Curriculum and Treaty Education

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?

I think the question should be “Why don’t we teach it?” in a classroom that is predominantly non-Indigenous.  The purpose of teaching Treaty Ed and FNMI Content and Perspectives is to educate and make (especially non-Indigenous) students aware of the rich culture of Indigenous people, the history of treaties and colonization, the initial purpose of the treaties and the violation of these treaties.  It is important to teach about the mistreatments and injustice in order for society to shed racism and prejudice that is directed at Indigenous people.  As Claire eloquently put it, it is not Treaty Ed but more like “Settler Ed” and by default directed at non-Indigenous students!

As a newcomer to Saskatchewan (I’m from the Toronto area) and one who attended school before any Indigenous content was introduced, I am only learning now about Treaty Ed and FNMI content and perspectives.  Before coming to Saskatchewan I never laid eyes on an Indigenous person (remember GTA and urban sprawl!), therefore I have very little prejudice or even information at this point.  Most of it I learned in this class, and it has opened my eyes about the importance of teaching Indigenous content, especially to non-Indigenous students.  It is a shame I never knew any of it and this should not happen to any student in Canada from now on, whether they live in a major city or rural area.

What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?

For my understanding of the curriculum, the statement “We are all treaty people” means there are two sides to everything.  The very nature of treaties is that they are two-sided: Indigenous and Settler.  Each side has responsibilities and rights under the treaties.  Everything that exists today (cities, houses, roads) is here thanks to the treaties signed long ago with sovereign First Nations people.  Therefore we are all treaty people!  By teaching this truth, important steps toward renewing relationships and reconciliation can be taken.

Teaching students Treaty Ed is crucial in the process of reconciliation and decolonization.  We have all been colonized (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) and it is hurting us culturally and even environmentally.  As Dwayne Donald said “What kind of education would you have to receive in order to believe you don’t have a culture?”  The kind of education that teaches about Treaty Ed can help students realize they have a culture, and it is tied to the treaties whether they are Indigenous or not.  It can also highlight the tie to the land we all have and how we are dependent on having clean air, water and will all suffer the effects of climate change.  It can help us respect and protect the beautiful land what we depend on as a result of treaties.

As a future teacher, I think it is crucial to meaningfully enact treaty education for all the reasons stated above.  But none of those are as striking as Erica Violet Lee’s statement from Treaty Ed Camp that there is something wrong with the system when Indigenous students are more likely to end up in prison than graduate high school.  Indeed the system is broken and there is no excuse as to why it should be this way.  I would like to be the kind of teacher to help fix this broken system and a large part of it is to teach Indigenous content in a meaningful way to all students.

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