Why teach Treaty Education?

Image result for treaty map of canada

“Why should we be teaching Treaty Education in schools?” This question is asked quite often. And the answer? Because we are all treaty people.

The comment on UofR Confessions asks why we should be focusing on Treaty Education when we do not have curriculum that focuses on other people of colour. The thing is, Indigenous culture is in the history of Canada. To ignore Indigenous history and culture in our lessons is to ignore a large part of what makes up this country. In every subject we use examples from the European Canadian history and the culture that was brought here but fail to acknowledge the stories that already existed on this land when Europeans colonized the country.

Instead of asking the question of why we should be teaching Treaty Education, we should be asking “why aren’t we teaching Treaty Education?”

Teachers in schools with few Indigenous students might see this type of teaching as unnecessary, but they are some of the ones who need it most. Schools without much of an Indigenous population do not get the chance to learn from Indigenous students and individuals through their interactions and instead they might only ever see what these people are depicted as being like in the media. We have seen over the years that the media fails in provided an accurate representation of Indigenous peoples, however, and instead relies on stereotypes. The students in these schools need to see representation of Indigenous peoples in other ways than through these stereotypes which is why Treaty Education is needed in these schools.

Claire Kreuger takes several approaches towards incorporating Treaty Education into her classrooms. To start, she is sure to include a map of Saskatchewan that shows the Treaty land on which her school is located. Treaty maps were discussed in seminar last week and I think that this is a great way for teachers to incorporate this curriculum without making lessons that are labeled as being “Treaty Education”. Treaty Education should be in all education and this is one way of doing this. In her interview with Mike, Claire expresses how educators teach students through what they do and do not talk about. Through our silence on Indigenous subjects over the years, we have then taught students that this history is not important. Instead, what Claire comments that we should be doing, we should be sharing with students the benefits and responsibilities of sharing this land, Treaty land.

It is easy to build on the importance of Treaty Education when students begin to become familiar with it in younger years. Claire, for example, begins by getting Grade 3 students to consider what it means to be a Treaty person. This is something some high school students may have never considered and might be a good starting place for any age. Once these initial ideas have been set in place, educators can then begin to build on students’ thinking to help them understand that we are all Treaty people and just how that affects our relationships with the land, other beings, and one another.

As Dwayne Donald also expressed, Treaty history is our history and it is significant to honour the Treaties that we have. While Treaty Education might seem like it is a big topic to cover while maintaining respect for the culture, there are people such as Claire and Dwayne to help educators learn about these topics themselves so that they will be able to go forward to teach their students these important lessons. “Decolonization can only occur when we address this history” Dwayne tells us. We must try to work backwards to bring this history into our present and our future. This is important history. This is Canadian history. Treaty Education cannot be pushed aside and forgotten.

 

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