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 7 of 7: 'I just want to get out of this little place'

Ashern The wheels of aboriginal education grind in all their complexity as Roseanna and a small group of Fairford kids head home from Ashern. By making the long trek every day to town, they believe they are opening their minds, and worlds. Without betraying their roots, they think they can gain access to ideas and competition, and perhaps a bit of freedom. Ashern Central's campaign to make them feel a part of the school hasn't made a great difference - but it hasn't hurt to try.

In fact, Dave Hull recently left Ashern's staff to become the aboriginal education co-ordinator for the local school division, which covers eight schools and 1,450 students. He is working with teachers to incorporate aboriginal issues in all their classes, and developing relationships with the surrounding reserves. One of those teachers is Randy Chartrand, the Métis shop instructor who is now preparing for a native studies course.

Roseanna says she is happy with Ashern, and all the opportunities it has given her. She can't speak Saulteau or describe her band's history in much detail. But at 14 she is aware of a much bigger world than the one at Fairford.

Attendance rates are improving noticeably, Hull says, as are the number of parents coming from distant reserves like Fairford for parent-teacher interviews.

Back at Fairford, opinions are more divided. While the band is pushing parents to keep their children in the reserve school, and thus boost its budget and teaching staff, families like the Goulds won a temporary victory when they took their case to a regional native authority to argue that their children could not gain access to special needs - French, among them - at the reserve school. For now, the band is required to subsidize their public schooling.

The politics of schooling may seem distant to a 14-year-old like Roseanna, especially as she pecks away at her homework and tries to catch some sleep on the drive home. But they just shape her reserve's future.

After her school bus passes through forests and plains once inhabited by her people but long ago ceded to grain farms and hydro right-of-ways, it drops her at the Fairford band's gas station, where her older brother is waiting in the family car.

As the white kids back in Ashern settle into an after-school routine of volleyball and badminton practices, Roseanna will return to a comfortable ranch bungalow, fitted with two satellite dishes and a landscaped garden, on the edge of the Fairford River. She drops her knapsack at the door, grabs a Pepsi from the fridge and races her brother for the remote control. Sabrina the Teenage Witch is on. So is The Simpsons. They flip between shows on the 36-inch screen that dominates the living room, while their mother microwaves some pasta for dinner.

For a moment, Roseanna looks away from the screen, through the sliding-glass door to the river that runs through her reserve, north into Lake St. Martin and on to Lake Winnipeg, and suddenly her mind is flowing in another direction, to her future.

She says she is happy with Ashern, and all the opportunities it has given her. She can't speak Saulteau or describe her band's history in much detail. But at 14 she is aware of a much bigger world than the one at Fairford.

"I just want to get out of this little place," she says.
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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