The mandate to integrate Indigenous principles and ways of knowing into the curriculum is a call to personal research; an ongoing learning journey requiring persistence and patience. We are all going to be works in progress in this!
I have found it to be an emotional learning journey. I recall vividly the woman who stood up at the residential schools workshop I attended and shared how her kindergarten aged daughter came home one day, hugged her grandad and told him he will never have to go to those schools again. It was a healing moment for that family because he had never once spoken of his experience in residential school. Perhaps intergenerational healing will come through the children if we teach them well. I also had an emotional response to reading the profiles of the missing and murdered Indigenous women, learning about forced sterilizations and details of what was experienced in the residential schools. The research process has included various emotions including sadness, anger, shame and overwhelm. There were quite a few tears.
I particularly need to take the time to grapple with the dichotomous emotions I hold within because as a Christian, I feel ashamed and burdened by the residential school history and disregard for the image of God in these people. At the same time, my faith gives me a profound sense of hope for a just future and I am aware of a lot of excellent, collaborative work being done among the churches and Indigenous peoples. For example, the inspiring work of Kairos advocating for teaching the real history of Indigenous peoples in Canada https://youtu.be/TFQHtkBs68I responds to the words of Justice Murray Sinclair in the TRC: “Education is what got us here and education is what will get us out”. This gives me hope.
We have to start this learning journey from wherever we’re at as Joe DesJarlais, Metis scholar and community activist says “Start where you are with what you have”. There are many resources on the web and developed through the government, First Nations Education Steering committee and other organizations. A good framework is provided by Sanford et al. (2012) working with Lil’wat scholar Lorna Williams who emphasize the need to provide:
- respectful and welcoming learning environments;
- respectful and inclusive curricula;
- culturally responsive pedagogies to improve the quality of knowledge, understanding, and pedagogic skills that all educators gain;
- mechanisms for valuing and promoting Indigeneity in education; and
- culturally responsive assessment (Archibald, Lundy, Reynolds, & Williams, 2010, pp. 5-8).
Integrating these principles in my own teaching, I recognize that “personal and institutional tendencies, privileges, politics, and apathy hinder these efforts” (Tanaka, 2015) on a grander scale, but I am called to do what I can. We can all contribute to change by taking small yet decisive steps as we work towards integrating indigenous principles into curriculum and practice.