The FNMI populations across North America are incredibly diverse, both linguistically and culturally. With literally hundreds of different First Nations and Aboriginal populations, we are faced with many challenges with regards to how we can adequately preserve Indigenous knowledge and ways of living within Canada. Indigenous populations are also the fastest growing populations in Canada. We need to embed and integrate this knowledge throughout the curriculum, and not just as an add-on.
In our Western world, standardized, results-based practices, measurement, and same aged groupings learning the same thing at the same time prevails. This foundation continues to foster mistrust toward our education systems. What is needed are flexible and open ended curriculum expectations that lead students to deep learning and interconnected Indigenous knowledges.
We need to provide access to Indigenous values and knowledge that can be passed along to improve our Education Systems, FNMI peoples, the environment, and our economy.
After discussion with my husband, who is the FNMI Resource Teacher for our school board, and of First Nations descent, these are the tips we came up with for Educators to begin with:
13 Strategies to get Started Learning about your Local FNMI Communities:
- Start where you are at in terms of your own knowledge, then look toward your closest communities FNMI to learn more.
- Join in a cultural event
- Visit your local band office or Friendship Center to obtain information
- Ask to meet with a Traditional Teacher or Elder
- Do some reading. Most communities have websites.
- Use 21st technologies to connect with other communities.
- Connect with other Education agencies that run through Band offices and Friendship Centres
- Read local news. There may be many current issues involving local communities
- Use Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Government of Canada) weblinks.
- Differentiate your classroom programming and curriculum based on the aspects and respect for the FN/Metis/Inuit territory that is closest to you
- Understand the needs of your Community.
- Strive to reach and engage the students from that community in meaningful ways.
- Do your own homework. What backgrounds and cultures exist in your classroom? Have any community strategies worked in the past, for example, cultural programming, building of community structures and other strategies to engage and motivate youth.
As Educators, we can start with the knowledge we already have, and the resources that are available to us. From there, we can continue to focus on the similarities that exist between Aboriginal cultures. Many of the similarities have arisen from the impacts of European views and colonialization over the past few hundred years. This has created shared histories for FNMI peoples, but unfortunately, has also undermined and left many diversities forgotten.
As Educators, this presents a very large difficult task in terms of not just meeting the expectations of the curriculum, but also respecting the diversity within each and every classroom.
Whether we consciously acknowledge this or not, one of the tasks of the Education system is to look toward ways of restoring and renewing Indigenous relationships in Education, and reconciling Indigenous and Western viewpoints within our Educational practices. Only then, can we improve the quality of life for all FNMI people, our environment, Country, and the future for everyone.
Education can offer great tools to help deepen knowledge and understanding, and reconciling differences between cultures.
According to Indigenous perspectives, communities and Elders, and family were always very important in transmitting knowledge. Learning always took place when the student was ready. Teachers brought in at the ‘right’ times.
I would state that this requires teachers to hone their instincts, and pay attention to aspects of the child that are not located on standardized tests, and look-fors on standardized teacher evaluations. It requires true listening skills, instinct, and qualities often overlooked and not indicated on standardized Teacher Evaluation forms.
This is the first in a series of posts that will explore how to effectively incorporate FNMI perspectives into the Curriculum.
Deborah & Ian McCallum
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