We Are All Treaty People – The Contemporary Countenance of Canadian Curriculum Studies by Cynthia Chambers
In speaking on her heritage, Chambers talks of how her ancestors did not know the stories of the land they were colonizing. That promises of adventure and progress in a new nation were at the forefront; not the Aboriginal people being displaced and mistreated.
Chambers explains how the stories of the Treaties between Indigenous people and European colonizers is not her story because she acquired treaty status through marriage. Rather, it is her story, and the story of all Canadians. This story tells of what was taken and what was lost in the signing of the treaties, paving the way for Canada as it is today.
On treaties, these historical documents will forever tie Indigenous people with their colonizers. Chambers repeatedly mentions that “we are all treaty people”, meaning those who live in Canada, on treaty land. Chambers’ heritage from European settlers, and subsequent marriage to an Indigenous person, gave her two perspectives on the relations between these two groups. She reflects on being given a chance to live and think differently than her ancestors did, and to impart those methods upon her future children.
On What Terms Can We Speak? – Dwayne Donald lecture
He introduces himself to the audience in Cree; a big risk by his own admission. Perhaps because Mr. Donald, like many other Indigenous peoples, feel out of touch with their language.
- teaches a course called Aboriginal Curriculum Perspectives
- laments that often people who teach such courses do not have the proper perspectives or knowledge to teach it well
- interest in Aboriginal-Canadian relations, making Aboriginal curriculum studies better
- has multiple perspectives; losing his ancestral land on one side, and enjoying the fruits of colonialism on the other. Leads to his interest in the subject of relations
- his question – on what terms can we speak? We frequently miss each other; a disconnect created by the legacy of colonialism
- denying relationships between head and heart, people and place
- relationship with subject changes how you present it in classroom; changes dynamics
- Eurocentric ‘culture’ – a noun, a thing
- Aboriginal ‘culture’ – a verb, something you do
- unfortunately culture = race to some
- Indigenous people are identified as ‘intensely cultural’, and is viewed by some as a learning disability or a reason for poor academic achievement
- conversely, European settlers don’t really have an identifiable culture – what is their learning disability, then?
- in order to repair Canadian-Aboriginal relations, Canadians need understand themselves first. Understand how their ‘culture’ led to this point, and
Responding to email sent to Mike:
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.
This is a real issue in schools. As you listen to Dwayne’s invitation/challenge, as you listen to Claire’s lecture and as you read Cynthia’s narrative – use these resources and your blog to craft a response to this student’s email. Consider the following questions in a blog post:
- 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?
- What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?
Treaty education and Indigenous content/perspectives are a necessary and crucial step towards reaching any form of reconciliation between Canada and it’s Indigenous people. It is arguably more important that this discourse be taught to non-Indigenous students moreso than Indigenous students, as it opens new perspectives up to them. Presents worldviews that perhaps lead to understandings on how Indigenous life was before and after European colonization. This content need be taught in order to combat the shocking disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, specifically the socioeconomic gap, quality of life, and academic success. Some students may be resilient to learning such topics; they may not view it as relevant to them, being non-Indigenous. I would argue that this knowledge is just as relevant as learning the provinces and territories or the history of prime ministers, as Treaty Ed also details the story of Canada. Going through Indigenous history during colonization can help elucidate to students how and why Canadian-Indigenous relationships came to be, and have transformed over time. This education can hopefully be used to foster self aware, socially just students who strive for further reconciliation. It is in this that I believe what Dwayne Donald was going for when he said “we are all treaty people”. As well all live on the land, this treaty land, it is the job of all of us – not just politicians – to aim for reconciliation. Reconciliation can not just be achieved through actions, but rather through gradual shifts in mindsets. These shifts occur for both non and Indigenous peoples, and comes as a result of education, as a result of learning different perspectives that lead to citizens best equipped to strengthen Canada-Indigenous relations. As Claire Kreuger states in her Treaty Ed videos, Saskatchewan and much of the rest of Canada is at times blatantly visible, pervasive in nature. You can see it played out in events like the trial of Gerald Stanley. Kreuger says then that the aim of Treaty Ed is to uproot this deep-seated racism that exists among non-Indigenous populations – she calls it Settler Ed instead. To Claire, Treaty Ed isn’t about learning and memorizing dates and other historical facts…it’s about coming to take ownership and stewardship as treaty people, as people who can work towards better Canada-Indigenous relations.