stats Making the Business of Life Easier

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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)


The young and the restless

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Patti Gower.
The Globe and Mail, December 3, 2001

Part 1 of 7: The daily trek

Ashern Every morning before dawn, Roseanna Anderson packs her bag and heads to the end of a dirt road to wait for the little yellow school bus that will transport her and a few neighbours to a different world.

As the bus leaves the Fairford First Nation in central Manitoba, it passes the reserve's school, where a major renovation job does little to mask gang violence, absent teachers and empty library shelves. It then skirts by the handsome new band office and health centre before heading down Highway 6 to Ashern, and the big public high school where Roseanna's parents think her future lies.

Here in the Interlake, the dreary flatlands between Manitoba's three great lakes, where the white people farm and the Indians fish, Roseanna makes a daily trek across the solitudes of segregation, with her past rooted in one and her hopes planted in another.

Her choice of where to be educated represents a serious test for school systems both on reserves and off. Roseanna is one of 30 of Fairford's young people who study off the reserve, taking their federal education subsidies with them. She opted for Ashern Central School, she says, because it's bigger and better, and offers more opportunities to experience the outside world.

Roseanna wanted to join the French club, which sends students to Paris. She wanted to play flute in the school band, which travelled to British Columbia last spring.

"One of the girls around here said I was turning white," she says, playing with the cuff of her Nike sweatshirt. "I don't care. I want to go to France."

At 14, Roseanna believes an integrated education will be a giant step out of her family's cloistered reserve. Her ambitions pose a giant challenge to her first nation and her province.

As Manitoba's large native population shifts to towns and cities, the province's school system is struggling to create a more welcoming environment for Indian and Métis children. In the school division around Ashern, about 30 per cent of the students are aboriginal.

At the same time, dozens of reserves like Fairford are trying to keep their young people closer to home, to be educated and shaped in their own culture and, in some cases, language.

It's not only a matter of pride, and education dollars. Students mean money, and school boards everywhere compete to fill seats, but first nations are confronted with crippling dropout rates and endemic social problems. They feel the greatest hope for indigenous education is to provide a supportive environment for some of Canada's more vulnerable children. To avoid tomorrow's crises - suicides, alcohol abuse, unemployment - today's reserve schools are being pushed to nurture students who might feel alienated in the outside world.

Not everyone agrees. In the languor of Fairford, which sprawls like a crowded ranch across the countryside 230 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, nothing divides parents more than rural Manitoba's great school question. Many see the reserve school, with its smaller student body and ongoing gang violence, as inferior. The band's education councillor sends his two children to a private school off the reserve. So does the chief, whose youngest daughter graduated last June from Ashern.

The chief's wife, Loretta Woodhouse, who is also vice-principal of Fairford's school, defends her decision. The school is improving, against tough odds, she says. But like many parents on the reserve, she also wants the best for her children. "I want them to be out there, to experience the world, to be self-sufficient people," she says, repeating the hopes of many teens like Roseanna. "There is nothing here."
THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 7):

Photo Essay
Home and school

1. The daily trek
'One of the girls around here said I was turning white'

2. A half-hour away, a world of difference
Class photos, pennants and a ruined gymnasium floor speak volumes

3. Change rolls across the prairies
Ashern tries to create a more welcoming environment for natives

4. Hanging out in the 'Nee-Chee'
The reserve kids stick together, and talk about the white kids who give them dirty looks

5. Life at the Fairford school
Crime, gangs, violence and verbal abuse an unwelcome part of tough curriculum

6. Reserve politics part of the problem
Band has the right to hire and fire all staff at Fairford's school

7. 'I just want to get out of this little place'
Making the trip to school a way of opening minds, opening worlds



photo essays
Two worlds - photo essay

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