The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada prompted a much-needed reflection and assessment of current realities of Indigenous issues in our country. For educators, it raised some important questions such as, ‘Am I colonizing this curriculum?’, ‘Can I incorporate Indigenous knowledge & teaching methods into my classroom?’, and ‘How can we strengthen the educational framework for Indigenous learners?’.
Truth and Reconciliation in Education
Indigenous, First Nations Métis, Inuit, Non-Status and Urban Indigenous are the fastest growing population in Canada. The legacy of Residential Schools has created mistrust in the education system and government-funded school systems for many people of indigenous heritage. Let’s elevate the collective consciousness of Canada and the world on this challenge by acknowledging what has happened within our borders and address how we can learn, heal and grow from it. This work can’t just be left to Indigenous people on their own, it has to be everyone together.
So how can educators help with Truth and Reconciliation?
Eddy Robinson | An Indigenous Educator’s Perspective
An Anishinaabe/Muskegowuk Cree of the Missanabie Cree First Nation born and raised in the city of Toronto, Eddy Robinson credits a deepened exposure to his heritage with saving his life and setting him on a good path.
As a First Nations person displaced due to oppression, Eddy has been talking about Truth & Reconciliation concepts for over 20 years. Eddy calls himself a “survivor” of the education system and shares his personal experiences growing up in city schools. As a parent with three children of his own going through the education system, he wants to see the system improved for their future.
But Eddy doesn’t operate outside of the system either. He has completed his Masters in Education at York University and has worked alongside Indigenous and non-indigenous professors, educational leaders, teachers, principals, and superintendents in various roles. He is a speaker who is well aware of how the education system works.
Introspecting Your Practice
Eddy often says that 90% of Canadians have 10% of the story. The problem is, 5% of that story is based on misconceptions. How do we overcome this challenge?
Educators should work towards creating space for the indigenous narrative. Often this is a scary concept to educators for fear around misrepresenting an Indigenous cultural practice or violating protocol. Eddy shows educators how they can overcome such fears.
Teachers, leadership, and administrators within educational institutions first need to introspect within their practice as to how they are contributing to the perpetuation of colonialism.
Eddy says success in this regard is creating space for the Indigenous conversation physically, mentally, emotionally and digitally. This initiative is supported through what he calls The 5-L’s:
Listen to the conversation and what is being said by Indigenous People.
Be open to learning. That means putting aside biases or judgments. Follow up the conversation with further research. This can take many forms such as picking up a book, listening to music, taking part in a workshop or watching a documentary.
Implement the conversation in real life and create space for the Indigenous narrative.
Create space and help LEAD the conversation as an Ally to Indigenous People.
We are energy, molecules, cells and when we interact with positive energy we resurge and shine.
Strengthening Educational Practices for Indigenous learners
A big challenge is campus environments: they are often spaces where indigenous students are no longer surrounded by community and culture. Starting school as a child in the 70’s, Eddy was only one of two indigenous students in his school. There was no reflection in the classroom of who they were. He shows audiences that schools can do better.
Eddy believes improvement will include making a better effort to instill a sense of pride within indigenous students when it comes to their identity. Part of the solution here can be exploring indigenous pedagogy. What type of indigenous teaching methods can be successfully adapted to classroom environments? For Eddy, the answer is in story. Teachers can tell a story to illustrate learning & moments in our lives and simultaneously draw attention to common experiences. A large part of our lives is structured around stories, consider communication forms such as news, movies, books…
Reconciliation is going to be a long journey. Educators need to remember that every moment counts. Small actions can have a ripple effect on a child 20 years from now and on how they grow academically and personally.
The Keynote for Educators
Eddy’s keynote ‘Truth and Reconciliation in Education: Moving Forward Together ’ shows audiences:
• How to incorporate Indigenous insights into strategy and change.
• The ‘5-L’ framework for creating space for Indigenous conversation.
• A structure for educators to approach Indigenous knowledge.