On the 12th day of the OOLidays: The Indigenous Presence

On the 12th day of the OOLidays: The Indigenous Presence

Russell Nahdee of the Fish Clan and a member from Bkejwanong Territory, the Walpole Island First Nation, Learning Specialist in the Office of Open Learning.

Today, more than half the Indigenous people live off reserve and many reserve schools make use of provincial curricula. Many First Nations, M├ętis, and Inuit people receive most of their pre-university education through the provincial education system. As a result, Indigenous people do not see themselves reflected in the schooling they receive and instead are subjected to the stereotypes that reinforce a one-dimensional image as a people without a presence. We must work toward continuous improvement on these issues in the hope of a better understanding of how our society functions to marginalize and exclude others.

Find any educational program from elementary school to post-secondary subjects including geography, history, the arts, sciences, technology, and the ignorance of Indigenous peoples is pervasive and profound. In Canadian society very few know about or understand the Indian Act and its implications for Indigenous people and Canadians.

How many Canadians know the name of the reserve closest to their home and can name the people living there? What do they know of the cultures or beliefs of Indigenous peoples anywhere in Canada? Do they know how many Indigenous people live there? What do they know of the status or importance of land claims and resource development, or treaties? With the rise of human rights, the repatriation of the Constitution and important court rulings since the 1970s, we cannot afford such unawareness.

How can boards, teachers, professors, colleges and universities, and educational institutes begin to address the problem when they themselves are part of it? Understanding different perspectives that are known to have been taken out of context in a society fixated with racial differences is an important step forward.

Much more needs to happen in education and curricula, knowledge, and attitudes.

Understanding Indigenous culture and history and the exploration of the obstacles and aspirations are important to all of us. An educated awareness of Indigenous history, cultures, geographies, and current events will enrich the life for Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people in Canada and beyond.

The following are some helpful resources as you consider your own path toward reconciliation:

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