on the age group being considered. In the age cohort 20-24, the proportion of B.C. Indians living off reserve with a secondary education (67.6%) is slightly above that of all B.C. residents (66.0%) and all Canadians (63.0%). However, 29.2% of Indians in this age cohort have only an elementary education as compared to 10.7% for B.C. and 19.6% for Canada. The difference is even greater at the upper end of the distribution, Only 3.2% of Indians (n = 8) in the sample have obtained some university education while 23.3% of all B.C. residents have done so.
Note in Table 1 that in all age groups the educational attainment of B.C. non-status Indians is below that of Indians living off reserves.
*Elementary is Grades 1-8 for all provinces except Quebec where there are 7 years in the primary division - see Source pp. 34-35.
**Age 25-39, *** Age 40-59
• Michel D. Lagace. Educational Attainment in Canada: Some Regional and Social Aspects, Special Labour Force Studies No. 7, Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1968, p. 8.
• W. T. Stanbury "Summary of Major Results, B.C. Association of Non-Status Indians Survey, Summer, 1971," Vancouver, Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration, University of B.C., 1972, (unpublished paper).
When comparing the non-status Indians’ level of education to that of status Indians living off reserves, we find that the education gap has apparently increased over time. In the 45-64 age group the average number of grades completed by non-status Indians is slightly above that of status Indians living off reserve (5.36 vs. 5.26). In the age cohort 35-44 they are virtually identical (6.44 vs. 6.46). However, in the cohort 25-34, the gap in the average level of education is almost one grade, i.e., non-status was equal to 7.94 compared to 8.86 for status Indians off reserve. For the cohort 20-24, the gap is just over one grade as we found that the average number of grades completed by the status Indians was 9.72 and that for the non-status sample was 8.70. However, in the age group 16-19 years, we find that the gap is not so great - 9.34 grades completed for the latter as compared to 9.00 for the former group. The difference is not statistically significant. The difference between the mean level of education of the two groups in the age cohorts 20-24 and 25-34 years were significant at the .01 level.
Comparative Levels of Education: Canadian and American Indians
The data on British Columbia Indians living off reserves and of non-status Indians in B.C. will be compared to that obtained in two studies of American Indians. During 1968, Higgins and O’Connor collected almost 1,800 detailed interviews on the Fort Apache, San Carlos, Acoma, Laguna and Papago reserves in the U.S. Southwest (see Note 16). A number of studies of Indians living in cities in Minnesota have been done by researchers associated with the Training Center for Community Programs of the University of Minnesota (see Note 17). Comparisons are made with the educational attainment of U.S. Indians living in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth and with those living on reserve in the U.S. Southwest.
*Grades 0-5, **Grades 6-8, ***Grades 1-7, ****Grade 8
Sources: The author's survey.
• Benjamin Taylor and Dennis J. O'Connor. Indian Manpower Resources in the Southwest: A Pilot Study, Tempe, Arizona, Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Arizona State University, 1969, (derived from Tables on pp. 39, 108, 173, 233, 292).
• Laverne Drilling, Arthur M. Harkins and Richard G. Woods, The Indian Relief Recipient in Minneapolis: An Exploratory Study, Training Center for Community Programs, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 1969, p. 11, and Richard G. Woods and Arthur M. Harkins. Indian Employment in Minneapolis, Training Center for Community Programs, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 1968, p. 20.
• Michel D. Lagace, Educational Attainment in Canada: Some Regional and Social Aspects, Ottawa, Queen's Printer, 1968, pp. 42-43.
Table 2 summarizes some of the data from the various studies. While 4.3% of the respondents had no formal education, 7.9% of the B.C. non-status Indians and 3.1% of the U.S. Southwest sample had no formal schooling. Just over 7% of persons in our survey had completed Grades 1-4; 11.2% of the U.S. Indians and 10.4% of the B.C. non-status Indians were in this category. At the other end of the distribution, we found that 17% of the sample of B.C. Indians living off reserves had high school graduation or better. Only 5.3% of the non-status Indians surveyed had achieved this level of education. For the on-reserve Indians in the U.S. Southwest, the proportion was 19.3%. Only 35% of the non-status Indians living off reserves had done so, and 56% of the U.S. Indians living on reserves in the Southwest had completed Grade 9 or beyond.
The median number of grades completed for the non-status sample (M + F) was 7.32, for the U.S. Southwest sample it was 8.49, for the Minnesota sample it was 9.56 and for B.C. Indians living off reserves it was 7.86. The mean number of grades could not be computed for the Minnesota sample, but Table 2 indicates that the mean number of grades by Indians on reserve in the U.S. Southwest was 8.37 while the mean level of education for B.C. Indians living off reserves was 8.15 grades and that for B.C. non-status Indians was a full year lower at 7.17 grades. The difference between the B.C. non-status sample and the other two groups is statistically significant at the .01 level. The difference between the B.C. off-reserve group and the U.S. on-reserve group is statistically significant only in a one-tail test at the .05 level.
Closing the Gap: Educational Aspirations
More detailed data on educational attainment by age given in Table 3 indicates that the "education gap" between B.C. Indians and all Canadians is closing. For B.C. Indians living off reserve, the median number of grades completed for those 55-64 years of age is 4.1--only one-half the median for the Canadian native-born population. However, for those in the age cohort 20-24 years, the median for Off-reserve Indians, 9.9 grades completed, is only about one-half of one grade below that of the total Canadian population. While the gap has been sharply narrowed for younger Indians, it will be several decades before the gap is closed for the entire Indian population.
* Canada 1965, B.C. Indians 1971, B.C. Non-Status Indians 1971.
Sources: Frank J. Whittingham, The Educational Attainment of the Canadian Population and Labour Force 1960-65, Special Labour Force Study No. 1, Dominion Bureau of Statistics (71505), Ottawa, Queen's Printer, 1967, Table 3, p. 9.
- Derived from W. T. Stanbury, "Summary of Major Results, B.C. Association of Non-Status Indians Survey, Summer 1971," Vancouver, Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration, University of B.C., 1972 (unpublisbed paper).
Even to close the gap for those under 25 it will be necessary to ensure that more Canadian Indians attend university. Of the 875 persons in the sample who answered the question "How much schooling do you want your children to have?" the proportion specifically replying "university" was 13% for those with 0-8 grades completed, 20% for those with 9-11 grades and 33% for those with high school graduation or better. The proportions replying "high school" by level of education were 56% for those who had completed Grade 9 or less, 45% for those who had, themselves, completed Grades 9-11 and 22% for those who had achieved high school graduation or beyond.
Gloria Siperko’s study of 143 native youth in Edmonton provides a comparison of native and non-native aspirations with respect to education (see Note 18). For 76% of the native youth, the desired grade level was Grade 12 as compared to 42% for the non-native youth. While 50% of the non-native youth stated they wished to complete post secondary education (university) only two of the 143 native youth aspired to this level of education. An additional 10% of the native youth indicated they wished "some post-secondary" education. However, in a subsequent question as to why the grade level aspired to was sufficient, 28% of the native youth, as compared to 5% of the non-native youth, specified a grade level as a goal in order to enter into future education.
It is evident that the expectations of the younger and better educated Indians are rising. The question now becomes one of the level of sustained motivation of the individuals concerned and the availability of resources to fulfill the rising expectations.
1. H. B. Hawthorn (Ed.), A Survey of the Contemporary Indians of Canada, Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, Vol. 1, 1966, Vol. 11, 1968. The second volume deals extensively with the education of Indian children. Also, in the 1961 Census, data on "Indians" relates only to those living on reserves, because reserves were defined to sub-units for the purpose of the Census.
2. The basic reference work on B.C. Indians is H. B. Hawthorn, C. S. Belshaw and S. M. Jamieson, The Indians of British Columbia. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1958. A more recent study is D. B. Fields and W. T. Stanbury, The Impact of the Public Sector Upon the Indians of British Columbia: An Examination of the Incidence of the Revenues and Expenditures of Three Levels of Government. A report submitted to the Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa, September 1968 (pp. 422, mimeo). See also the Vancouver Province, April 1, 1972, p. 5 for a summary of four chapters of this study.
3. By a "legal or status" Indian we mean persons defined to be Indians under the Indian Act, and recorded on a band list by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
4. A summary of the methodology is given in W. T. Stanbury, D. B. Fields and D. Stevenson, "Unemployment and Labour Force Participation Rates of B.C. Indians Living Off Reserves," Manpower Review, Pacific Region, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1972.
5. A description of the methodology and summary is given in W. T. Stanbury, "Summary of Major Results, B.C. Association of Non-Status Indians Survey, Summer, 1971," Vancouver, Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration, University of B.C., 1972 (unpublished paper).
6. Stanbury, Fields and Stevenson, op. cit. Table 2.
7. S. M. Jamieson, "Socio-economic Factors Affecting Economic Development" in H. B. Hawthorn, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 103.
8. Hawthorn, op. cit. Vol. II, p. 130.
9. Fields and Stanbury, op. cit., pp. 17, 53, Tables 2, A-3.
10. Fields and Stanbury, ibid., Table A-3, p. 53.
11. Arthur K. Davis, "Edging into Mainstream: Urban Indians in Saskatchewan" in Davis, French, Knell, Fentner (Eds.), A Northern Dilemma: Reference Papers, Vol. 11, Calgary, 1965, pp. 398, 401.
12. W. E. Boek and J. K. Boek, "The People of Indian Ancestry in Greater Winnipeg," Appendix I of Jean H. Lagasse (Eds.), A Study of the Population of Indian Ancestry Living in Manitoba, Winnipeg, Queen’s Printer, 1959, p. 50.
13. Alan L. Sorkin, American Indians and Federal Aid, Washington, Brookings Institution, 1971, p. 17, Table 1-10.
14. Ibid., p. 38.
15. Mark Nagler, Indians in the City, A Study of the Urbanization of Indians in Toronto, Ottawa, Saint Paul University, 1970, derived from Tables 3-8, Chapter 3, pp. 31-37.
16. Benjamin Higgins and Dennis J. O’Connor. Indian Manpower Resources in the Southwest: A Pilot Study, Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Tempe, Arizona, Arizona State University, 1969.
17. The two studies from which the data on educational attainment were drawn were Laverne Drilling, Arthur M. Harkins and Richard G. Woods, The Indian Relief Recipient in Minneapolis: An Exploratory Study, Training Center for Community Programs, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 1969, and Richard C. Woods and Arthur M. Harkins, Indian Employment in Minneapolis, Training Center for Community Programs, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1968.
18. Gloria M. Burima Siperko, A Study of Native Youth in Edmonton, Edmonton, Alberta Department of Culture, Youth and Recreation, June 1971, pp. 114-115. The study consisted of 62 male and 78 females (3 no response) of whom 118 were under age 20, 8 were over 20 and for 17 the age was not given. Some 47 were treaty or legal Indians, 85 were Metis and 11 were "other" or no response. The sample of non-native youth consisted of 190 persons.
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