I will admit that the concept of treaty education is a relatively new one to me, and it is something I only became familiar with a few years ago. I graduated high school in 2011 and, from what I recall, treaty education was not the status quo. I remember learning about First Nations people in high school, but I always remember those sections being relatively brief and quite dry – By this I mean, my teachers teaching predominantly from the textbook, or showing us a VHS copy of Dances with Wolves… I also remember not really enjoying learning about the subject matter and there were times I wondered “why the heck do we need to know about this stuff?”. I have had a great deal of life experience between now and then, and looking back, I can see how problematic that point of view was. Did I form this point of view on my own? Did my teachers somehow shape my point of view based on how they not only understood, but also delivered the curriculum? Whether intentional or not, I think the later is likely the more probable answer.
Claire Kreuger mentions that it is our job, as future teachers, to prevent racist and colonialist ideals (within the curriculum) from entering the classroom. Were my teachers at fault for how they delivered the curriculum, or did they simply just not understand the complexity of what they were teaching? Claire mentions that there is a lot of underlying racism within the curriculum. This, in turn, produces students with skewed or racist points of view, which in turn produces future-adults with racist ideals. Treaty education is important, particularly for non-First Nations students, because those students need to know their place in Canadian history too. I mean, First Nations people are not the ones who need to be educated on First Nations history. Treaty education, particularly for white students, should be focused on moving forward, mending relationships, the complexity of Canadian history, and understanding the cultural trauma and its ongoing effects on First Nations people. This, in turn, will produce adults who do not see First Nation’s people as “others”, but as equals.
Treaty education, according to Cynthia Chambers (2012), is work that is done “for the common good; it is work best done together”. Essentially, Chambers (2012) is suggesting that treaty education is education that helps us renew the relationships we have with one another – we may do this by focusing on what we have in common, our stake in the world, and its survival. The implementation of treaty education, I think, will be a major turning point for First Nations people and the overall Canadian curriculum. I think that one day we will be able to mend some of the wounds from the past and move forward. I am hopeful that one day, in the not-so-distant future, First Nations people will have the equal place in society that they rightfully deserve. If children are taught treaty ed from the moment they step into a classroom to the moment they accept their diploma, it is likely that we will see these changes sooner than later. We are all treaty people, and it is our due diligence as future teachers to understand the complexity of what it means to be a treaty person (and adequately teach about it).
Chambers, C. (2012). “We are all treaty people”: The contemporary countenance of Canadian curriculum studies. In Reconsidering Canadian curriculum studies (chapter 1). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.