Education On Indigenous People . The challenge we are addressing is the problem of the ignorance of Canadian society to the history, spirituality, and worldview of Indigenous people today. What is being taught?.
The challenge we are addressing is the problem of the ignorance of Canadian society to the history, spirituality, and worldview of Indigenous people today.
Why do you think there is such a high level of ignorance and a persistence to remain ignorant?
There is a huge level of ignorance.
There has been progress from the racism that was once common to a level of pity and attitude of “feeling bad” for Indigenous peoples. People are persistent to remain ignorant because a common attitude is that Aboriginal peoples are lazy, and that they should get up and do something for themselves. The thing is, we stuck Indigenous people on reserves and encouraged them to become a dependent people, but now we complain that they are dependent. It is our responsibility to create educational supports and opportunities for them.
Dr. Larry Steeves
I haven’t seen evidence that the ignorance is changing yet. Treaty education was put into place pretty recently, though. I believe it is going to help, but whether it has had a direct effect in terms of understanding overall is hard to say. There is more than just treaty education; teachers can infuse Indigenous content into other subjects when it’s appropriate.
It definitely helps. It is a long, hard road, and there are a lot of things that aren’t being done well yet. Implementing this treaty education is a process that will take at least 5-10 years. Treaty education in itself is not sufficient, because you have to realize how big of an issue this is, but it is definitely a start.
Dr. Larry Steves
This is one thing helping to change the ignorance. Students are becoming more open and aware that there are gaps in their knowledge. I see real improvement in openness and willingness in students challenging themselves.
We asked our friends on Facebook if they enrolled in Native Studies classes during their high school career.
We found that the majority of people did not take a native studies class in high school, or only took one of these classes. However, comments showed that history of Indigenous people was often covered in social studies classes. Our group wondered if that was enough.
Do you think Native Studies classes should be mandatory in high school?
Yes it should be, but only in certain grades such as grade 6,7, and 8. The reason why it should be still optional is when people get to high school they begin choosing classes that will benefit their future. Just like many other subjects such as French, Physical Education, Practical and Applied Arts, and some sciences.
(26 years in the teaching profession)
What do you think of compulsory indigenous studies classes not only in high school, but also in university?
I think Indigenous Studies classes should be mandatory for all university students. Our background knowledge is so weak. It doesn’t matter what you are going into, you need to know this stuff.
I have heard discussion on that, but I am not entirely sure what to say about it. I am uncertain because I think it could be counterproductive to force students to take a class that to them, isn’t relevant. I think it should definitely be compulsory in high school because students need that exposure, and I also think we should look at infusing it into more classes, rather than keeping it a separate part.
-Verna St. Denis
“History is only accurate from the perspective of the storyteller.”
"I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love." -Chief Red Cloud
What do you think are some things university students can do in order to address this issue?
University students are more likely to take action in groups, or for class assignments. Some classes ask you to outreach to the community, the ESS has a program where student teachers give lessons to lower status schools, and HOPE donates first aid equipment to lower status schools. You can get involved in these groups and volunteer time or money that can make a big difference.
"It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand..."
“Indigenous” is often thought of as either First Nations or Metis. Do you feel like the Inuit culture is left out or forgotten about at times? Why do you think this is?
Very much so. We need to teach more about Nunavut. Students need to be taught that people from Nunavut are Canadian, not Eskimos who live in igloos, and that they were in residential schools too. There are many similarities between Inuit, First Nations, and Metis people. These peoples have faced the same struggles, but the Inuit culture has been ignored and often forgotten about.
Julie experienced a huge learning curve by walking the landscape, being among the people, and experiencing being the minority.
We talked to Gerry, another ECS 100 prof, about his experience in creating St. Francis Community School in Regina.
St. Francis Community School
We want people to understand:
“With knowledge comes a duty to do something with that knowledge”
Acknowledge the past injustices that have occurred and are still occurring towards Canada’s Indigenous people, so we can move on and improve the situation.
Use education to create change, but not one-sided education. Education should incorporate the beliefs and ways of knowing of both traditions to create a firm understanding of both and seeing that both are right and none are wrong.
There should be separate, compulsory Indigenous Studies courses and Indigenous content should also be integrated and infused into other parts of curriculum.
Education of shared history should focus on the history and the contemporary times and how the culture is still relevant and practiced today.
Give teachers professional development. Teachers are willing to teach about treaties and try to incorporate the Indigenous perspective into their teaching, but often don’t know how.