FIRST NATIONS SELF-DETERMINATION
Many First Nations in Canada are actively moving towards a vision of positive community health and development that includes a substantial measure of control through their own agency and actions. Improving developmental conditions for children and supports for parents have been identified by many First Nations communities as key areas for resource allocation and capacity building.
Our recommendations emphasize the importance of protecting children through culturally-appropriate services, by attending to maternal and child health, by providing appropriate early childhood education, and by making high quality child care available, all with the objective of complementing the family's role in nurturing young children.
In a program evaluation conducted from 1998-2000, community administrators reported that the approach of First Nations Partnership Programs supported First Nations self-determination in their communities and the quest for capacity building at the community level to provide quality child care and development programs that embody First Nations cultural traditions, values and practices.
The First Nations Partnership Programs demonstrate that First Nations people have the will and the social cohesion to take the driver's seat on the journey towards increased child and family service capacity. Despite considerable differences among our partners, in terms of their infrastructure, location, economic status, and existing services for children and families, all of the partnership initiatives engendered unprecedented success for students and for the community as a whole. The program evaluation showed what can happen when training in Early Childhood Education and Youth Care is envisioned and implemented as a community development tool. Most importantly, the research process has clarified what guides the process -- how the pieces fit together to realize community-identified goals and strategies, building upon and expanding social cohesion and social inclusion, which in turn creates developmentally supportive ecologies for children and families.
A relevant reference is: R. Armstrong, J. Kennedy & P.R. Oberle (1990). University and education and economic well-being: Indian achievement and prospects. Ottawa: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.