Indigenizing Post-Secondary Education

Indigenizing Post-Secondary Education


♫ Indigenous Women’s Song ♫ The British North America Act of 1867,
which ultimately created Canada, was built on the colonial oppression of
Indigenous peoples. European settlers and the Canadian government committed an attemped cultural genocide on the First People of this land. 150,000 Indigenous children
were stolen from their families and forced into abusive institutions. The residential schools
were funded by the Canadian government and administered by Christian churches. Indigenous children had their hair cut. They were forced to trade their clothing for
European uniform. They were not allowed to speak their language. If they did, they were verbally punished and beaten. They were separated from their siblings. Many experienced physical and sexual abuse
by the teachers and religious leaders. Some never saw their families again. Approximately 6000 children died in the
government and church sanctioned institutions. The last residential school
did not close its doors until 1996. During the “60’s Scoop”, Ontario Child Welfare Services placed as many as 16,000 Aboriginal children with non-native families from December 1965 to December 1984. When my brother was picked up and
my sister got picked up, I was in the trapping ground with my dad and we were checking our stuff and when I came back home, the village was half empty. My mom would tell me stories about when
there would be a big, black, luxury car that would pull into the neighborhood. My mom, my grandmother would turn to my mom and ask her to run and get all her brothers and sisters and she was in a family of ten. And they would all jump into the car
and run. They would flee. My mom would tell me that in her young girl mind
the only thing that she was worried about and what she cried about was all the pretty dresses that she was leaving behind. They were always on the run. That a big, black car meant
someone was coming to take them all away. Both parents of mine went to residential school and they presented the values they learned in residential schools to me and my brothers and sisters. So, I’m definitely a victim of residential school. I’ve learned what they learned and
it wasn’t necessarily great when it comes to how we even
looked at our own culture. So, I have to say, I’m a second generation survivor. As to how it affected my family I know there has been a lot of
drinking and abuse that’s resulted from that. And then that did come down onto me and my siblings growing up. Where we experienced a lot of very distant relationship with our mother
where there was a lot of a detachment. My dad, he did go to residential school. He had two boys ahead of me. He was not close to them. Like I said, that’s the residential school speaking. In 2008, former Prime Minister
Stephen Harper issued a formal apology; telling the whole country and the world the truth about the way Canada has treated
Indigenous People. “Today we recognize that
this policy of assimilation was wrong” “and ask the forgiveness of
the aboriginal peoples of this country” “for failing them so profoundly” We didn’t just fail Indigenous people, though… We have failed all Canadians. Real education includes the valuable teachings
of each land’s first peoples. In 2015, the Canadian government finally publicly acknowledged details of the attempted cultural genocide with the Truth and Reconciliation report. An over 500 page document detailing the injustice done to Indigenous peoples. Complete with 94 practical calls to action
to begin reconciling. The 94 calls to action apply to ALL Canadians especially institutions and largely,
educational institutions. When our education system is based on one,
largely Euro-centric style of teaching no Canadian sees the full picture. and a true education is not attained. Learning about Indigenous history
and contemporary issues as well as integrating Indigenous teaching methods
into all schools is how we begin to move forward and heal. Education is key… and it’s time to Indigenize education. We have a lot of professors that say “I don’t feel I need to add
Indigenous content into my courses… because I don’t see any Indigenous students in class.” That is a large problem because we don’t all look alike! We don’t all have stereotypical identifiers. Métis people, Inuit people and there’s so many different variety of Indigenous people in Canada
and we don’t all look exactly the same. If you sit in a circle, everybody is a part of that circle. The focus is on the middle, It’s not necessarily on just the teacher, it’s on the issue. and everybody has an opportunity to share on that issue. I’ve grown up in very colonial institutions and we sit in rows and we raise our hands. We’re oral people and I have had trouble writing I’ve had trouble with essays. I speak a stream of consciousness
just comes right out of my brain. I know there are Indigenous professors in other parts of the country that give oral exams. They don’t make them write. She doesn’t care whether you can write an essay… It’s the knowledge inside of us. If it’s not written down, if it’s not a printed text, If it’s an oral story, it doesn’t mean anything? It doesn’t count? I’m very much an aural listener. I like to take in a lot of things that way. I also like to talk out a lot of things and I like to do things in a very non-linear fashion. Very circular. By educating yourself on all those different possible ways of learning… you can provide a better learning experience for your students. It’s a whole new environment for me. I do come from a reserve where people are quiet and
people do keep to themselves. I came straight from reserve I grew up there and I lived there
for 19 years of my life I moved here to a city that I didn’t know… I had never experienced staying in the city for more than a day. These students have to leave their rural communities, leave their families, for years at a time… English might not even be their first language. There’s that barrier as well, too. To come alone to a school
where you’re in a big city, and everything’s very foreign We tend to be very shy and quiet. We don’t speak up a lot in those situations. We will. We’ll fall through the cracks. In my post-secondary it’s been
Aboriginal Services that have helped me find my culture more. My role, I think, is more or less… To help students along with their journey If they’ve decided to take post-secondary as a journey for them. I try to bring in some traditional Aboriginal knowledge. I try to acquaint them to a series of relationships they have with themselves. If students know that there is hope for them and as an Indigenous student, you will have resources and a community space to go to where you can get those resources that will help you, individually, succeed…. I think that would really help. The institution that I’m in, there’s so few Indigenous people that they expect us all to be completely knowledgeable on everything Indigenous and I should know absolutely everything
there is to know about Indigenous history… and all of the different cultures… They look for the person in the room
that looks Indigenous and it usually ends up being me… and then they look to me to tell them if they’re right or if they’re wrong and then they’re singling out an Indigenous student it becomes kind of oppressive.

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