Late last week, I was able to attend a Treaty Education Workshop at the University of Regina, needless to say that it was a big eye opener into my own previous stereotypes and misconceptions. This workshop was out on by the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and was led by many great facilitators and Elders from different parts of Saskatchewan. Since this was my first workshop as an Education Pre-Service Teacher, I went in not really having expectation but, knowing that it would be informative and inspiring.
By the end of the first day, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed but, I would say that I was let down in some way. Growing up in Alberta, I would have thought that what I learned there and what I am now learning here were much the same, however I was beginning to see that was in fact a huge difference. In my Elementary and High School career, I was not exposed to a lot of Indigenous studies or had access to First Nations Policies. It wasn’t until my University career where I took Canadian history that I was really amerced into the First Nations cultures and Traditions. I thought I was someone who knew a thing or two myself, but the very first day proved me wrong. Our first activity for the day was a class quiz where we were asked several questions to test our knowledge – I think I only accurately guessed a handful of the dozens of questions that were asked. I felt disappointed in myself, how in the world was I going to teach this if I myself has no idea what was going on. Unfortunately, as the day went on, I found myself drifting away from the discussions we were participating it. It wasn’t because the topic wasn’t interesting – I completely understand the importance behind it – and I loved the stories that where shared with us by the Elder who came in to share this experiences, but I think it was that whatever information I was given I already knew, or that it was too much information to grasp all in the moment. The message that was delivered by the elder was one of forgiveness. It was no doubt inspiring to hear about his battles in Lebret Residential School, but what I found most courageous about him was that he wanted to forgive and forget the bad, but learn from it as well. While in residential school, he was met with unfortunate circumstance of abuse that took him nearly 30 years to come to terms with. He gained strength and wisdom and was able to carry on. His entire life has changed because of residential school – this was a topic that was so sensitive to me being an adult; was it okay to share this story with my future students as well? I went home that night feeling somewhat guilty and let down.
The second day of out Treaty Workshop was a lot different from the previous day in that we were able to really try our own hand at incorporating Treaty into our own lessons. I found that the second day was more collaborated learning but that there was a lighter tone to the day. The Knowledge Keeper that came in had an entirely different outlook on Residential School. Similarly to our Elder from the previous day, this women had gone to Lebret Residential School for the same reasons but was appreciative of everything that had happened to her. She says she wouldn’t be the person that she was if it wasn’t for her experiences here.
I appreciated the honesty that was given from both days. I was able to get so much more information than I already had. I felt that I was given both sides of the story – first hand – rather than the mostly European one that I was given until now. I hope that when I become a future educator I am able to provide the same kind of information for my students. I want them to know that we are all Treaty people – we are all affected by it, directly and indirectly. Of course Treaty Education is a touchy subject, but it doesn’t have to be. The more we educate on it, the more exposure our students get from it and the more they can relate to it.