Many students don’t understand why they need to learn about the history of Indigenous people in Canada. Some ignore the significance of it, and others even feel like it’s being forced upon them. Some say it isn’t as interesting as learning about world wars in social studies class. And some even wonder why the Indigenous people won’t ‘get over it’.
Wars and battles between foreign nations are important to history. Indigenous life in Canada has the same importance as anything else. However, it seems there’s a lingering opinion that there’s an excessive amount of time put into learning about the past of Indigenous peoples.
An example of a result on poor understanding about the First Nation culture is when a mother decided to sue the school district in Port Alberni, stating that her daughter’s right to religion was violated when she participated in a smudging ceremony in 2015.
A smudging ceremony is a cleansing ritual using medicinal herbs that are burned. The smoke is meant to remove negative energy and provide spiritual healing for the body. It has nothing to do with faith or religion.
Despite this being explained to the mother by a tribal council president, the trial proceeded on November 18. It begs the question of how someone is taking legal action on a subject they have little to no knowledge about. It would be as if someone who was at Gleneagle saw a Christmas tree, and sued SD43 because they think that the school is forcing Christianity upon them.
The effects of prejudice in history towards Indigenous people are still affecting them today. Clean water can be a challenge to obtain in modern day reserves. Often the reserves in Canada’s interior are isolated and take around an hour to drive to a town. It’s also not simple for many people to leave these reserves either. They have grown up there and have family on the reserves. It’s also very expensive for any person to move to a new home too. Some First Nations are still affected by the abuse from residential schools. They were never able to practice their culture, and some still don’t want to talk about their past either. The impact of past events has led to loss of family, language and culture.
Now that many have decided that it is time to reconcile, it’s very important that others realize how the effects of the horrible past still exist today. It’s important to realize how privileged we are to share land with the First Nations. People can take the time to do learn about the past for a group of people who have been oppressed for many years.
Educators can help students understand the importance of Indigenous history. With the new curriculum, students are now learning about local communities of First Nations as early as kindergarten in British Columbia. The curriculum change is still relatively new, and people are still learning how to adjust. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the recognition of being on Indigenous land was acknowledged during assemblies and the addition of Indigenous history was added to the BC curriculum. If teachers can learn how to properly explain to their students about their country’s past, it can produce well-educated and understanding people for the future.
The next time when education about the First Nations is being taught, reflect on why it’s important and still relevant to society today. It’s the change in attitude and realization of privilege that can help society become more progressive.