This week we were asked to respond to a brief email sent by a student to their teacher asking for treaty resources and struggling to find them or have support in searching for them due to the demographics of the school.
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 the curriculum and you that “We are all treaty people”?
I have to be blunt, is this even a question? This year I attended TreatyEd. Camp at the University of Regina hosted by the UR STARS team. This was one fo the most educational and rich experiences I have had relating to learning more about treaty thus far. One phrase I took from this was from Noel Star Blanket, an elder who spoke in one of the sessions. He spoke about a classroom teacher who had been teaching treaty and indigenous knowledge to her students.
The students protested a frequently appearing question; Why do we have to learn about THEM? Her response: Because they had to learn about US.
Bravo and back flips to this teacher. To me this question is bewildering to ask because my perspective supports the idea of FNMI education to ALL students. Aside from this quote, Canada was existent before the settlers. Canada was not empty, it was not an uninhabited land that was reclaimed and built by our fore fathers. The history is so much more than that. As a student in elementary to high school I did not learn this. I learnt that settlers were “heros”. They came and settled the uncivilized Canada in a “peaceful” way.
In grade eleven I read books such as April Raintree that brought to light the opression and racism that indigenous people face everyday. I learnt a bit about residential schools so I thought I had an idea of what our real history was at this point.
In my first year of university, I was thrown into the depths of the consequences western history has had on minority groups. My professor introduced us to the “Blue Eyes” experiment by Jane Elliot. I will be honest when I say I was fuelled with anger. Reflecting on the thoughts and feelings I had at this time, I did not truly understand racism. I understood race as a combination of social class, color, and job status, give or take a few elements depending on who you are.
When I took my second year of education classes I was again faced with addressing racism in the form of “checking my privilege”. I remember vividly struggling with “white guilt” and the ideas that minorities are just as racist as white people. It was incredibly hard for me to understand “white privelge”. Once I understood this concept, I was overwhelmed with anxiety promoting fleets of guilt and shame associated with my race. Near the end of the same class we were given a task, to move from a place of guilt into a place of action. We can blame, we can be sad, we can be angry, but what good is it all without action? I now understood the system that I have been born into, the events that were clouded with images of “white saviours”. The prying question was.. “Just how exactly will I move to action?”
Here are a few things I came up with:
- Addressing racism and misconcpetions about others made by “the oppresser”
- Addressing my own racism whether it is an intended or unintended act or thought
- Recognizing my privelge and my place in the system of race as power
- Teaching treaties
Based on my personal calls to action against opression and racism, I have found that TreatyEd. is how we move from guilt to action. It is our responsibility as educators to teach about the promises of the treaties; What happened before, during, and after. What the treaties mean and how they have or have not been fulfilled, and how to move forward and live up to the sharing of land as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows. Excluding non-indigneous people to this call to action is not an option. We are all treaty people and this is part of our Canadian history. There are no objections to teaching about the wars of the world, slavery, or the holocaust in the curriculum, so why is there resistence with this?
My grade ten history teacher told me, “We learn about history so we can learn from our mistakes of the past”. Treaties are part of our history and also our world today, we need to learn about them and from them.