Canada, eh?

Canada. The place where it’s always cold and snowy. Where you see either a moose or a beaver every 5 kilometers while driving. Where there is nothing to do but play hockey. A place where people in one province in particular call a sweater with a hood, a bunnyhug. Where in that one province, the land is so flat you can see the neighbour’s dog running 50 kilometers away. The province where everyone is a die-hard-watermelon-wearing-Saskatchewan-Roughriders-fan and everyone is a farmer. If you’re reading this, you may be asking yourself questions such as “why does this girl assume this country is nothing but cold and snowy, doesn’t she know we have summer?”. Or even better, “why is she just discussing the common stereotypes about Canada and Saskatchewan?”. The reason why I am talking about Canadian and Saskatchewan stereotypes is not simply to humour readers, but to shed a light on a bigger issue. That is, single stories.

What are some single stories you have heard about Canada?
Photo Credit: Stefen Acepcion Flickr via Compfight cc

This week in ECS, we pondered single stories we have heard throughout our lives. We were asked to consider our upbringing and schooling to see how it has shaped us to “see the real world”. So, let’s begin. I was raised in a farming community with a predominately white population. I went to school K-12 in the public school system where all my teachers were white. Many people in my community were the same, sharing political values and social morals. I grew up in a middle-class family with heterosexual parents and my brother. My religion is Christian (if you ever come to where I’m from you’ll learn Church is a big part of the community with over 10 churches in the community and many still standing in the surrounding small towns and villages). While being from this community made me who I am, it also caused my education to tell single stories. What are those stores? The stories where those in my community agree with, where usually those of the white race are the dominant and heroic characters in literature. Our school did not have a lot of diversity, neither did my community so when we learnt about different cultures, it was often through a stereotypical lens. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” mentions that when we hear stories, we often assume negatives for those who differ from us and often fall into stereotypical views (13:00-13:20). Adichie mentions a story about a college roommate she had when she attended school in America, her roommate assumed since Adichie was from Nigeria, she would listen to “traditional Nigerian music” and was surprised to find out Adichie listened to Mariah Carey (4:30-5:00). This often happens when we meet someone who does not look like us or comes from the same place as us, we assume they are completely different from us. 

As I continue to reflect on my education, I think by coming from a predominately white community, I shape my views around that. I easily notice when we talk about those who are different from us, such as reading a book with a non-white main character. Although that rarely happened. With my upbringing and education, I will be bringing biases and specific lenses into my classroom, I do not mean to but most of us act on biases which we were raised on and we often stick to the lenses we are most comfortable with. To overcome biases and lenses, there is one thing I am able to do. That is, educate myself and others. Then hopefully, I am able to see more than just a lens that makes sense in my community by looking at lenses from multiple communities. This will benefit students as they will learn not to be single-story-minded where hopefully one day, stereotypes won’t exist because we will understand those who differ from us better. This will we will no longer put certain biases on students such as those with exceptionalities or from other countries. We will learn to see a student for their full potential.

What books do you remember reading? Whose perspective were they written from?
Photo Credit: neal..patel Flickr via Compfight cc

Single stories in my own schooling were presented from those of a white narrative. Our pal, Kumashiro who’ve been reading about, writes “when students read literature by only certain groups of people, they learn about only certain experiences and perspectives, especially those of groups that have traditionally been privileged in society,” (Examples from English Literature, pg. 71). I remember reading stories and writing notes about different cultures, but when it came down to it, the stories were mostly written through a white perspective and the notes were created by a white teacher. Who can agree with this? Who remembers learning about the Medicine Wheel from an Elder and not a teacher? I can’t say I do. Now as I leave you, I have a question, what texts did you read in class? Who were they written by? 

Added: I just want to mention, after writing and posting this new post, I thought of a book that I read in Grade 12. That book was “In Search of April Raintree” which is a highly recommended read but that is the only book I remember reading that is a different story than my own. This book not only was written by an Indigenous author but told the experience of the main protagonist through the perspective of an Indigenous person instead of a white person.

Until next time,

  • Jayden

​The 2019 Curriculum Election

2019. The Canadian Federal Election year. This is when you see campaigns from potential candidates who are running for a party with hopes to win and be the party in power. People watch these campaigns like hawks, analyzing what every party says where voters will then make a (hopefully) informed decision on which party they will vote for. The voters will then make their way to the voting station where they are registered to vote and go behind the voting screen and place a nice X for the party they are voting for on their ballot. From here, the ballots are counted and the party with the most votes in a riding wins and the party with the most wins in all the ridings becomes the party in charge. Pretty simple, right? Heck to the no. Politics are much more complicated than that. Similarly, the curriculum and politics are complicated. 

A popular sign within the 2019 Federal Election
Photo Credit: Coastal Elite Flickr via Compfight cc

To begin, it would be helpful to read, “Curriculum Policy and the Politics of What Should Be Learned in Schools,” written by Ben Levin. Levin introduces the curriculum as “an official statement of what students are expected to know and be able to do,” (pg. 8). Basically, this means that if in the Grade 1 curriculum it states that children should be able to do simple addition, then the children are expected to do so. According to Levin, the school curriculum is developed by the government. But it is not just the government whose voice is being heard in the decision-making factors. The government listens to their voters and decides curriculum based off of what the majority of the population deems essential for students to learn. Levin writes, “in every setting, from classroom to country, political influence is usually highly unequal, and those who have the least status tend also to have the least influence on political decision making,” (pg. 8). Aside from the majority of the population having an influence on curriculum, Levan goes onto to explain curriculum is also a product created from the media and events. It is written, “The significance of the media is also illustrated by the consistent finding that where people have first-hand knowledge…where their prime source of information may come through often negative media coverage,” (pg. 11) meaning if the media covers a story about the curriculum where the curriculum appears negatively, the curriculum may be changed so stories about this negative curriculum disappear. Then, when it comes to the implementation of the curriculum, changes that were made, may not be checked to see if they are successful or failures (Levan, pg. 12). 

Another perspective from the development and implementation of the school curriculum is that secondary teachers and elementary teachers are on two different pages. This is interesting as Levin writes throughout his article how the two levels of teachers differ from what they deem important. Another perspective about curriculum comes from business’. Yes, I too am surprised about this. Levan writes “business groups often have strong views about various aspects of secondary curriculum…,” (pg.16). This means the businesses which may be very strong in a certain province, can help determine the curriculum. For instance, in Saskatchewan, Potash Corp is very well-known, do you think they have an influence on the curriculum? Is this why we learn so much about resources and the ground??? One area of concern with regards to the curriculum is the notion that an expert in a certain subject creates the curriculum and then teachers who may not be knowledgeable about that subject are expected to teach this. Is this fair to teachers? Are there enough curriculum resources for those teachers so they can reach every outcome and indicator???

The Media also plays a factor in curriculum development.
Photo Credit: lennox_i Flickr via Compfight cc

With this, we were urged to look at the Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators created by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. After much examination, one can easily notice the Government thinks it is necessary for students to learn Treaty Ed as “The Constitution of Canada recognizes and affirms the existing treaty rights of the First Nations peoples and the Aboriginal rights of Metis people in Canada,” (Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators, pg. 3). However, in Levan’s article and mentioned above, many areas of curriculum say an expert usually creates the curriculum for a particular subject area, whereas this document by the Government does not use experts in the creation of the document. Also, one can easily tell from the curriculum document that the government implemented Treaty Ed since it deemed it important which echoes similar points to Levin’s article. In the end, the Treaty Education document still needs improving as many teachers still do not teach Treaty Ed but to learn about that, read my last blog post. 

Now as I leave you, what do you think would help create a neutral curriculum? Or will a neutral curriculum with no influences ever happen? Is there such a thing as a neutral curriculum?

Until next time,


As Long as The Sun Shines, The Grass Grows and the River Flows

“As long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the river flows”. This is a quote I have heard many times throughout my life. I thought this was a common quote most knew. However, I was wrong. To me, this quote states that treaties will last as long as these elements continue to live on. To others, it literally means sun shining, growing grass and a flowing river. I find this interesting. Throughout my education, I was fortunate to have teachers who incorporated Treaty Ed into all my classes. For instance, it was no surprise for an Elder to come into our classroom to share their knowledge with us. Or English classes incorporating Blanket Exercises into the lessons to teach us how the identity of Aboriginals was taken away in residential schools. Or when we were learning about residential schools, having residential school survivors come into our class, sharing their horrific stories that have deeply impacted me ever since. Or going to Treaty 4 gatherings in Fort Qu’appelle. Before moving to Regina and joining the Faculty of Education, I thought this teaching of Treaty Ed was common but it wasn’t until I started classes I learnt that my peers did not share the same experience. For instance, I was asked what a Blanket Exercise? At that moment I thought to myself, “this person cannot truly be serious, I did at least 2 Blanket Exercises during my education”. I guess this leads to this week’s blog post requirements. Mike and Katia began their reading response by discussing an email they received from an intern who was struggling with Treaty Ed as the students and staff were not taking it seriously. This is what got me thinking: “There are actually schools that don’t teach Treaty Ed? That is insane”. 

“As Long as the Sun Shines, the Grass Grows and the River Flows”
Photo Credit: UweBKK (α 77 on ) Flickr via Compfight cc

Dear Intern-Who-Is-Trying,

You are not alone with your struggle with students being racist towards Treaty Ed. You are also not alone with unsupportive staff who do not understand why one must incorporate Treaty Ed into their classroom regardless of their student demographic. As I write this letter, I hope to answer two questions for you. 

The questions are as follows: 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? What does it mean for your understanding of the curriculum that “We are all treaty people”. 

Let’s start answering this question by looking at the curriculum. Treaty Ed is in the curriculum. Math is in the curriculum. Do we teach math? Yes. Why? It’s in the curriculum. TREATY ED IS IN THE CURRICULUM. Teachers have an obligation to address all parts of the curriculum whether or not they agree with it. Let’s just keep that in mind. Maybe your colleagues at the school should be reminded of this. In Dwayne Donald’s “On What Terms Can We Speak”, he says “The way that you think about the relationship (between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples) has a distinctive bearing on how you take it up in the classroom,” meaning if you create a respectful relationship in the classroom, then the relationship will be respected but if you avoid the relationship in the classroom, it indicates you are avoiding the relationship. 

If educators decided to pull the “none of my students are First Nations, Metis, or Inuit” card, they are avoiding this relationship. But it is also important to note why educators may be avoiding this topic other than student demographics. Donald points out “teachers are to teach an Aboriginal perspective which they really don’t know a thing about” meaning teachers are unfamiliar with this perspective but as Donald goes on, he says “people [educators] do want to get better with teaching this but it will take time,” (5:00-5:10) meaning those who are unfamiliar with Treaty Ed are not alone and educators must communicate with one another to help each other build successful relationships between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals. This is an idea which many white settlers are uncomfortable thinking of since it goes against their own thoughts and opinions, however, once again, educators are not alone with this feeling. With Treaty Ed, comes the concept of disconnect. Donald describes disconnect to be a legacy of colonialism where colonialism is defined as “an extended process of denying relationships, whether it be with the places we live, our head, and our heart, or those people who look different from us, everyone has been colonized,” (12:00-13:00). This means by avoiding teaching Treaty Ed, we are falling into colonialism where we deny relationships. Cynthia Chamber also echoes a similar definition of colonialism as she writes in Chapter 1 (“We Are All Treaty People” The Contemporary Countenance of Canadian Curriculum Studies) that “The British honed their skills for enacting enclosure of the commons at home. But as their empire grew, so did their practice of removing indigenous peoples from the land held in common so that it could be put to ‘good’ use,” (27).  Also, it is important to note that by avoiding addressing Treaty Ed, racism remains high as Claire Kruger, a Moose Jaw teacher, mentions (Introduction video, 5:30). This means by avoiding Treaty Ed, stereotypes youth may hear from family, friends, the news, etc.… are not being debunked and the terrible cycle of racism does not end. 

Furthermore, you should simply remind teachers that we are all treaty people. This means we all are part of the treaty, as Cynthia Chamber mentions in her article. Furthermore, Claire Kruger mentions we are all treaty people as we live on the land – Saskatchewan is all Treaty Land so all people of Saskatchewan are treaty people! Kruger’s class video entitled “We Are All Treaty People” shows her young students explaining that the term “We Are All Treaty People” means that we all signed Treaties, we share the land and it is time we break barriers and begin to understand the term so everyone can move forward in a positive relationship with one another. In regard to curriculum, teachers are the ones teaching the notion of which “We Are All Treaty People”. As Claire Kruger mentions in her introduction video, teachers are impressible, we are the ones teaching the brilliant minds of tomorrow. It is up to teachers to give students the opportunity to explore Treaties and what they mean and to gain an understanding of why things happen in our society such as the decision Claire brought up of “who deserves clean water?” (Hint: The answer is EVERYONE).

Also, the Treaty Ed curriculum is “not about dates but relationships and owning the decisions in the future,” as mentioned by Claire in an interview with Mike Cappello (9:45-10:00) meaning teachers should not focus their teaching on historical dates but understanding the relationship between everyone on the land. In the interview, Kruger also mentions that Treaty Ed is about to understand who you are (ex: are you a settler?) and to understand the land which we live on. Treaty Ed curriculum is to be realistic where nothing is sugar-coated as Kruger mentions (18:00-19:00) such as explaining to students what actually happened to those who attended Residential Schools instead of just saying “Residential Schools were bad, and now on to the next lesson” as I believe by being realistic with Treaty Ed, we are helping understand our relationship with one another and to understand this world. 

While the argument “we didn’t sign the Treaties” may be brought up, it should be let known that the treaties will last as long as Mother Earth plans to live on. As well, the impacts of Treaties surround us and impact us all almost on a daily basis. Lastly, Kruger (in the interview) mentions that it is okay to teach Treaty Ed wrong, as long as you correct it, like the old saying “you learn by your mistakes” and we should not avoid it for reasons such as it does not fit the curriculum, because, in reality, it fits all curriculum.  By avoiding Treaty Ed, we are avoiding reconciliation. 

Yours truly,

  • Someone-who-hopes-to-enlighten-the-future

P. S. “the treaties were conversation starts, rather than conversation stoppers,” (Chambers, 28) just keep that in mind as you continue your journey as an educator. 

In the end, I hope Treaty Ed will prevail so students will be given opportunities similar to my own where I have a deep understanding of what it means to be a Treaty person. For readers, I leave with a couple of questions for you to ponder and feel free to share your thoughts with me!

  1. What experiences with Treaty Ed do you remember from your K-12 education?
  2. What would you do if the stigma at your school is to not teach Treaty Ed?

Until next time, 

  • Jayden

Additional Readings/Viewings

The Double R’s

The Double R’s: Rivers and Reinhabition. What is Reinhabition? According to the article “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” written by Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Gruner and Edmund Metatawabin, reinhabitation is to “identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environment,” (pg. 74). Rivers can be compared to this. Rivers are a space in the environment, recognizably, the outdoor environment which has been proven in multiple studies on how the outdoors teaches us how to live healthily. While talking about rivers and their benefits to us and the environment is not relevant to this article, the connections between reinhabitation and decolonization within the Fort Albany First Nations in connection to honouring the Mushkegowuk Cree beliefs through a 10-day trip along a river. Throughout the article, examples of reinhabitation and decolonization can be found. 

The Elders and Youth went on a 10-day trip along a river
Photo Credit: PeterThoeny Flickr via Compfight cc

For instance,

  1. Throughout the trip, a relationship was formed between the youth and the elders. 
    1. Ex: “Elders would share knowledge with youth about ways to live off the river and lands and note key sites along the way. As part of the project, youth and Elders travelled together…” (pg. 75)
  2. Youth were given the opportunity to exemplify their learning.
    1. Ex: “Youth conducted interviews with peers, adults, and elders on key issues…” (pg. 75). 
  3. Traditional teachings, such as language were taught. The Elders taught youth their language as they feared it might be disappearing.
    1. Ex: “Some community members worry that the decreasing use of words like paquataskamilk means that the ability to form a linguistic connection to traditional territory could be at risk within a short period of time,” (pg. 78). 
  4. The knowledge learnt was shared with others. 
    1. Ex: “Fifteen interviews were collected and formed the basis for a short audio documentary, titled The Kistachowan River Knows My Name, which aired in the local community and on Wawatay radio, which reaches a wide audience in Northern Ontario,” (pg. 75)
  5. The project encouraged discussions.
    1. Ex: “These smaller projects became part of the broader effort to engage the community in a discussion about what activities can and should take place on traditional territory and how decisions about those activities should be made,” (pg. 83).
  6. Knowledge was shared.
    1. Ex: “The river trip helped members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographic knowledge,” (pg. 81). 

Throughout the article, one could sense the Elders were pleased with the knowledge they passed onto the youth, as they feared it was becoming lost due to colonization. It was also apparent that the youth were engaged in what they were learning as they used audio aids to help encompass the trip and were made available to share with others. To continue, to read the article, one may feel like they can sense the power and emotions participants experienced. The personal accounts included in the article, I found, were very moving. When it comes to incorporating these ideas into my own classroom, I had a couple of ideas come to mind. Instead of trying to teach a concept I am unsure of like the idea of culture in a social studies class, I could invite families or those who identify as that culture into the classroom. Furthermore, the class could leave the classroom for a field trip. For instance, would students learn more about the Medicine Wheel from me, teaching it in the classroom. Or would they learn more by visiting an Elder in a space they are comfortable in, where they are able to engage more? This is all involved in Place-Based Education. For math, students could experience careers that deal with math on a daily basis so they can see math “in-the-real”. Place-based education can be done across many subject areas just like the examples above.  Incorporating place-based education into the classroom would better the students’ understanding and make their learning more meaningful to them as they learn about the land and so much more.  If the students find the learning enjoyable and meaningful, they will learn more than they would be sitting at a desk.

Until next time,

  • Jayden