There are a myriad of ways for us to implement the mandate established by the Ontario First Nation, Métis and Inuit Educational Policy Framework, by integrating references to these cultures and communities throughout the curriculum.
- We can use Aboriginal history and interactions with European cultures to teach about the use of political strategy in Canadian history.
- Métis history can be used to teach about critical thinking and perspective, exploring the life of Louis Riel to demonstrate the ways a situation can be interpreted depending upon one’s perspective.
- We can refer to Aboriginal cultures when teaching character attributes and universal human values.
As we weave in such cultural and historical references, we can ground our teaching in a clear social justice framework. It is important to ensure that we are using accurate source material, as many older textbooks were written from a Eurocentric perspective. A number of excellent textbooks provide a social justice framework with updated historical information, for example:
- Barbara Filion, Neal McLeod, Suzanne Methot, Shay-Lea O’Brien, Tanya Senk (2011). Aboriginal Beliefs, Values, and Aspirations. Toronto: Pearson.
- Frideres, James S. (2012). Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. 9th Edition. Toronto: Pearson.
Those of us who are not Indigenous (and some of us who are) may feel inspired and motivated to teach from this perspective but ill equipped and unsure about how to proceed. As we strive to include First Nations, Métis and Inuit students by increasing the presence and visibility of their cultures in our schools and classrooms, we can do so respectfully through engagement with our students, and their communities. Community connection is an indispensible aspect of collective empowerment for Aboriginal students and of their inclusion in our school and classroom environments.
Inviting Elders and other community leaders as guest speakers or community participants creates a venue for their voices and teachings and reinforces their leadership on these issues. When we display cultural images, teach the history of these communities and cultures, or strive to weave their cultures and history into the fabric of our teaching across subject matters, these and other strategies for inclusion are more powerful, meaningful and respectful when they take place in the context of community engagement.
Across the province, there are differing levels of access to services—sometimes within our schools or larger communities, including Friendship centres, cultural, health and employment organizations and a myriad of resource people. In some cases, these communities may be stretched to the limit, and in others they do not exist. It may not be possible for all of us to contact an Elder and invite them in to speak in our classrooms.
Nevertheless, as we begin to explore our options, we may discover a First Nations, Métis or Inuit presence in our community unknown to us. We may also discover innovative online resources created and distributed by organizations that are able to represent these communities. In some cases, where there are no local services, it may be possible to organize a live presentation through Skype.
Such resources and technology can enable us to transcend the geographical limitations we may experience and integrate the voices and perspectives of Indigenous peoples more directly in our classrooms and schools.