Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

An Impact Assessment of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN)

4.1.1 Demographics

There has been an Indigenous presence in the Arrow Lakes region for 3000-5000 years – the Shuswap people, the Colville, and the Kutenai are identified as the earliest inhabitants of the area. The Sinixt people – (translated to People living in the Place of the Bull Trout) an interior Salishan band inhabited the area for at least 1500 years. Their numbers were estimated in the tens of thousands prior to European contact, however, in 1956, the Sinixt people were declared “extinct” by the Canadian government. The remaining Sinixt dispersed widely across their traditional territory, and when the Columbia River Treaty (which granted the US water rights on traditional Sinixt territory in exchange for cash to the Canadian government) was signed in 1964, the “extinct” Sinixt people received no compensation. Their lack of official status resulted in a gradual erosion of any knowledge of the existence of the Sinixt people (SD 10 – Arrow Lakes Community/District Literacy Plan, 2012, pp. 8, 10).

The Arrow Lakes school district is comprised of 6 schools with an approximate student population of 543 students – 11.2% are of Aboriginal ancestry. Economically, the region fares worse than the BC provincial average, with annual (2006) family income of $20,712, and approximately 20% of residents living below the cut off designated for low-income status. Educationally, the population is also somewhat marginalized with 23% of the population having less than a grade 12 education. Graduation rates for Indigenous students as in the table below indicate higher completion rates than in many districts around the province. In 2010-2011 54% of Aboriginal students in the province completed within six years of starting grade 8 as compared to 83% of non-Aboriginal students.

Figure 1: Arrow Lake Graduation Rates

2002- 03

2003- 04

2004- 05

2005- 06

2006- 07

2007- 08

2008- 09

2009- 10

2010- 11

All Grad 95

88

95

93

98

91

87

94

100

95

Aboriginal

100

n/a

100

88

100

100

100

Grad Rate

As a potential corollary to this, youth unemployment in the region sits at a substantial 40.7% (SD 10 – Arrow Lakes Community/District Literacy Plan, 2012, p.10).