The Role of Treaty Education in Curriculum: Reconciliation is Your Job
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.
I am sorry you are getting resistance on teaching the Treaty Education branch of the curriculum. Mandatory Treaty Education became implemented in Saskatchewan in 2007, after years of research and reconciliation practices. It is very unfortunate that your Coop would have this attitude about Treaty Education, as University of Regina Professor Mike Cappello would say, “It is your job (to teach)”. Plain and simple.
Treaty Education has been mandatory for eleven years now, meaning that most teachers that got their degree in this time have been taught about Treaty Education. Educators who got their degree before time did not necessarily learn about the intricate relationships of the treaties. The Government of Canada has always had a complicated relationship with the Indigenous peoples of the land, and this has had an effect on the educational institution. I find that most comments like the one your Coop made about “having no First Nations students”, are based in pure ignorance and lack of knowledge.
The job of an Educator requires someone who is a life-long learner. It is true that our educational system did not always honor Indigenous ways of knowing or practice Treaty Education, however this is not an excuse for pleading ignorance. An educator must have a passion for knowledge and learning in order to give students the best education. Treaty Education is in the curriculum; it is the educator’s job to teach all curriculum and responsibly educate yourself on this topic.
The main reasons you are feeling this resistance is ignorance and indifference, which can be two very dangerous notions. It appears that your students have not been taught about the basics of treaty relationships and have been failed by their past educators. It is easy to not take an issue seriously when you are not affected by it. I would suggest teaching the students the basics of Treaty Education, and take time practicing seeing through different perspectives. Get involved with the community and teach about the sense of Place. The most important thing to remember is that you have an opportunity to implement the spirit of Treaty Education by pursuing knowledge and ethics even through resistance.
For the matter of your Coop, they are mistaken. Treaty Education is not just for Indigenous peoples, it is for everyone; we are all treaty peoples. When the treaties were signed, it was a living agreement, lasting forever. As long as the grass grows, the river flows, and the wind blows the treaty will live on. The treaty entitled a relationship between First Nations, the colonizers, and the land. It was an agreement to share the land, and all the responsibility and power that comes with that. Everyone who lives on the land is living off the legacy of the treaties. Not all of the treaty requirements have been honored by the Canadian Government, and this is why we have the concept of reconciliation and mandatory Treaty Education.
Reconciliation is an ongoing process, which is why the Treaty Education should be integrated with virtually every subject. To pled ignorance and silence Indigenous struggles is to side with the oppressor, for there is no such thing as neutral in our institutions. When an educator does not teach Treaty Education they are not doing their jobs, they are failing their students, and they are personally helping racist and sexist themes stay in our institution. To practice Treaty Education is to connect students with our land, it is to fight against oppression in our society, and it is to honour the Indigenous cultures that lived here. Everyone benefits from Treaty Education.
2 March 2019