Teaching Treaty Ed

1. What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?

2. What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?

Teaching Treaty Education is necessary even in the absence of Indigenous students, perhaps even more so. They do not share the understandings Indigenous students have, nor do they fully comprehend the severity of our shared history. Teaching them of the atrocities that were committed may help to create understandings between students, and build empathy for Indigenous peoples as a whole. This empathy will prevent them from falling into apathy later in life, when they are confronted with the ongoing effects of colonialism, making them more likely to be a force for positive change. Furthermore, many students who have settler ancestry feel as if they have no culture, making Indigenous peoples, who are seen as very cultural, seem like an “other.” Including Treaty Ed would help to prevent this othering, as it would normalize what is seen now as extreme culture, and would perhaps even instill some of their ideals in our students, such as stewardship of the Earth.

Additionally, teaching Treaty Ed would help students see how the treaties impact their lives and how they also benefit from them. Not only are they living on Treaty land, every interaction they have is also shaped by the treaties. Who is considered important, who has access to clean water, who has rights to certain land, and who has the ability to do whatever they want without judgement are just a few examples. Providing our students with this knowledge will teach them the benefits and responsibilities that come with sharing the land they live on, and honor this land’s long history, one that begins long before settlers arrived.

Teaching Treaty Ed also allows us to move beyond only addressing the negative parts of our shared history. It opens the discussion include relationships, promises, and how these continue to affect us today. It provides an opportunity to explore what reconciliation is, how we are working towards it, and what still needs to be done, giving students both a sense of hope, and a sense of purpose.

We are all impacted by the treaties in one way or another, and thus they are part of our “Canadian” culture and history: We are all treaty people. Just as learning about how Canada came to be a country is important, so to is learning how the land as acquired to create a new country. Curriculum is a colonial institution that defines when and where it is appropriate to talk about issues like treaties and rights, when the reality is that we should always be talking about them. If we don’t open these conversations, both in and out of the classroom, we are choosing to ignore a large part of our history. While curriculum may be shaped by colonial ideals, we can use it to open the door to these discussions, and provide our students with the knowledge they need in to participate in these debates.

Reinhabitation and Decolonization

The article suggests that a “critical pedagogy of place” aims to:

(a) identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation); and (b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization) (p.74)

  1. List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative.

I can see reinhabitation and decolonization happening at many points throughout the article. One of the ways it was most apparent is in the involvement of the youth in the project. Through this experience, they built relationships with the elders and reclaimed some of their lost heritage. “In the development of the radio documentary, the significance of the river and knowledge of the social, cultural, economic, and spiritual meanings of the river among community members became heightened.” Not only did they develop relationships with each other, they also learned to see the land as their ancestors did, forming a relationship with the land they live on and developing a more in-depth sense of place. Decolonization was also present in the resurgence of their native language. The word “paquataskamik” (referring to the entirety of the band’s territory, beyond what they now have as a reserve) was not usually used by the younger generations, who instead opted to use “noscheemik” (refers more to a specific location, such as a camp), which “pointed to a loss of important linguistic distinctions related to concepts of territoriality.” By regaining this language, they are working towards undoing colonial ideas of place, moving back towards more traditional understandings.

Throughout the narrative, it becomes apparent that reinhabitation and decolonization are two parts of the same process. As we move towards decolonization, reinhabitation is made possible.

  1. How might you adapt these ideas towards considering place in your own subject areas and teaching?

I could adapt these ideas into my own classroom by taking children outside to learn. Interacting with their physical environment deepens their understanding and appreciation both for the world they live in and for the knowledge they are gaining. It makes the knowledge real and useful, rather than just facts that must be memorized. Providing them with this “traditional knowledge” will make them more likely to become stewards of the Earth, so to speak, by allowing them to find their identity in and learn from the world around them. Furthermore, having elders come in to speak to my students would allow them to form relationships and have the same guidance that the students in the narrative had, which allowed them learn things in a different way that may not be possible in a teacher-student interaction.  Additionally, allowing them to interact with their environment would allow students to develop a sense of place in their own community, something that is important in child development. If they are not able to form a sense of place, they may feel like outsiders in their own community, as is what happened with residential schools.



Additional Readings:


Creating a Curriculum

Before you do the reading ask yourself the following question: How do you think that school curricula are developed? This is an entry point to this topic and whatever you write will be fine.

After doing the reading, please write your blog entry. Reflect upon: How are school curricula developed and implemented? What new information/perspectives does this reading provide about the development and implementation of school curriculum? Is there anything that surprises you or maybe that concerns you?

 Before Reading:

From what I have heard, curriculum is developed by a few individuals, likely ones who have had some sort of experience in the field. They decide what students should know by the end of the school year (in part determined by public and government influence), determine what would be feasible to accomplish within one year, then organize these goals into outcomes and indicators. They revise this, before sending it to others to review. It then is revised again, and sent to another party, who does this process again. They consult past curriculum outlines to determine what students already should know at this point, what parts currently work or are not important, then determine how this new curriculum can be implemented in as seamless a fashion as possible. However, I don’t believe there is any consultation with those who are currently teaching in the field, which poses a problem when it comes to practicality, as well as determining both students and teachers’ needs.

After Reading:

Currently, curriculum development is a political tool. In our system, final authority over curriculum rests with the provincial government. Groups of experts are brought together to draft a new or revised curriculum. Existing curriculum is examined and evaluated, suggestions for changes are made and debated, and eventually a consensus is reached. Sometimes an entirely new curriculum will be developed and implemented (sometimes with a trial period before the final version is created), other times it may simply be a revision of the old one. These processes are often organized and directed by government officials.

Because of this, it is heavily subject to political influences, including individual preferences. This is problematic, as it can shift the focus away from providing a good education towards more biased goals. This also allows it to be influenced more directly by other policies, such as assessment policies that are not connected to curriculum. This again shifts the focus away from learning and providing a good education, towards putting more emphasis on grades and standardized testing, something education has been trying to move away from. Furthermore, governments are moving away from reliance on experts in policy development, instead focusing on involvement of its citizens.

While this allows a greater diversity of voices to be heard, and prevents it from being in the hands of only a few, this also prevents those who know more about teaching practices and education from having the necessary control. Instead, this almost seeks to make education even more political in nature, as everyone has their own goals, some of which are not for the greater good. Ideologies and personal beliefs shape decision making, and thus make curriculum development an inherently biased process. Having too much emphasis on expert input makes it difficult for “non-experts” to implement, and may lead to a curriculum that is biased in its pedagogic approach. However, too much public and government input may shift the focus away from education to more personal agendas, a risk in both scenarios. Finding a balance will be necessary in order to achieve a curriculum that strives to be unbiased and achieve best practice.


Levin, B. (2008). Curriculum policy and the politics of what should be learned in schools. In F. Connelly, M. He & J. Phillion (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of curriculum and instruction (pp. 7 – 24). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Available on-line from: http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/16905_Chapter_1.pdf.

It’s Just Common Sense

“Sit still.”

“Stop fidgeting.”

“Eyes on me when I’m talking.”

“When we listen with our ears, our mouths stay shut.”

“Cross your legs like a pretzel and sit on your hands.”

“We look with our eyes, not with our hands.”

“Glue your butt to your chair. No, not literally!

“Stop doing that.”

“Because I said so.”

“Just fill out this worksheet, then it will be recess.”

“Because it will be on the test.”

“All right, everyone heads down. No talking. We’re having a quiet time.”

This is a common dialogue heard in classrooms throughout the world. We can all picture the person the teacher most often said these to in our own experiences. Perhaps it was ourselves, and we were the “trouble makers” of the classroom.

While it may be obvious that these sorts of one-sided dialogues are problematic, I never realized just how deeply rooted these problems are, or that they are representative of larger issues in our society. Just as we have standardized testing, outcomes, and indicators, we’ve also standardized what makes a good student by making it impossible for those who do not conform to succeed.

A good student does their work, doesn’t interrupt or question the information or the teacher. They don’t struggle with new topics, or shut down and refuse to learn. They don’t struggle with exams, directions or assignments. They do their work early or on time, with an obvious attention to detail.

This ideal works, at least for those students who learn best in the traditional method, who share the same cultural background and beliefs as the dominant culture in charge of curriculum, and whose rights are not challenged by common sense beliefs and ideals. However, there is an ever-growing number of students who this system does not work for. Constructing learning as a set of objectives to be reached, as something that can be measured and objectively understood, is oppressive. It doesn’t value other sorts of learning, other stories, other values, or anything seen as deviant from the goal of producing “good” students. It systematically devalues individuals for not fitting into a pre-determined mold.

This is the narrative we are perpetuating by not addressing systems of power and inequality in education. Our common sense of what makes a good student not only doesn’t allow for other ways of learning and knowing, it also preserves a system of oppression. Students enter the classroom with their own knowledge, beliefs, and experiences, all of which will shape how and what they are able to learn. By expecting them to leave all of these at the door and conform to our narrow view of what a student should be and do, we are telling them that they, and everything they believe in, doesn’t matter and is invalid.

I know I have subscribed to this view of the student, even while I was still a student in elementary and high school. I couldn’t understand why people just wouldn’t do their work. I was annoyed when someone would interrupt the lecture – how could they know more than the teacher? More recently, I’ve been scared of eventually having one of those “problem” students in my own classroom. How would I deal with them, when I don’t even know why they are like that? I had subscribed to the idea that they were the problem, the ones that needed to change, not me. Kumashiro describes his own experiences:

“Over the next several years, many more students like M would enter my classrooms, students who were unable or unwilling to be the kind of student that schools and society often tells them to be. I remember consistently feeling quite frustrated by such students, not only because I assumed being a student required behaving and thinking in only certain ways, but also because I felt pressure from schools and society to produce this type of student” (21).

This pressure from society to produce only one type of student shapes teachers’ views and decisions in both subtle and more blatant ways. However, changing our ideas of what learning is and looks like removes some of this pressure by looking at what is problematic in our system, rather than in our students. Instead of looking at how our students are falling short of our expectations, we can see how our expectations are falling short of our students. We have silenced the stories of many, and  enabled the systematic oppression of our students by allowing this model of the “good” student to endure.