Grades: 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12
Subject Areas: Social Studies
Artefact /Place/ Skill: History and Education of Indian Residential Schools in Canada
Weytkp, Valarie Johnson ren skwest, I proudly belong to the Secwépemc Nation of Esk’et within the Cariboo interior of B.C. My ki7ce is Greta Johnson nee Daniels. Late Edward Johnson is my qe’7tse. I was raised on-reserve with the privilege of cultural and traditional exposure of the Secwepemc. Currently, I am a B.Ed student who aspires to inspire positive curriculum changes and promote evolutionary language lesson plans that gently teach about history.
How might teachers prepare their students to work with this content? What background knowledge might be required?
Establishing a relationship with Indigenous communities: Indigenous history is a difficult topic. Land-based activities and lesson plans will help ease student’s into understanding what life was like, before residential schools. Holistic ways of teaching include honouring spiritual, mental, emotional and physical Indigenous ways of being and knowing. Introduce respectively, Elders who can share knowledge on the sweat-lodge, fasting, fishing, hunting, and ceremonial celebrations. Holistic knowledges are key to re-connecting student’s to identity. All children of Indigenous and non-Indigenous descent will be affected by Canada’s shared history. We must remember that all children matter (Webstad, 2018) and support our students as such. This means exploring ways of inclusive multi-cultural lesson plans.
- Become familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
- Create land-based lessons, where students can visualize historic sites. For example, a pit-house site, sweat-lodge, fasting sites, fishing areas, hunting territories, and integrate language. Inspire curiosity around Indigenous history. Learn the language of the nation(s) in which you work.
- Implement Indigenous lesson plans by accessing the First Nations Steering Committee’s (FNESC) Primary Resources (K-3) and BC First Nations Land, Title, and Governance Teacher Resource Guide (2019).
- Cross-curricular lesson planning:
- Science, education of medicinal plants;
- Literacy, knowledge of fish migration;
- Literacy, practice of journaling;
- Physical and Health Education, introducing pow-wow dancing.
How might non-Indigenous teachers sensitively work with this subject? What might they need to consider in their own positionality?
- The purpose of teaching and learning about residential schools is to inaugurate bridging the social and educational gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples within the greater society. It is important to convene ideas within all levels of education, and on a deeper level.
- This can be done by allowing students to experience healthy conversations on the topic of residential school.
- The teacher needs to create a safe environment, where students from diverse backgrounds, will have an opportunity to experience meaningful relationships outside of their family lives.
- Connections to content will help students build confidence in a socially safe environment and work towards reconciliation.
- It is necessary to consider our positionality as authority figures. Being close-minded to ideas of our students can render the personal growth of individuals. Although such topic is potentially sensitive to Indigenous/non-Indigenous students and teachers, it must be taught.
- By dismissing the topic (residential schools) all together we continue a cycle of social injustice and discrimination.
- Teaching about residential schools involves practicing ethical and just behaviour while performing.
- How we teach history matters. The subject of residentials school is a sensitive topic. It is important to treat is as such by disallowing our personal angst to effect or alter the learning of our students.
- All the while we have a responsibility create awareness on how historical events effect current events, how can we do this in a good way?
- It can be difficult to step outside of our own epistemologies and consider the perspective of others. When that happens, as teachers we are minimizing the learning outcome and social growth of Indigenous students or any student for that matter.
- Sometimes in history, what was taught or not taught at all in the past was unjust and we need to acknowledge this in a humble minded way. This will allow for all Canadians to thrive and live a good quality of life. When it comes to innocent children, there is no room for educational, social, and economical division.
Questions to Consider
What self-care habits do your students practice? What genuine tips can we teach them while we navigate through heavy content of Canadian history to present date?
Is there a support system set in place for students? e.g. Leave students with resources, such as pamphlets with support line phone numbers and websites.
Keep parents informed on student progress while working through content (when they pick up their children and through the student’s agenda).
What can teachers do to find good supporting resources? How should they be cited, especially when it comes to Indigenous knowledges?
Indigenous knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation through storytelling. We must honour Indigenous perspectives by implementing oral histories and bridging non-Indigenous storytelling together. The Orange Shirt Story does just that. There is Secwepemcstin copies as well as English. Be sure to have your Sewepemc speaker tell the story, if you are unable to do so. Resources should be cited both, orally and in non-Indigenous form. In this way we are inclusive to all teachers
- First Nations Steering Committee’s (FNESC)
- Indigenous Foundations, “Oral Traditions”
BC Curriculum Connections
How does it relate to BC Curriculum?
Click on the subject area below to expand the section.
- The identities, worldviews, and languages of B.C. First Peoples are renewed, sustained, and transformed through their connection to the land.
- Cultural expressions convey the richness, diversity, and resiliency of B.C. First Peoples.
- Assess the significance of people, events, places, issues, or developments in the past and present (significance).
- Assess the connectedness or the reciprocal relationship between people and place (cause and consequence).
- Explain different perspectives on past and present people, places, issues, or events, and distinguish between worldviews of today and the past (perspective).
- Using appropriate protocols, interpret a variety of sources, including local stories or oral traditions, and Indigenous ways of knowing (holistic, experiential, reflective, and relational experiences, and memory) to contextualize different events in the past and present (evidence).
Concepts & Content:
- Traditional territories of the B.C. First Nations and relationships with the land
- Role of oral tradition for B.C. First Peoples
First People’s Principles of Learning
Which First People’s Principles of Learning apply?
- Learning requires exploration of one’s identity and is embedded in memory, story and history.
What is one way that teachers could work with community members for this project?
- Free online course: Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): Reconciliation through Indigenous Education
- UBC Indigenous Education, “Curriculum Development”
- Keeping students connected to family, community and society.
- Family is the students first teacher of habitual behaviour and cognitive influence. Family and community invitation will enhance teacher, student, parent and community relationships.
- Being inclusive and open to communal solutions and ideas on reconciliation will aid in building a healthy relationship of mutual respect between all parties involved.
- Invite an Elder to tea and discuss possible solutions to decolonize within your location is a wonderful way to learn about history on a deeper level and keep the community involved.
- Having cultural school events with snacks and beverages, will bring the people together in a good way. The society whether we like it or not has a great influence on the minds of our students. If we can invite healthy minded guests into the school and share in their life experiences, the students will experience a healthy social environment.
- Indigenous Perspectives
How does your lesson relate to decolonization or reconciliation of education?
- Learning land-based teachings are a form of decolonization, because being out on the land takes students away from conforming to non-Indigenous ways of knowing. The students can experience the connection to the land and truly feel the power of spirituality. Water is healing, let’s take our students to a nearby lake where ceremony is sacred. The air is fresh, and the trees are rooted deeply into the ground that our ancestors once walked, prayed, danced, sang, drummed, and lived.
- Familiarizing and establishing a relationship with Indigenous community, means reaching out to the local Indigenous communities, within or surrounding the location that you teach.
- Elder Freddy Johnson Sr. is the Spiritual Chief of Esket and can be reached at the Esketemc health centre. He worked at Nenqayni treatment center, hosts our local fasting ceremonies, sweat lodges, and provides spiritual guidance.
- Dave Belluea is a local knowledge keeper and can also be reached at the Esketemc Health centre. Dave is also a spiritual leader; healing specialist and he is geographically informed.
- Both Belluea and Johnson are fluent Secwepmc speakers.
- Fred Robbins is the Chief of Esket and a land activist. He can be reached at the Esketemc band office.
For contact information, visit the Esk’etemc website.