Considering the following questions:
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”?
My response to the email would be as follows:
First, I am pleased to see that you have not fallen into an agreement with your cooperative teacher on this topic. As Dwayne Donald discusses in this lecture, there is a purpose to teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit content and perspectives (generally) where there are few to no Aboriginal peoples. You will find he brings up a very compelling argument about culture. More specifically, the lack of non-aboriginal culture and identity and in contrast, the “intensely cultural” Aboriginals. The concept or question of culture, itself, raises issues for all students. In particular, he states that culture, in terms of Aboriginal students, is often viewed and treated similarly to a learning disability. On the other hand, the lack of culture and identity held by “Canadian Canadians” contributes to acts of ‘othering’ and makes it difficult for non-Indigenous students to see Aboriginal identities and perspectives when they cannot recognize their own. In these terms, we can see how vital Treaty Ed is (especially) for non-Aboriginal students. When we are looking at Treaty Ed in this respect, I like the use of Claire Kreuger’s synonym “Settler Ed.” Settler Ed expands beyond the content, it is about students’ relationships, identities, and moral responses.
Claire Kreuger’s blog is a great place for you to start and get an idea of what Treaty Ed can look like in a classroom. She does an excellent job of reminding you that it is okay to make mistakes. Additionally, in her discussion with Mike, she explains how easily Treaty Ed flows into other subjects and hits other outcomes. Possibly, that is something you can bring up to your cooperative teacher! Moreover, Claire focuses on what it means that we are all treaty people. This is a statement with multiple components and layers to it. As I hope you catch in Dwayne’s lecture, he states “Everybody’s been colonized. It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is or where you’re from.” In this sense, we are all outcomes of the relationships that have preceded us and therefore, have a responsibility and role in those relationships. Therefore, as Treaty Ed Teachers, our attitudes and understandings of these events will affect the way our future students come to know and understand their roles in the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. At the very least, as discussed by Cynthia Chambers in an article she wrote, “[w]hat we have in common, the Ulukhaktokmiut Elders tell us, is our need to live, to make a livelihood that does no harm. What we have in common is our need for a curriculum that can help us to do just that.” (A great read, by the way). This statement, for me, emphasizes the need for all students to learn about Aboriginal perspectives.
I understand that you have faced some reluctance from your students and I hope one of these resources can help spark a discussion in your classroom! It is important to engage your students as much as possible. To do this, you could try shifting the focus from memorizing historical dates to looking at current events. Remember that mistakes will happen and you will not do this perfectly, but you are doing important work. Moreover, you are growing and learning alongside your students! Good luck!