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.