In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission put forward 94 recommended “Calls to Action” that have been accepted by all levels of government across Canada. Several of these are directly related to education, and as such are being diligently addressed by Alberta Education, and every school district in Alberta.
The Alberta School Councils’ Association is very proud to have partnered with many organizations to bring about awareness of the positive relationships being developed and actions being taken such as including Indigenous history in our curriculum. Through Alberta’s Joint Commitment to Action, our province is leading the way in taking and being part of a movement in shifting cultural understanding and attitudes.
Three Simple Actions
There are some fairly easy things that each of us can do in our schools and our classrooms to inspire our children to seek truth and live reconciliation.
Verbally acknowledge traditional territory
Work with students to seek out the best way to acknowledge the traditional territory where they live and upon which their school stands. Start every morning by making a statement of acknowledgement in your classroom and have students take turns doing the acknowledgement. Better yet, have students request that whomever does the daily school announcements begin with an acknowledgement of the people of the territory. School assemblies, gatherings and staff meetings should all begin with this verbal acknowledgement.
Fly the flag
Every school has at least one flagpole in front of its buildings. For the most part, the flags that are honoured are those of Canada and the province. Every single school in Alberta is located on Treaty 6, Treaty 7 or Treaty 8 territory. As a start, we can fly the flag of our respective treaty areas. From there, your school may decide that it should also fly the flag of the Métis Nation, a local First Nation or a neighbouring Inuit community if you are teaching in the Canadian North.
Visually acknowledge truth, territory and people
At the entry to any Canadian school, it should be clearly indicated that the members of that school community acknowledge the wrongs in our history perpetrated through education and that they recognize the people of the territory. This could be done by displaying Canada’s statement of apology to former students of Indian residential schools near a visual representation of the Aboriginal people upon whose traditional territory we live.
These “little things” open the doors to what may lie ahead. They are things we experience every day as we spend our time together in schools. They begin conversations, and from there the journey to reconciliation will grow.
Source: University of Alberta News, August 2016 Author: Charlene Bearhead
Charlene Bearhead, former education lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, is a mother, grandmother, experienced educator and education innovator with 30 years of regional, national and international experience. Charlene currently serves as the Education Coordinator for the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and volunteers as the co-chair of the Downie-Wenjack Fund Board of Directors. She is also a member of the Pathways to Education Canada Indigenous Education Advisory Circle and works to support the Alberta Joint Commitment to Action: Education for Reconciliation. Bearhead sees reconciliation education as the key to respectful relationships in Canada.