This September 2016 I was given the amazing opportunity to teach two sessions of EU493: First Nations, Métis, Inuit Issues in Education. The first for the faculty of education at WLU and the first time for me teaching within an academy.
This course is designed to help Teacher Education Candidates learn the ongoing impact of colonization in the areas of educational policies, funding and societal concerns. Teacher Education candidates will engage in a dialogue on what it means to walk together in one land with responsibility, reciprocity, relevance, and respect (The 4R’s Verna Kirkness) Specific topics to be addressed within this course include topics related to sovereignty, identity, land treaty, language, environment, sustainability, decolonizing education as well as historical and current concerns impacting First Nations, Métis, Inuit vitality on the sociocultural, socio-economic and political Canadian landscape.
This experience has definitely been a tremendous learning for me and I have gained an exponential amount of hands on life experience as a teacher during this process. Each time I walk into the classroom at WLU I approach the teacher candidates as if I am transferring a direct message to each individual student within their respective classrooms. I think about what would I want students to learn about Indigenous people today? How can building capacity and creating change within the Canadian consciousness further support Indigenous children in the classroom? I also think about Chief Dan George’s address to Empire stadium for Canada’s 100th birthday.
“How long have I known you, Oh Canada? A hundred years? Yes, a hundred years. And many, many seelanum more. And today, when you celebrate your hundred years, Oh Canada, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land.
For I have known you when your forests were mine; when they gave me my meat and my clothing. I have known you in your streams and rivers where your fish flashed and danced in the sun, where the waters said ‘come, come and eat of my abundance.’ I have known you in the freedom of the winds. And my spirit, like the winds, once roamed your good lands.
But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man’s strange customs, which I could not understand, pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.
When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed his way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority.
My nation was ignored in your history textbooks – they were little more important in the history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains. I was ridiculed in your plays and motion pictures, and when I drank your fire-water, I got drunk – very, very drunk. And I forgot.
Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this Centenary, this hundred years? Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left to me of my beautiful forests? For the canned fish of my rivers? For the loss of my pride and authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight back? No! I must forget what’s past and gone.
Oh God in heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden chiefs. Let me wrestle with my surroundings. Let me again, as in the days of old, dominate my environment. Let me humbly accept this new culture and through it rise up and go on.
Oh God! Like the thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success-his education, his skills- and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society.
Before I follow the great chiefs who have gone before us, Oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass. I shall see our young braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government, ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedoms of our great land.
So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next hundred years be the greatest in the proud history of our tribes and nations.”
Chief Dan George – July 1st, 1967
I am definitely looking forward to this upcoming five week session October 24th, 2016. Also Canada’s 150th birthday is coming up and I am wondering who from the Indigenous Nations across Canada will they invite to speak. Will each of these leaders speak to Truth and Reconciliation, Residential School Survivors, boil water advisories, First Nations child poverty statistics (purposely omitted by the government), Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women?
Will the designated speakers share Canada’s true Indigenous narrative and acknowledge what has happened here on this soil honestly? Will they speak to the nations upon nations needing to heal from the oppression suffered here at the hands of the Canadian government?
This opportunity will be an international platform to bring forth the truth just as Chief Dan George did in 1967.