Treaty 2 Territory – What does Treaty education look like in First Nations schools? First Nations children should be learning about their treaty rights in every grade level, but prior to learning about treaties, children should know who they are and where they come from. As well, teachers should feel comfortable in teaching this important history and why it’s relevant today.
In working with various First Nations schools, I’d have discussions with educators about our history; namely, residential schools, Indigenous writing, and treaties. Often teachers want to include this very important history in their classrooms, but many also shared that they didn’t feel knowledgeable or prepared enough to teach such significant (and sensitive) content.
Education shapes children: how they see themselves (if they see themselves in what they are being taught) and how they see the world. Thus, this was a very important self-reflection for teachers because they understood that they may have the material to teach the content, but they may not be ready to present it. And as we know, a lot has been said about First Nations (Indigenous) peoples throughout history that has shaped how society views us (and how we view ourselves), so it is imperative that we continue the hard work of representing ourselves and remain aware of the effects of colonization (and misrepresentation) so that we avoid perpetuating any untruths in our classrooms.
Winona Wheeler (Cree) writes: “A large part of decolonization requires developing a critical consciousness about the cause(s) of our oppression, the distortion of our history, our own collaboration, and the degrees to which we have internalized colonialist ideas and practices. Decolonization requires auto-criticism, self-reflection, and a rejection of victimize. Decolonization is empowerment….if we desire freedom from oppression we must first release our own minds from the bonds that have held them” (pp. 13-14) (Source: Remember This! Dakota Decolonization and the Eli Taylor Narratives by Waziyatawin Angela Wilson, University of Nebraska Press, 2005).
Hence, a heightened awareness (consciousness) is a significant part of decolonization.
So, going back to the question of what treaty education looks like in First Nations schools, I mentioned that First Nations children need to know who they are and where they come from. Do they know what Nation they belong to (ie. Ojibwe, Cree, Haida…)? Do they know the name of their home community? Do they know the name of their original language? Can they define the word treaty? And do they know which treaty they belong to (and territory)? If children aren’t connected to their First Nations identity more than likely they won’t connect to the history being taught to them, how that history is connected to them, and how (why) that history is relevant today.
And teachers need to feel comfortable and prepared in teaching the content otherwise materials will simply sit unused in a classroom, which as mentioned, may be seen as a good thing because the teacher is demonstrating a self-awareness and self-reflection in their knowledge base. If content isn’t taught in a good way with deep understanding there is risk of doing more damage than good. What is meant by Time Immemorial & what is its connection to treaties? What is Oral History? What is the Nation Creation Story? What is the Royal Proclamation’s connection to treaties? Important knowledge to have prior to teaching treaties.
Treaty education is important and good work is being done to provide this education not only in First Nations schools, but all schools. It is important that the next generations understand the promises made in the treaties.
At the Treaty Three signing (1873), Chief Mawedopenais was recorded by treaty commissioners (government officials): “Now you see me stand before you all; what has been done here today has been done openly before the Great Spirit, and before the nation…in taking your hand, I hold fast all the promises you have made, and I hope they will last as long as the sun goes round and the water flows, as you have said” (pp.75)(Source: The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories including the Negotiations on which they were based by Alexander Morris, Fifth House Publishers, 1991).
Painting (Artist): Renata Meconse, Pinaymootang First Nation
Last modified: November 16, 2019