Once treaties began being signed, the residents of the area both Indigenous and non-Indigenous became Treaty People, hence the saying “We are all Treaty People.” So why is there often push back in our education programs when teachers begin to incorporate Treaty education into the classroom? Cynthia Chambers in her article “We are all Treaty People” states that treaties have given all residents of the area both rights and responsibilities to abide by and that it is important to teach our children about these rights and responsibilities to form an understanding and relationship between these two communities that were lost through the process of colonialism. By understanding what Treaties are and how they were not abided by will begin the process of reconciliation and reforming relationships. The problem that arises is that many non-Indigenous individuals do not have the understanding that they are a Treaty person, and believe that the Treaties have done nothing to benefit them. In Dwayne Donald’s lecture “On What Terms can we Speak?” points out that having two different frames of reference (between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities) forms a disconnect with another and a lack of understanding of one another. This then makes it very complicated to begin incorporating education and learning that is seen as benefitting only a specific group. Dwayne defines colonialism as:
“An extended process of denying relationship whether it be with the places where we live or our head and our heart or people who look different from us.”
With that definition, we can understand that having these divides between groups makes it very hard for people to come together to learn about Treaties and Treaty Education. It is also important to understand that although Treaties are not new, the importance of teaching Treaty Education is fairly new. However, that does not mean it is less important than our other subjects such as math and science. If we ever want to move forward and build relationships with one another, it is critical as Donald stated to take a step back to acknowledge and understand the past, understand how the past has impacted our present, and to be critical of how we want it to impact our future. Do we want to continue down the road of not acknowledging the impacts colonization had on our country or are we ready to acknowledge these impacts and become educated around the topic?
“At what point did we train our ears not to listen and our hearts not to care?”
As future educators I think an important place to start our journey of teaching Treaty Education is to first recognize where you stand on the subject. For myself I was and still, am very undereducated of the realities of the past. As I continue my work throughout my university classes I become more and more educated on the topic but still have a lot to learn. I related very closely to the comment Donald made about “Canadian Canadian’s.” By being a Canadian Canadian Donald stated that they believe they do not have a culture because they are fully immersed and surrounded by their culture like a fish in water. After hearing this point I instantly reflected back to experiences where I was to describe my culture and I had a very hard time doing so because I didn’t believe I had a culture, I just lived a lifestyle that was considered “normal.” Donald stated when one believes they do not have a culture, it is then very hard for them to comprehend Indigenous understandings and way of life. This is one reason why it is so crucial to educate your non-Indigenous students about Treaties and Indigenous perspectives because if they are not being taught from a young age, it will be very hard for them to grasp this understanding later on in life and to accept the Indigenous ways of knowing. As Claire states throughout her videos, the problem is not an Indigenous problem but a white problem. Claire states in her introduction video that when our students continue to grow up in a society where colonization and racism are still evident, they will grow up to be adults who carry these racist stereotypes. Understanding that we as teachers are role models for our students and our beliefs and values will reflect onto them is why education is a great place to begin to dismantle these stereotypes and the damage colonization has done. If we as teachers still hold the notion that treaty education is only important in schools with a high number of Indigenous students, then our students will then understand who is seen as important in our country and who is not.
As our non-Indigenous people do not have the understanding and education about Treaties and how that impacts their lives, it is very crucial to implement this knowledge into the daily teachings for all of our children. Indigenous children know the history, they understand what their elders, grandparents, and parents have gone through and they still see the problems the past has created to this day. As we have seen in all the examples for this weeks lecture, it is very easy for non-Indigenous individuals to avoid this education or simply dismiss it and become ignorant around the topic. Teaching our non-Indigenous students about Treaty Education will hopefully as Claire stated get their parents and families involved in the topic. As educators, we have to remember that we are not just teaching students and children, but we are also teaching their families. By providing this knowledge and stories, students both Indigenous and non-Indigenous are not only learning the content but as Mike and Claire discussed they are more importantly learning to think morally and show emotion for the history. To show empathy for the individuals who suffered and to understand that what has happened needs to be acknowledged and taught. Teaching about different cultures, in general, allows students to learn and respect individuals who are different from each other and to recognize the diversity between their classmates and families.
Some educators may be wary of teaching Treaty Education, however, it is our job to teach Treaty Education. Mike and Claire state that Treaty Education is not going anywhere and with that, teachers need to begin incorporating it into their everyday classroom. Claire in the interview stated that she did not receive a lot of push back, and if she would have she was prepared. There can not be a lot of push back on a subject that is in the curriculum, because it is a must do for that grade. If a teacher decides not to teach Treaty Education they are not following the curriculum, thus they are not doing their job. Since the Treaty ed curriculum is so vague, educators have a lot of say in what they decide to teach and what they decide not to teach. At the bare minimum, a teacher should ensure they cover the four strands of Treaty Education as mentioned in the curriculum. All of the outcomes and indicators of the curriculum embed so well into many other subjects, it should not be a challenge for teachers to incorporate it into their lessons. The goal is to give students an overall knowledge base of the four strands of Treaty Education. If that means starting from the kindergarten curriculum in your grade eight classrooms, that is what is to be done. Students need the prerequisites before moving on, if previous teachers did not teach the information, it is your job to fill in the gaps. As mentioned above the accountability for Treaty Education is becoming more and more with each year, it is now a must in every classroom to be teaching the students about the topic!
So what can we do to ensure our students are getting a well-rounded education in Treaty ed?
- Begin small, by adding territorial acknowledgment and Treaty flags into your classroom. This is a constant reminder to students to honor and respect the land they are living on.
- At the very least, ensure you are meeting the curriculum outcomes throughout the school year by integrating Treaty Education into many subject fields.
- Begin planning early, by furthering your knowledge about the topic and collecting resources throughout your career will make integrating Treaty Education into the classroom a lot easier! Check out these links for some resources! Treaty Education curriculum, Claire’s blog, and this Treaty Education Resource Kit.
- Share resources and activities with the parents so they have an understanding of what is going on in the classroom!
- Try linking to the TRC!
- Bring in diverse voices into the learning! This allows students to gain knowledge from different voices who have different perspectives! This can be done through bringing in elders, going on field trips, watching videos, etc.
- Lastly, and most importantly understand that you are going to make mistakes and that is okay! No one is ever going to know all of the information so we need to be open to constructive criticism, learn as you go, and be honest!
Treaty education is not a phase, it is a life long learning journey for all individuals in society and with that, we as educators should embrace this knowledge in the classroom! Understanding that we are all Treaty People allows my view of curriculum to become more diverse and spread farther than the STEM subjects. The curriculum should no longer focus on teaching students basic facts, but how to become kind people to all. If eight-year-olds can manage the complexities of our history, we all should be able to!