Tag Archives: Aboriginal

The Rabbits – a picture book for use in high school classrooms…

THE RABBITS by John Marsden addresses the theme of colonization and may have a place in Social Studies Curricula specifically BC FNS 12 and Social Justice 12.  As well, it may have a place in English First Peoples 10 – 12 curriculum with themes that connect to historical events that have impacted the lives of Aboriginal people.  An inquiry question might derive from something such as: What has been the nature and impact and response to colonization by the Indigenous people of Canada? This area?

An inquiry approach may be used in BC FNS 12 in teaching the colonial area fron 1849 – 1871 to supplement an existing resource which addresses the big ideas around this PLO: Analyse the varied and evolving responses of First Nations People to Contact and Colonialism.  The following are examples:

− the 1864 “Tsilqoh’tin (Chilcotin) War”

− the 1874 Sto:lo petition to the Province

− the 1887 Nisga’a and Tsimshian journeys to Victoria

− the 1910 Laurier Memorial

− the 1911 Victoria conference (the Indian Tribes of BC and the McBride government)

− the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia − the protests against the 1969 White Paper

− the Calder (1973), Sparrow (1990), Guerin (1984), Delgamuukw (1991), and Van der Peet (1995) cases − confrontations at Oka and Gustafson Lake

− local incidents of resistance

This book has  been made into an imovie on utube which begs students to create similar multi-media representations of the impact of colonization . What would be powerful would be to tell the story from the Aboriginal perspective – stories from a strength or resilience perspective in order to illustrate the impact and the response of Aboriginal people to events such as those listed above.

Anne Tenning, 2008 Governer-Awards recipient brought this perspective alive in her classroom.  Please  have a look at her unit, WALKING ON THE LANDS OF OUR ANCESTORS.

Sweetgrass Coaching is a blog which addresses the topic of colonization which you may wish to check out.

If you have other picture books which may be used as similar springboards, I would appreciate knowing. Let me know how it goes!

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Reflection on 8th Fire’s – Indigenous in the City…

“It’s been about 500 years since your people met my people”.

With this statement, Wab Kinew, host of this four part series invites Canadians to consider what occurred during this time period and he features several highly talented young Aboriginal people who within moments of speaking shatter all stereotypes about Aboriginal people.  As I watched this brilliant documentary, I wondered if it sparked a genuine curiosity in mainstream Canadians as to who we are and how we have managed to maneuver our way i

n this changed world as Aboriginal people. I wondered how mainstream thinking might shift if this series indeed became the most checked out DVD resource from each school library. The ideal plan is for each library to purchase it for general circulation in schools.

Starting in the 1970s many Aboriginal people left their ancestral homes to settle in urban centers and now it is home to 70% of the Aboriginal population. Some of us were sent away to live in boarding homes with complete strangers in order to attend high school. I attended New Westminster High School whose school population was the same size as my home community and the adjustment was a very difficult one – one that saw most of my classmates back home within months. I have moved back to my home community twice and each time returned to the city where, like 70% of the Aboriginal population, I make my home.

Some Aboriginal children have limited connections to their ancestral homes. Others may be caught between two worlds as they move between their ancestral and their urban homes. For those who were born in the city, they may have little or no connection or knowledge of their ancestral homes; they are in classrooms across all school districts in this country. They are as diverse as the rest of the children in classrooms across BC where there are over 30 diverse First nations.

Aboriginal children want to know where they came from and what their history may be. Because of the curricular content in Social Studies 11 for example, most high school students understand the impact that the residential school experience has had on individuals, families and First Nation communities, but students also need to be taught about the resilience of Aboriginal people. In particular, Aboriginal students need to know that our ancestors survived many social, political, cultural, and economic upheavals, and that our legacy can be expressed in one word: RESILIENCE. As well Aboriginal students need to know that they are part of a renaissance where the 8th fire is being ignited and things are changing.

Because over half the population of Aboriginal people are under the age of 25, it is time to pause and become curious about the Aboriginal students who arrive to our classrooms each day: Where are their ancestral homes and what paths took them to this part of the city and into my classroom? What hopes and dreams does each child have?  What kind of community support is available to each child academically, socially, and culturally?  Does each child live with their parents, relatives, or with foster parents?  How much knowledge do the children in my classroom have about the Aboriginal people of Canada? With such a youthful population and an abysmal 52% graduation rate, Wab is right when he says the time has come to kindle more dialogue with each other about the implications of being indigenous in the city. In his edgy way, he challenges us to work toward reconciliation by building a new fire – a new relationship that is ignited when we begin to have conversations about what it means to be indigenous in the city and why that should matter in our respective classrooms and other learning communities.

Statistics remind us that Aboriginal children are five times more likely to be in trouble with the law and they are twice as likely to live below the poverty line. Wab reminds us that too many children are out of school, in trouble, and without the resources to bring them along the path less travelled.  Hanging onto students long enough to see them cross the stage with a graduation diploma or school-leaving certificate depends on a number of factors, which educators intuitively know and understand.  We also know what research confirms and it is this: It takes one meaningful relationship to make a difference in helping a student stick with school long enough to transition to the next phase whether it is post secondary school, trade school, or something else.

Early in my career, a brilliant principal asked his staff to look around our classes to see which student(s) appeared to be disconnected and to discreetly find ways to connect with those students. He encouraged us to share this with colleagues who taught the same student.  The goal that our school embraced was to ensure that each kid felt that she or he belonged at CSSS in some way.  Dr. Martin Brokenleg’s circle of courage led us there and it changed the culture of the school – a school where 10% of the population was Aboriginal.  By looking at our students with a different lens, we discovered students who would otherwise remain at the margins of classrooms and learning.

As educators we can help to kindle the 8th fire by helping to break down stereotypes about Aboriginal people and by paying close attention to each of the four parts of this important series. Please check out what the CBC series 8th Fire has ignited in the minds and hearts of its viewers.

A 500 year old relationship … coming out of conflict, colonialism and denial.

“We’re kind of invisible almost” 

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“If you work hard enough…

“If you work hard enough at it, you can make your life a work of art” Mr. West, Art teacher


One teacher profoundly influenced the life of Roy Henry Vickers, an accomplished Tsimshian artist. Mr. West, Roy’s art teacher was a major influence in his life. As a teenager, Roy was alone and far from home in a big city. The way of life in Victoria was vastly different from his home community and Mr. West recognized that and was able to see the potential in Roy and became determined to inspire him to develop his talent.

This put Roy on a path that allowed him to explore his Tsimshian heritage and rise to fame as an international artist. Mr. West helped Roy to gain insight and an ability to find meaning through art and that passion has carried Roy through the many challenges that he faced in his life. Roy fondly recalled that his teacher came to every show and event and stood beside him throughout his career.  

“Find yourself” was an important quest his teacher gave to Roy. Not everyone had the kind of teacher that Roy had. Mr. West allowed him to develop his passion and to demonstrate it through a medium and for Roy, it was art. For students in classrooms everywhere, teachers create opportunities for students to find meaning by engaging deeply with text, with art forms, and other diverse areas of interest so that they too, may engage with their hearts and minds.   

In his troubled days, Roy searched for people who were “inspired” and he wondered if they were truly happy and not just pretending. One of the mantras that Mr. West left him with was this: If you work hard enough at life you can make it a work of art and achieve your dreams

At 65, Roy has time to reflect on what really matters in life. As a parent and role model, he recognizes the place that emotion has in teaching and learning. He believes it is imperative for classroom teacher to be able to recognize a range of seven emotions: joy, pain, guilt, shame, anger, fear, and loneliness. Teachers like Mr. West, can help children to process emotions and to be in touch with feelings. Science is recognizing the connection between of imparting knowledge with emotion. Roy believes when we experience learning in that way, it becomes part of us for the rest of our lives.

Listen to the North by Northwest recording to hear Roy do a great impersonation of Chief Dan George’s words of wisdom, “Always speak from your heart. Don’t speak from your head. If you speak from your head, only their heads will hear you. If you speak from your heart their hearts will hear you and when they get old like me, their heads will forget but the hearts never forget”

For Roy, the struggle to be better is a daily quest. And he believes a good teacher along the way can remind students that there is a story in all of us and there is beauty in all of us. He would also say, “Nothing comes without hard work” and “Learn with your eyes, ears, and heart”.

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January 18, 2012 · 11:46 pm

Making Connections a Necessary Part of Learning About Ourselves…

30 Nisga’a children attend schools in Surrey SD. They were be part of a an historic event called The Journey Home, a journey of reclamation of 500 Nisga’a who live in the urban centres of Metro Vancouver. These urban Nisga’a travelled home to connect with their family members and their cultural traditions. The articipants included kids who are in foster care; adults who were taken during the ’60s scoop; and elders who attended residential school and never returned home to the Nass valley. This journey is a rebirthing of who they are as Nisga’a people and where they came from. The planning for this has been a huge undertaking between the people who live on Nisga’a territory and the Nisga’a who reside elsewhere in the world. Apparently there are estranged Nisga’a from as far away as Holland and Australia. Please click on this link to watch their 4.38 minute dvd of this JOURNEY HOME:

Where do you come in as a teacher if one of your students participated on this journey? The urban Nisga’a community would like teachers and staff to embrace this as an educational opportunity for the children who participate in this journey and to consider its educational merit. Throughout the journey, the children filled in their individual memory books as the planners wanted the participants to gain in as many ways possible from this immense educational and cultural opportunity. The children took photos and kept journals to record their learning and impressions of all that they saw, hear, and experienced. Throughout the journey, they heard stories; saw parts of BC that they may have never seen before; learned the geography of the Nass; and experienced first hand the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Nisga’a. This is experiential learning at its best.Upon their return to their classsrooms, it is the wish of the Nisga’a that their children be invited and encouraged to share the details of their journey with others in their classes and perhaps with larger groups. For many, the journey may have a life changing impact educationally, emotionally, and spiritually.

The communities in the Nass had big plans to receive and host the urban Nisga’a. They travelled by bus (4 busses), by ferry, and by air. Hawk Air transported 25 elders who were unable to make the journey by vehicle. Some cars took highway 97 and others took BC Ferries to Prince Rupert. This was an historic event for the Nisga’a and for the children and their families who participated.

I will be compiling some Nisga’a resources for teacher use and welcome inquiries from teachers in sd 36 in order to bring this experience into their classrooms and extend the learning for all students.Teachers should feel free to contact me for this.


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