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.
A Concerned Intern
I did not actually recieve this email, but I took on the challenge to respond to it. Hopefully, my response can help anyone else going through something similar.
This happens a lot more than you think, and many interns and teachers have experienced the students and support systems who resist Treaty Education. Failing to see the importance of the subject is understandable as it is a rather new addition to the classroom, but that does not give either party the excuse to act with such closed minds. Let’s jump right in and address some of these issues.
To begin with, let’s get one thing straight – you do not have to have any First Nation, Metis, or Inuit students present in the classroom to include FNMI Content and Perspectives. Treaty education is not about teaching to or about a specific culture. It is about looking back into Canada’s history that does not solely concern a single group of people, it is all of our responsibilities to learn from history. Also, FNMI students probably already have a pretty good understanding of the history of genocide against their own culture, they are the ones living in the aftermath. It is the white, Asian, African American, Islander, newly immigrated students, and did I mention white students who do not live with the constant reminder of the terrible past, that need the education to properly understand the society we all currently live in.
Another reason that it is important to learn about Treaty Education is that “we are all treaty people.” Every student in your class and every teacher in your school stands to gain something from the treaties signed years ago. Whether this is land, resources, money or education, the treaties were signed with the intention of both parties receiving something from the Treaties. (Despite the promises remaining unfulfilled or ignored, but that’s another conversation).
For myself, I struggled to make this argument. I knew that Treaty Education was important but I didn’t really know why or how to defend my beliefs. It wasn’t until I attended TreatyEdCamp that I learned everything I have written here today. I learned that admitting to being a Treaty person takes a lot of courage and responsibility. I also learned that the trauma of one group is the trauma of Canada. Most of all in TreatyEdCamp I learned that Canada’s history, no matter what how devastating, is woven into Canada’s memory forever, but it doesn’t have to influence our future.
Best of Luck,