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Teaching the History and Impact of Residential Schools

Posted by Katherine Joyce
16 Mars 2012 - 4:00pm

Today I awoke to an article  published on the Globe and Mail’s website with the headline “Paul Martin gives Canadian schools a failing grade in history”. So,of course, I had to read it. In this article, Tamara Baluja not only notes Martin’s commitment to education for Canada’s Aboriginal population, but also his commitment to a more inclusive history curriculum:

Should Canadian students be taught about the history of the Métis, the history of first nations and the history of the Inuit as a part of Canadian history? Absolutely,” Mr. Martin told The Globe. “And that’s also part of a wider question, which is: Do we teach Canadian history well in this classroom? And the answer to that is no.”

In February 2011, Martin’s Aboriginal Education Initiative  partnered with Free the Children to design and implement a five-year program to raise awareness among children of Aboriginal education in Canada. This February was the first year that schools across Canada participated in the two-weeks of “learning and awareness on Aboriginal history, culture and tradition, as well as the challenges and opportunities present for Aboriginal education today” 

This past February, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is investigating the impact of residential schools, released its interim report. The report detailed 20 recommendations, three of which deal with education. The Commission recommends that each provincial and territorial government review its curriculum materials to assess what is currently being taught about residential schools, that they develop age-appropriate materials to incorporate discussion about residential schools in public school classrooms, and that they develop public education campaigns to inform the general public about the history and impact of residential schools.

There are already resources available for those who wish to begin including this topic in their classrooms. For example,  in a 2009 article in Canadian Teacher Magazine, Larry Loyie discusses his experience at residential school and suggests ways to discuss the history and legacy of residential schooling in the classroom. The Government of Canada also has a list of Educational Resources and Lesson Plans and Activities at the Aboriginal Canada Portal. 

The most impressive resource I have found is the website “Where are the Children? Healing the Legacy of Residential Schools” offers an interactive way to learn about residential schooling, aimed at high school aged students and life-long learners. On the site, students can explore the history of Aboriginal schooling in Canada, locate the schools on a map, watch video testimony of residential school survivors, and read textbooks designed for students in Grades 9-10, 11-12, and lifelong learners.  It includes a teacher’s guide. This website is amazing, and is well worth a visit. 

Do you make a special effort to include the history of Aboriginal peoples in your classroom? How do you do it?