Teaching the Indian Act

 

The Indian Act of 1876 was the consolidation of other Acts that were created to begin to ‘Civilize’ and assimilate Aboriginal Peoples into Canada. It is still alive and very much in pace today, still mostly organized in its original form, despite dozens of amendments.

It is a very destructive Act that sought to abolish Aboriginal cultures by making ‘Indians wards of the state’, and banning Traditional Ceremonies, language use, extracting children from their families to send to Residential Schools, imposing governments, abolishing rights to vote, and taking over land and resources  just to name a few.

Assimilation and Civilization of ‘Indian’s’ has been tragic, oppressive, and paternalistic. Teaching this within our Curriculum can be quite difficult, especially with our younger students.

Nevertheless, it is important to find ways to make sure that this is not something that is forgotten. We need to understand the past, present and future of Canada, and to do this authentically, we all need to understand the Indian Act and how intertwined and entrenched it is within the rights and treatment of Aboriginal Peoples.

It is not an act created or ‘owned’, or only pertaining to ‘Status-Indians’. It is an Act that was created by our own Canadian government. It is still enacted today by our own Canadian Government.

It played a large role in Confederation, The Constitution, the Wars, Health Care, and Rights and Access to Education and Reserve land. It still plays a large role in nearly every aspect of the lives of First Nations, Metis & Inuit People in Canada.

Though dozens of amendments have taken place to the Indian Act, problems still exist, based on the values and oppression embedded within.  Many Reserves are still without clean drinking water, proper schools, high suicide rates, and other social problems including gas sniffing, alcoholism, abuse, and violence, built in by a past of oppression and assimilation.

Such a major part of the History of how Canada was formed, and how it still governs First Nations, Metis & Inuit to this very day. Yet much of our Curriculum all but ignores. Some may argue that our Curriculum is continuing to assimilate Aboriginal Peoples, continuing to promote Colonialism and Colonial values.

I believe that we need a curriculum that promotes a shared vision of education that strongly infuses values, knowledge, traditions, and languages of Aboriginal Peoples.

Yes, Inquiry based learning is amazing, yes, the use of technology is amazing. Yes, our Social Studies, History, and Geography curricula are changing for the better. BUT this content knowledge is also absolutely essential to understanding the values upon which Canada was built, learning about Aboriginal Peoples in Canada in the past, present, and future, and not merely in reference to early colonization.

  • Why is it that we do not allow for more knowledge about Aboriginal people, and the Indian Act, in our Curriculum?
  • How can we ensure that our Pedagogy and strategies are allow for this content? 

Education can be a powerful tool of restoration, restitution, and renewal.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

13 Strategies to Promote Equity and Diversity in the Classroom For First Nations, Metis & Inuit Students

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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:

  1. Start where you are at in terms of your own knowledge, then look toward your closest communities FNMI to learn more.
  2. Join in a cultural event
  3. Visit your local band office or Friendship Center to obtain information
  4. Ask to meet with a Traditional Teacher or Elder
  5. Do some reading.  Most communities have websites.
  6. Use 21st technologies to connect with other communities.
  7. Connect with other Education agencies that run through Band offices and Friendship Centres
  8. Read local news.  There may be many current issues involving local communities
  9. Use Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (Government of Canada) weblinks.
  10. Differentiate your classroom programming and curriculum based on the aspects and respect for the FN/Metis/Inuit territory that is closest to you
  11. Understand the needs of your Community.
  12. Strive to reach and engage the students from that community in meaningful ways.
  13. 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

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Classroom Line Up: A First Nations Perspective

I recently broached the topic of the ‘Classroom Line-Up’ with my husband, who is of First Nations descent. I was interested in learning if First Nations communities may have different perspectives about the act of the classroom Line-Up.

I firmly believe that we as educators, all need to work to integrate First Nations, Metis, & Inuit strategies and perspectives into our classroom. We also need to understand the historical and present day influences of the Indian Act of 1876, and the Residential School System within Canada. I think that it is also interesting to understand the practices and mainstays within our school system, and the impact of other cultures viewing these practices in different ways.

So when I brought up the question of how would First Nations communities view  this concept of having students ‘Line up’ in the classroom, I learned something very important about his culture.

First Nations communities are just that, very community minded, and community based. You have heard the expression ‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child’, and First Nations Communities are no exception. An inherent belief is often that children need to be explorative, without boundaries.

Where mainstream culture would place a lot of importance on having that straight line-up at the door, many Traditional teachers would allow students to explore, and choose how to walk from one point to another. This stems from a deeper belief that people need to find their own paths in life. You walk along those paths that are set out for you in life, and you never deviate too far from those paths. If you do deviate too far from your main path, this is when you will face the most problems.

This caused me to reflect on how we as educators can all work to help students find the best path for themselves, and to try different things out on their own, rather than having it dictated, lectured, or prescribed. It also made me reflect on how we as educators can make the Education system a safer place for not just students who are First Nations, Metis, or Inuit descent, but for everyone.

Creating real change in our Education System goes beyond implementing strategies such as restorative practice, talking circles and other holistic and culturally relevant teaching practices. It also extends to how we implement our everyday school rules, policies and procedures. We need to help empower all students to find their own paths in life.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It’s a good thing to be Humble: Humility in our School Systems

 

‘It’s a good thing to be Humble’, my Grandmother once said many years ago. Sounds simple enough, but I always come back to that statement in my life. How can something so simple, have the ability to affect our lives so greatly? Humility one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings, and is basically the act of behaving modestly, and respectfully toward others, is something that we may not see enough of today. Especially in this Digital and Information age of online networking and Social Media, with the purposes of self-promotion.

However, this is also a concept that can become lost within our schools. With the education system firmly entrenched in teaching skills that help students survive in the global, and greater culture, we can often forget to consider the stakeholders of our education system, and the real populations that attend our schools.

Humility is a cornerstone of many cultures, including the First Nations, Metis, & Inuit population. The concept of humility has always been firmly entrenched within the cultures that exist today among Aboriginal peoples since time immemorial, including today. Teachers need to keep this in mind when they are working with the Parents and students of First Nations, Metis,  & Inuit descent. Despite the fact that the last Residential School closed in Canada in the 1980, schools can still come across as hostile places for families with Aboriginal backgrounds, who often still feel that assimilation is necessary in order to succeed. However, inclusiveness and humility are necessary to help all families feel welcome and important.

Humility is an important concept to embody when dealing with students and families with special needs as well. It is certainly easy to forget, especially when Educators feel overwhelmed. Educators do not have all of the answers, nor do they have better qualifications than any other parent who is a part of the school to advocate and help their children. It is this aspect of our Board-level Improvement Plans, and Provincial and Federal initiatives that we need to put first on our list, in order to teach the ‘whole’ student, and learn from and with them as we continually co-create our classroom communities. It is important to ensure that teaching practices and strategies both overtly, and covertly, embody humility and respect for everyone involved. No one knows their child better than the parents. Lets express our Humility to all families, and work together in holistic ways to educate our children.

 

 

D. McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Making the Shift to Inquiry Based Instruction

 

Currently I am re-examining my instructional practice, and trying to understand how I can effectively teach students to nurture a sense of wonder about the Natural world around us. With my current focus, on integrating FNMI strategies into the Science Curriculum, I have decided that Inquiry Based Learning is a strategy worthy of researching and implementing, to provide the most effective educational strategies for students.

However, Inquiry based Learning can be more difficult than it sounds. To give students a key role in directing their own personal learning experiences, often flies in the face of the more traditional teaching frameworks and personal schemata that we have been learned about teaching itself, and practiced for many years!

Some situations that I believe are wonderful opportunities to include Inquiry Based Learning include, but are not limited to:

  • The Learning Commons & conducting Research
  • Learning 21st Century Technologies
  • Science
  • Numeracy
  • Integrating First Nations, Metis & Inuit perspectives,
  • Special needs including working with students on the Autism Spectrum & ADD/ADHD
  • Virtually anything the Educator sees fit!

I also envision Inquiry based learning also as ‘Brain-Based Learning’, where new neural networks can be built within the brain from hands-on learning and experiential learning. It helps students to use our brains in different, creative, personal, and concrete ways! For instance, students could design their own scientific experiments based upon the ‘Big Ideas’, link it to their own cultural background, use the resources within the Learning Commons, and then test out their own experiments and sharing their findings. The lists can go on!

Barriers to Inquiry Based Learning: Perceived and Real

Often, in our instructional units and lesson planning, it is easy to think in a linear fashion, with each new concept or expectation building upon the other. Further, certain subjects, including Science, are often be deemed a subject to be handed off to a planning time teacher, thus increasing focus on Literacy and Numeracy. When this happens, teachers are often trying to ‘fit’ the science curriculum in to 1,2, or 3 Fifty minute blocks. With increasing pressures to fit in many expectations within limited time frames, it can feel that the very subjects that lend themselves well to Inquiry Based Learning are placed on the back burner in favour of strategies deemed necessary for literacy and numeracy. So, where can we begin as educators?

How to start making your classroom and Learning Commons ready for Inquiry-Based Learning

How do we take what we have, and start the process to making Inquiry Based Instruction happen with students? How can we meet curriculum expectations and still allow students to be directly involved in their learning and shaping their own personal understanding of the world around them?

You can start with baby-steps, or you can jump in with both feet and make it happen! Either way, it is a process that involved changing your schemas of how students should learn, and how teachers should teach.

It takes flexibility, thinking about the curriculum in a balanced way, and trusting your own professional judgement that you will be able to guide students effectively through the curriculum, without the pressure that you must cover each and every curriculum expectation. This is because you value the process of student learning more than ‘covering’ every single thing on your prescribed list.

A teacher in the Inquiry Based classroom will understand where students need to ‘go’ with their learning, so that they can ‘facilitate’ student learning, but not methodically planning out each lesson or experiment with a prescribed set of rules that must be followed. This will enable student learning to become more personalized and increase retention. It will also promote the building of important learning skills and strategies that will help students out when they are learning outside of the classroom.

I also believe it involves understanding the curriculum expectations yourself inside out and backwards, and understanding where students need to ‘go’ so that teachers can ‘facilitate’ student learning. However, on that note, teachers do not need to be methodically planning out each lesson or experiment to a prescribed set of rules. The process of student learning is more important than covering each and every curriculum expectation!

Strategies for implementing Inquiry Based Learning within your Classroom 

  • So far, I have found the use of Circles and ‘Talking Circles‘ to be very beneficial in terms of sharing knowledge and information on a regular basis.
  • Provide Hands-On experiences!
  • Allow students to ask questions!
  • Students can also work in ‘Groups’, and face each other.
  • Ensure that you help students connect the information and Curriculum directly to the students personal lives and cultural backgrounds.
  • Engage in Culturally Relevant Teaching Practices
  • Take the learning outside when possible!
  • Read Relevant Picture Books to the class!
  • Differentiate your Instruction!
  • Encourage Brainstorming opportunities with the students!
  • Reflect on Learning and ideas any opportunity you have!
  • Listen carefully to the students questions to inform the next potential learning experience!
  • Focus on the Big Ideas instead of specific curriculum expectations.
  • Enable students to use all of the ‘Senses’ to experience the world around us

Personal Reflections

When creating an Inquiry-Based Learning Experience, it is beneficial to really understand and know the curriculum you are teaching. Having this knowledge will help guide you toward the types of questions and learning experiences that you want to see from your students, so that you can work to be a leader and facilitator for the students to ensure they are learning the ‘Big Ideas’ and overarching concepts. You really need to trust in yourself as well, and be flexible! Finally, throw away any assumptions that you will cover the content in prescribed amounts of time. Most of the learning experiences that you will end up facilitating with your students will either take much longer, or shorter than you may have originally expected!

For me, this is a work in progress! I would love to hear from others about your personal experiences and learning curve with Inquiry Based Learning!

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Restorative Practice Circles

Restorative Practice Circles are based upon the First Nations tradition of Talking Circles. First Nations, Metis & Inuit cultures are built upon oral traditions, therefore Talking Circles have been important ways to maintain and pass down important cultural teachings.

Restorative Practice is a form of justice, where in the classroom, it could be comprised of the person or people who hurt someone else, the person or people who were hurt, and anyone else involved in the incident. Rather than merely punish the wrongdoer, or engage in assertive discipline, everyone has a turn to speak, and it facilitates a deeper understanding of the hurt or incident, what happened, and greater satisfaction among all people in the circle. It incorporates some of the benefits of Talking Circles, in a way that promotes a holistic form of justice.

Restorative Circles provide many benefits including:

  • Fostering turn taking
  • Increasing respect
  • Creating a classroom community
  • Sending positive messages relating to Character, Culture, and Community
  • Allows for everyone to be heard and honoured

The Restorative Circles also work on much deeper levels as well. They provide excellent strategies for incorporating Cognitive, Developmental, Social, and Emotional benefits into the classroom including:

  • The ability to tailor the circle to the specific Developmental stages and needs of the students
  • The ability to be heard is often very therapeutic as well, which can increase student learning and involvement
  • Building strong working alliances in the classroom
  • Building reflection, and metacognition skills into the classroom structure
  • Building social relationships by increasing participation and interactions among students and between students that follow students outside of the classroom
  • Giving Students a greater ‘voice’

The use of Restorative Circles also serves as a great organizational tool or framework that can help Educators with decision making, lesson planning, accommodation of individual learning differences and embedding assessment strategies into the curriculum.

Considerations for Restorative Practice Circles: .

Teachers need to be cognizant of the skills necessary to effectively managing Restorative Practice Circles. These circles have the ability to be very therapeutic in nature as well, and Educators need to know effective ways of managing content being shared. Such skills may include, the ability to provide explicit feedback, positive reinforcement, effective acknowledgement of all participants, and ensuring consistency, good modeling skills, positive feedback, and allowing for adequate ‘Pause Times’ between responses and sharing.

The use of Talking Circles in education provides many benefits to students, not just academically, but also socially and emotionally. But let us not dismiss the importance of Restorative Circles as well as important ways to honour the Cultures of our First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples in our Schools and Communities.

 

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Power of Language & Lamenting the loss of Native Languages

 

Ever since my husband and I downloaded the code from Ogoki Learning Systems, we have began a lengthy process of creating an app that will allow First peoples from the Munsee-Delaware First Nation to have access to approximately 2000 words of the Munsee-Delaware Language. Neither of us have ever created an app before, and are very appreciative to Darrick at Ogoki Learning Systems for making this code available to anyone wanting to preserve their Native language. But it will be a large undertaking, and one that I hope we can accomplish. My husband has been actively trying to learn this language for years now, and passing it along to our own children. But as the generations age, and fewer people of the younger generations have opportunities to continue to learn the language, what will become of the Munsee-Delaware Nation in the future?

This has given me great pause for reflection on the importance and power of language, and what the loss of a language means to the First Nations peoples. What will a loss of language mean, when there is no one left who is able to understand the ideas, concepts, attitudes, and insights, ceremonies and celebrations as they were originally shared and interpreted?

With so many dying languages among First Nations peoples, there is greater difficulty in sustaining, and passing along the heritage and the ‘old ways’. The accuracy of interpretations invariably must bend, and give way to new interpretations and perspectives.

What does it mean when the First peoples are no longer able to ‘think Native’, because it has been completely replaced with dominant languages, religions, cultures & customs? Will the First Nations ever really be able to capture that same kinship that made the First Nations peoples a strong and connected people?.

Can our schools, integrating perspectives into our Western based educational system, bring back what has already been lost, and help re-build a strong identity? Surely knowledge in different languages is limited, with an ability to only yield ‘just so much’ of what once was.

Perhaps now, we can use positive aspects of technology, to connect people and motivate them to use this ancient language on the verge of extinction. Encourage children to communicate with each other on their iPhones in Munsee, encourage on and off reserve people to communicate in their Mother language. Maybe, just maybe, we can help keep this language alive for another 7 generations.

Interesting Fact: Did you know that the Munsee-Delaware Language was the language used in the movie ‘Last of the Mohicans‘, 1992 starring Daniel Day Lewis?

 

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 Reasons to Integrate Indigenous Knowledge into Science Curriculum

Although science values legitimate doubt, The ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

According to the ‘Seven Grandfather Teachings’ what we teach our children now, will have an effect for the next 7 generations. What can Educators teach this generation of students right now, that will help our planet and environment for the next seven generations?

The Science Curriculum is an excellent place to integrate Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and teachings. There are many places to learn about IK, including Cultural Centers and Band Offices, and Ministry of Education Documents. However, Educators also must understand that any IK knowledge to be used in Education, must be approved of by any of the following: the Ministry of Education, Elder, Senator, Traditional Teacher, or prominent Aboriginal community representative! Once we have a firm understanding of the knowledge that we can impart on our students, Educators can begin to infuse this knowledge into our Science Curriculum and create rich learning experiences for our students.

The following are reasons why students and future generations will benefit from incorporating Indigenous Knowledge (IK) into the Science Curriculum:

  1.  Indigenous Knowledge is inextricably linked to global sustainability. Our planet is facing ecological crises as a result of globalization. IK has valuable insights to implementing efficient uses of our land and spiritual relationships with nature. Educators can implement many of these insights into teaching practice.
  2. Students can be taught to sustain life and protect our planet, not exploit it. Conservation of energy and resources, and learning about sustainability is essential to teach our children now, so that they can pass along to future generations.
  3. Indigenous Knowledge can help foster equitable management of resources. Teaching our students to be responsible and economical with our natural resources, and to care to minimize our ecological footprint.
  4. We need to be aware of the human rights of Aboriginal peoples, traditional rights, & intellectual property rights. IK can help us understand how to protect those rights, land, water, and natural resources.
  5. Indigenous Knowledge and Western Knowledge can be taught together. Aboriginal and Western philosophies, beliefs, and spirituality do not need to be taught in opposition, or in isolation. It is only when we can teach our students to understand themselves and the world around them, that we can create true empathy, understanding, and hope for the future of our planet.
  6. Educators can strengthen the capacity of Aboriginal communities and other Canadian counterparts to participate in the conservation management of resources.
  7.  Indigenous Knowledge is an important factor in the preservation of the earth’s diversity and in fostering positive attitudes toward human rights and resource biodiversity.

Integrating IK into Science Curriculum right now, is a great place to start to help improve our planet and environment for the next seven generations.

By: Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.