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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?.

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Education on indigenous people

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
What is being taught?

  • As we are all Education students, we took a critical look at what is taught about Indigenous peoples throughout elementary school and high school.

  • We found that treaty education is now mandatory from kindergarten to grade 12, and there are Treaty Kits is most schools in Saskatchewan.

  • The Treaty Kit is a bankers box filled to the brim with resources for educators to use in their K-12 classrooms. 

  • We brought with us a book of Treaty Resources that contains the treaty curriculum for kindergarten to grade 12.

Reasons for ignorance
Reasons for Ignorance

  • Fear – Fear of saying or using the wrong terms, fear of what other people will think if you stand up for Indigenous culture, and fear of the prejudice attitudes that older generations have and of offending these people by opposing their attitudes.

  • Responsibility – Once you are educated on these issues (no longer ignorant), there is no going back. Once you know, you have a responsibility to do something about what you have learned. Some people don’t want to take on this responsibility, so they would rather remain ignorant.

  • Collective Shame – We would rather remain ignorant than face what we have done to this group of people.

  • Easy – It’s the easiest thing to do because those of the dominant culture don’t have to challenge their ways of thinking.

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

Do you think the level of ignorance is lessening now that treaty education has become mandatory for K-12 students?

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.

Richard Buettner:

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 treaty education has become mandatory for K-12 students?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.

Julie Machnaik

High school native studies poll
High School Native Studies Poll treaty education has become mandatory for K-12 students?

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.

Compulsory native studies classes high school
Compulsory Native Studies Classes: treaty education has become mandatory for K-12 students?High School

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.

Jim Croshaw

(26 years in the teaching profession)  

Survey of students
Survey of Students treaty education has become mandatory for K-12 students?

  • Ben interviewed students at Greenall High School in Balgonie to hear the opinions of high school students on compulsory Native Studies classes.

  • Surprisingly, we thought, the majority of students surveyed said Native Studies classes should be mandatory for all high school students.

  • A few students answered that Native Studies classes should not be mandatory for students who are going into professions that do no involve First Nations culture.

  • Our group’s question is, “Are there any careers that won’t involve First Nations culture in the future?”

Compulsory native studies courses
Compulsory Native treaty education has become mandatory for K-12 students?Studies Courses

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.

Compulsory native studies courses university and high school
Compulsory Native treaty education has become mandatory for K-12 students?Studies Courses:University and High School

  • When we posed this question on our Facebook page, we found some intense opposition to making these classes compulsory for university.

  • Many people are concerned that this would make it more difficult for people who already struggle to fit their degree into a four year program.

  • The majority of people seemed less opposed to having compulsory native studies in high school, but there was still the worry that the emphasis on native studies classes would cause other cultures to be misrepresented in the school system.

“Silencing Aboriginal Curricular Content and Perspectives Through Multiculturalism: ‘There are Other Children Here’”

-Verna St. Denis

  • The article argues that there should NOT be a course that combines social studies, history and native studies into one class, because the “integration of native studies content into existing courses could easily result in the erasure of native studies.”

  • This is our response to those who say indigenous culture is represented in general social studies courses. We worry that the native studies portion is pushed to the side and is not fairly represented in a more general course.

Interesting quotes from article
Interesting Through Multiculturalism: ‘There are Other Children Here’” Quotes from Article

  • “Teaching about Aboriginal culture and history must go beyond cultural artifacts: ‘We need the perspective, not just beads and feathers’”

  • “What happens to Aboriginal teachers and Aboriginal content in Canadian public schools is a microcosm of what happens at the political level in regards to Aboriginal people.”

Purpose of facebook page
Purpose of Facebook Page Through Multiculturalism: ‘There are Other Children Here’”

  • We used our Facebook page to demonstrate the Indigenous way of knowing as well as share the new understandings we gained in class and through research.

A different way of knowing
A Different Way of Knowing Through Multiculturalism: ‘There are Other Children Here’”

“History is only accurate from the perspective of the storyteller.”

  • Throughout our education careers, we often learned through the white perspective.

  • We think it is very important to incorporate both sides of the story when teaching about Indigenous peoples.

"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.

Richard Buettner

"It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand..."

—Apache Proverb

“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.

Community schools
Community Schools or Metis. Do you feel like the Inuit culture is left out or forgotten about at times? Why do you think this is?

We talked to Gerry, another ECS 100 prof, about his experience in creating St. Francis Community School in Regina.

  • Community Schools are schools that get extra funding to work with at risk students.

  • The extra funding goes to a nutrition program, field trips, and special guests.

  • Gerry Cozine, ECS Prof, started a community school and noticed a change in the success of students due to the implementation of Kokums, Moshoms, and Elders.

  • He said, “First Nations students in this urban area saw an increase in pride for their culture.”

  • The community became more educated toward the First Nations culture.

St. Francis Community School

Making adaptations
Making Adaptations or Metis. Do you feel like the Inuit culture is left out or forgotten about at times? Why do you think this is?

  • Richard Buettner told us about his experience with starting a school in North Battleford. They created a joint board, which included trustees from the public system, separate system, and bands on reserves.

  • First Nations students would often move into the city as it got colder and move back to the reserves in the spring, so they would enter the school system late and leave early.

  • They set up a quad system instead of a semester system to accommodate the First Nations students and help them have a better change of gaining credits.

  • They had Elders come in to the school and talk to the students, to teach the culture back to students who had lost it.

  • The school is still operating today, and is open for anyone to attend.

What we want you to know
What We or Metis. Do you feel like the Inuit culture is left out or forgotten about at times? Why do you think this is?Want You to Know

We want people to understand:

  • the different ways of knowing that the Europeans and Indigenous people had and the effects this had on contact

  • the injustices Indigenous people have endured, such as the encroachment of traders on their land, disease, death, resource exploitation, alcoholism, residential schools

  • the effects these injustices still have on Indigenous peoples today

  • there are two sides to treaty, the Treaty Commissioner’s account and the very accurate oral historian accounts of the First Nations people

  • many treaty promises have still not been honoured today

  • that Indigenous people were not a “lesser culture” than the Europeans and that they did not need to be “civilized”

What we want you to do
What We or Metis. Do you feel like the Inuit culture is left out or forgotten about at times? Why do you think this is?Want You to Do

“With knowledge comes a duty to do something with that knowledge”

  • Learn about the culture of these people and the history we share with them with an open mind to the “other side” of the story.

  • Share this knowledge with others.

  • Help to create educational supports and learning opportunities for the Indigenous population in their communities.

  • Examine yourself. Admit your flaws and work through them. Don’t feel guilty about it; instead, do something to change it.

  • Find allies in the Aboriginal world. Make friends! We learned how much Julie has benefitted from having educational allies in Nunavut.

  • Go experience the culture! Go to a pow-wow, have a discussion with an Elder, check out Indigenous art or dance. Find a way to immerse yourself in the Indigenous culture.

Our group s solutions
Our Group’s Solutions or Metis. Do you feel like the Inuit culture is left out or forgotten about at times? Why do you think this is?

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.