Repeatedly, we are asked to blog why Treaty Education is important, implemented and now mandated to teach. My personal experience as a student in a rural community did not include any Treaty education or First Nations content, leaving me no school experience to reflect on.
The University of Regina’s Faculty of Education has responded to the Calls to Action. As a result, our classes immerse us in the content, force us to face difficult realities including our white privilege, and learn from our First Nations’ peoples what they need from us as educators.
Resistance? I have heard enough to write a book, rather than a blog. Perhaps, like myself, there has not been enough experience to truly understand the trauma forced upon First Nations’ people. Until this week, I had not experienced a personal interaction outside of the University to truly have the necessity of Treaty Education hit home. My professor’s personal experiences shared had opened the door to understanding, but I still needed my own personal account to make the feeling my own.
I attended the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s performance of Going Home Star. An emotional performance telling the pain of two First Nations’ people fighting the demons of Residential School experiences, and working towards healing the deep, scarring pain. The imagery was powerful; a mix of visuals, audio, and choreography strongly sent the message of pain, suffering, torment felt within the walls of Residential Schools. The experience sitting amongst Residential School survivors was surreal. As an educator, in this moment, I acknowledged what I have to do not just in my classroom, but with my families. It is important I create an open, welcoming space to ensure any hesitations caused by a painful past dissipate when family visit my classroom. I want all individuals to feel comfortable and safe in my classroom; I must work with my students and families to create a space of inclusion, learning, and understanding for all.
Beyond the ballet, I was asked to read a grade eight’s project about his identity and what makes him who he is now. Unexpectedly, the student shared his inability to understand his identity because the culture and language was stolen when his granny attended a Residential School. “My Aboriginal roots were stripped, and is now being restored through education.”
Restored through education. Education. That is my role. This student’s personal account translated as a plea to me. There was no more questions left to ask about Treaty Education, how to teach it. There was no more anxiety or discomfort as a white girl about inviting First Nations’ Knowledge Keepers into my classroom upon reading this project.
Our professors at the University of Regina have pushed us outside of our comfort zones for excellent reason. As a result of the pushing, we have met and created an excellent network amongst many First Nations’ Knowledge Keepers and motivating, strong role models our First Nations’ students need. It is vital that we acknowledge the teachings provided, and properly utilize the opportunities professors have worked hard at providing to ensure we can help students restore their culture through education.