As educators contemplate the best way to move forward with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I found the advice of Charlene Bearhead, education lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, to be helpful. In her opinion piece found on the University of Alberta's website, Bearhead identifies what she calls "Three Simple Actions" to assist Alberta schools to continue the education process that is critical to reconciliation.
The suggestions made by Bearhead are worthy of quoting in their entirety:
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
I have heard some debate that, to integrate these components can appear disingenuous. Certainly, if that is all that is undertaken by educational institutions, it could be the case that little might be accomplished. However, I think that these Three Simple Actions can in fact have tremendous impact, particularly for students who have had little exposure to Indigenous history in Canada.