The following blog post was written in response to an intern education student asking for help incorporating Treaty Education in a school that did not understand its purpose or importance.
The situation you are experiencing is problematic, but unfortunately not uncommon. You were right to further question your situation, even though it might be uncomfortable, as these feelings are the best way to bring about change. Without future teachers like you asking uncomfortable questions, such as this, there would be minimal opportunity for change.
In answer to your question I would explain to your class the importance of Treaty Ed by mapping out Canada’s past with treaties and the spirit and intent of treaties and its trickle down effect into the present. Explain that to change the relationship between First Nations and Canadians everyone must understand this past. As Dwayne Donald mentioned, in his lecture On What Terms We Can Speak, “if you’re going to think about the future you actually have to work backwards . . . because it’s only then that any talk of the future makes sense.” I would help identify with your students that the lack of diversity with First nations students in their own school will probably not correlate into their future lives. Thus, it’s important to learn how to develop a positive relationship in the present. I would also point out to your students and co-workers that, as Claire Kreuger put it, “[a]pathy is a form of resistance,” and by ignoring the issue we are adding to the problem.
Another important aspect your school is ignorant too, regardless of whether or not there are First Nations students present in the school, is that we are all treaty people. After mapping out Canada’s history with treaties and the spirit of treaty relationships students should begin to develop an understanding that, as Cynthia Chambers points out in her article “WE ARE ALL TREATY PEOPLE,” “treaties are a story that we share.” The Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators document itself states that “[b]y the end of Grade 12, students will appreciate that Treaties are sacred covenants between sovereign nations and are the foundational basis for meaningful relationships that perpetually foster the well-being of all people” (2). Thus, treaty education is not only advisable, but mandatory.
It is important when teaching that “we are all treaty people” to teach lessons with substance. Make sure to help the students contextualize the information they are given in a meaningful way. In other words don’t make lessons all about memorizing and reiterating. Be sure students place meaning in the fact that they are treaty people regardless of their ancestral background. Help students to understand that being a treaty person is all about being committed to a positive relationship between themselves and First Nation, Metis, and Inuit people. It’s a commitment to executing the spirit and intent of treaties to the best of your ability.
-Best of luck!