During fall semester last year, Mike received an email from an intern asking for help. Here's part of it:
"As part of my classes for my three week block I have picked up a Social Studies 30 course. This past week we have been discussing the concept of standard of living and looking at the different standards across Canada. I tried to introduce this concept from the perspective of the First Nations people of Canada and my class was very confused about the topic and in many cases made some racist remarks. I have tried to reintroduce the concept but they continue to treat it as a joke.
The teachers at this school are very lax on the topic of Treaty Education as well as First Nations ways of knowing. I have asked my Coop for advice on Treaty Education and she told me that she does not see the purpose of teaching it at this school because there are no First Nations students. I was wondering if you would have any ideas of how to approach this topic with my class or if you would have any resources to recommend."
This is a real issue in schools. As you listen to Dwayne's invitation/challenge, as you listen to Claire's lecture and as you read Cynthia's narrative - use your blog to craft a response to this student's email. Consider the following questions:1. What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?2. What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that "We are all treaty people"?
Dear Pre-Service Teacher,
It saddens me that some students feel that teaching FNMI Content and Perspectives is a waste of time. In reality, FNMI Content and Perspectives gives students, who are not First Nations, Inuit or Metis, an opportunity to be culturally diverse. This is important to form a society that is not ignorant or set in their own cultural ways. The need of schooling, I think, and for curriculum is “to live [and] to make a livelihood that does no harm” (Chambers, p. 33). If children, citizens of our society, do not know about other cultures and diversity, there is a chance of harm towards minorities. For example, my parents, went to school at a time that FNMI Content and Perspectives were not included in the curriculum and there were no discussions about their history/culture at all. Now, when there is growing awareness of Aboriginal issues in Saskatchewan and Canada, our parents turn a blind eye or immediately go against Aboriginal peoples. You may consider asking parents and students to come to an open house in your classroom about FNMI Content and Perspectives, and use the curriculum as backup for your reasoning to teach about Canada's history involving First Nations. Many parents can be ignorant and/or unknowledgeable about diversity, specifically FNMI Content and Perspectives, in Canada. Nonetheless as a teacher, we should strive to change this overwhelmingly popular attitude.
Perhaps when you reintroduce the topic to white students you could try to incorporate Treaty Education into what they already enjoy/know how to do. For example, this could include drama, maps, visuals, etc. Working with the students and catering to their interests and capabilities may make them more accepting of new content. Claire Kreuger illustrated this with various inquiry-based projects; planting a garden, writing/singing a song, making videos, using clay, etc. This caters to all students interests and engages them while learning something very important. The projects also allow the teacher and students to learn alongside one another, which demonstrates an example of a relationship that treaties involve.
“We are all treaty people” literally means, to me, that we are all users of treaty land that once did not belong to white settlers. Due to this fact, everyone in Canada must acknowledge this and act upon it. In schools, this should be acted upon by learning extensively about Aboriginal peoples’ history and culture, especially how both relate to Canadian history. The statement means that the relationships behind the treaty are more important than the treaty document that has been signed, as Kreuger said. This means that within the curriculum, the strive to see Indigenous peoples as equal is not an Indigenous problem, it is a white problem. Parents should be informed about controversial issues so that discussions can happen at home and issues of Aboriginal people in the media and literature should be discussed. This considers that the discussions about treaties involve everyone, treaties are a relationship with everyone who utilizes the land.