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Indigenous Education Pedagogy

You Have to be Careful with the Stories You Tell

“You have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told.”

There is a well-known aphorism that says there are two sides to every story. This is of course not entirely accurate, as there can be several different sides, and versions of the same story, none of them quite coming close to the truth. But this quote does remind me that there are two sides to every telling of a story – storyteller and audience, teacher and student, knowledge-keeper and learner. 

As educators we have traditionally been seen in the role of the storyteller – we were considered, rightly or wrongly, to have the knowledge of the world, history, geography, science, etc… This was the status quo for generations. And for the longest time teachers could be used to parrot old misinformation, old untruths that have no bearing in reality. That education was once used as a tool of oppression (and still to this day can be used as such) is chilling to me. But more recently there have been heartening signs of change. Teachers are no longer complacently parroting the colonial narrative. We are actively investigating and scrutinizing resources that are no longer acceptable – and working to decolonize and Indigenize resources and practices. Working with Indigenous groups and leaders, working through our policies, procedures, and ways of teaching so that they are fair, equitable, and more reflective of the true story. We are involved in questioning the stories that we are told so that we can be involved in correcting the record – telling the accurate stories of the history of Canada. The history that is inextricably linked with colonization. Students today are no longer passive vessels for us to pour our knowledge into. Increasingly they are working as active participants in the act of education. We can help them find the true story – we do not have to be storytellers holding up a colonial system, or listeners wondering about the veracity of what we are being told. We can work together with our students to help discover the real story of Canada, even if some parts are not everything it was chalked up to be. 

The Ontario Curriculum is an ever-evolving set of documents, although its evolution is often not as rapid as some people might hope. There are a few areas where there has been some slight effort to include more perspectives, but not as might as might be hoped. The First Nations Policy Framework from the Ontario Ministry of Education was first published in 2007 and touched on some of these issues. I feel like the progress since then has been very slow. There are so many ways that the curriculum can be used to include Indigenous education. The Environmental units in Science are an excellent starting point, so much could be added there. Health and Phys. Ed. could be easily transformed. The Arts again could have so many connections. Perhaps we as educators need to work beyond the curriculum and create our own systems of Indigenization while we wait for the government to catch up.

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