Innu Oral Traditions Meet Schooling: New data on Outcomes
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In light of a major study on educational outcomes, this paper explores how Aboriginal language dominance and virtually exclusive use of oral communications in one Aboriginal group has been affected by its interaction with Western institutions. For several years negotiations have been undertaken among the Innu Nation of Labrador, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the federal government over band status for the Innu, reserve creation and the development of locally controlled institutions. As part of the negotiations, a series of studies with Labrador Innu children, their families and teachers have produced rare data on Aboriginal children in relation to their schooling. The paper sketches factors relating to the history and practice of formal, Western schooling in Canada, followed by indicators of Canadian Aboriginal people's responses to schooling. A brief description follows of the Innu of Labrador, emphasising their unique history relative to Canadian Aboriginal groups in general. Following this, data from the recent study are outlined, providing evidence of almost complete failure of schooling for the Innu. Finally, these data are discussed as insights into how the Innu, and those responsible for providing schooling for them, value and react to factors in the situation.