All First Nation children have an inherent right to education as stated in Treaty No. 8 and recognized in the Canadian Constitution. First Nations children have the right to an education which offers the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of everyday life. First Nations children are also entitled to a culturally relevant curriculum, which reflects their background and individual learning style. Every First Nation child is unique and gifted in his or her own way. First Nation children are entitled to an education equal to the standard of education received by other Canadian children.

A resolution was passed on March 14, 2002 which states all Special Education funding will be channeled through Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta. The developing of a Regional Management Organization (RMO) has been in progress since October 2003. Developing an RMO is fundamental to the autonomy of Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta. Through community consultations, opportunity has been provided for Treaty 8 First Nations members to become proactive regarding Special Education. An example of this is assisting in the beginning stages of drafting our Special Education Policy. Community consultations also offer the opportunity for First Nation members to provide feedback and comment in the refining of draft documents. Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta needs to redesign First Nation education and develop a vision for First Nation Special Education.

Traditional family life provided a cultural foundation for First Nations children. Each First Nation child is entitled to an excellent education with cultural content and a safe learning environment utilizing cultural resources. All Treaty 8 First Nations are unique with individual interests, abilities, and learning needs. First Nation education is established in the wisdom of traditional knowledge, which respects the vision of parents and Elders in reinforcing the teaching and development of language and culture. Education needs to be designed to respect and accommodate the diversity of learners, including the gifted and talented learner. Access to services, such as early intervention, which is inclusive of preschool to age nine or grade three, will be available for learners who display a need. Services will continue to follow all Special Education learners as they progress through life stages.

Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta Special Education will support children with diverse needs, including the gifted and talented learner. It will promote a broader understanding of the diversity of needs within a specific setting. Special Education will focus on the efforts and responses of school and other community personnel on students' abilities and strengths, rather than weaknesses and deficits used and developed by First Nation educators, contracted specialists, Elders, community and family.

Education needs to be designed to respect and accommodate the diversity of learners. Students with special needs deserve to enjoy a fulfilling life, including an education which ensures dignity, promotes self-esteem, promotes self-discipline, promotes positive social skills, and encourages participation. Students with special needs deserve to learn with their peers in a setting which best suits their individual needs. Inclusion offers special education delivered by qualified professionals in a regular classroom setting, which effectively meets the diverse needs of the students.

To provide effective special education services within Treaty 8 [Alberta] requires the establishment of an education system linking the educational services provided by Tribal Councils (Level 2) and the services provided by individual schools (Level 1) into a complementary unity with further support services provided at the Treaty 8 Education Commission level (Level 3). This leveled system of services would provide direct and indirect support services at each of the schools located in the 23 Treaty 8 communities in Alberta. Each of the 5 Tribal Councils, and 1 independent, Bigstone Cree Nation, would provide professional support to schools in their communities, with the Treaty 8 Education Commission providing services such as broad program coordination, policy development, capacity building, in-service training, funding allocation, and program evaluations.

The Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta Special Education Policy will articulate the principles and objectives as stated. It will be a guideline for effective practices meeting the diverse learning needs in a classroom environment. As well, the policy will encourage capacity building within the communities through positive life long learning experiences. The policy will also enhance collaboration, consultation, and communication throughout the community involving students, family, Elders, teachers, professionals, paraprofessionals, and community members. The policy will offer suggestions and guidelines to school divisions in order to promote successful life long learning. The policy will create an atmosphere welcoming diversity.