This article was first published by APTN News Canada on June 7. You can read the original article here.
The Senate committee on Aboriginal Peoples has released a report on the history between Indigenous people and Canada.
The vision of the committee in releasing How did We Get Here?, was to implement parts of the study into the classroom.
“So we imagined for instance an audience of high school kids, who may not know a whole lot of Indigenous people, who may be able to pick up this kind of report find it interesting,” said Senator Daniel Christmas.
The study looks at an unvarnished account of the development of Canada, to treaties and polices that have affected Indigenous communities.
Melissa Campbell Schwartz, department head of First Nations, Metis and Inuit studies at Hillcrest High School, picked up the report for her grade 11 Indigenous Literature course.
“The senate report is exciting,” Schwartz told APTN News.
“It gives us another piece to move the steps forward.”
Schwartz believes educators play a big role in shifting the conversation to include Indigenous perspectives.
“As a settler within a colonial structure, I play a really interesting role, trying to change the conversation and trying to get kids to understand their role as a settler.”
She says Indigenous history needs to be taught in order to create a better future between Indigenous people and Canadians.
The grade 11 Indigenous literature class often starts with a discussion circle, exploring various topics affecting Indigenous people in Canada.
Schwartz says her students eagerly participate in the conversation and are passionate about creating a better relationship with Indigenous people.
She says some of her students after taking the class begin to challenge negative stereotypes they hear at home and in school.
“They see the injustice, they see a simple answer and they want that to happen,” she said.
“They become agents for change.”
Students enrolled in the Indigenous literature class would like for more Canadians to learn about Indigenous history in Canada.
“I think if everyone had this knowledge at a young age, there wouldn’t be any adults like there were in first contact,” said Azan Mubasher, a grade 11 student at Hillcrest High School.
Students are hopeful with the Indigenous history they’ve been learning about in Schwartz class.
“Knowledge is key and right now we’re taught an in depth knowledge of Aboriginal history, that personally I never knew of,” Bassant Mohamed said. “It’s definitely going to shift dynamics.”
Schwartz hopes the Senate report can be used widely by educators in Canada and is confident her students will create positive change.
“When I was reading it (the senate report,) I actually wrote a note to myself that Murray Sinclair had said a couple years ago about education getting us into this problem and education is what’s going to get us out,” she said.
“Because I see the education getting us out.”
By Amber Bernard