It is unfortunately common that students and teachers alike in our schools have a notion that Treaty Education and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) perspectives are not something that affects everyone in Saskatchewan and Canada as a whole. This is a part of the lack of understanding that on this land and in this country, we are all part of a narrative where we are all treaty people, which is discussed in Cynthia Chamber’s story “‘We Are All Treaty People.’” To examine the purpose of teaching Treaty Education and FNMI perspectives, it is helpful to look at the K-12 aim of Social Studies Education in Saskatchewan (SK), which states “The purpose of Kindergarten to Grade 12 Social Studies is to help students know and appreciate the past, understand the present, influence the future, and make connections between events and issues of the past, the present, and the future” (SK Ministry of Education, 2009, p. 6). In order to accomplish this explicit goal, students need to know and understand how the process of treaty making was done and how the treaties affected not only the Indigenous peoples and European immigrants of the time, but also how the people of Canada are still affected by them today. By understanding Treaty Education as an integral part of learning in Canada, we can work towards a future of reconciliation and help to remedy the situations that many Indigenous peoples of Canada face. In order to do so however, we need to know about Canada’s treaties. One wouldn’t start writing a story from the middle, ignoring the background information of how everything came to be. It’s no different than our own Canadian narrative. Understanding the relationships of the past can help us to build better relationships in the future.
The belief that Treaty Education should only be taught in areas with high populations of FNMI students reinforces our lack of understanding that treaties affected everyone of the past and continues to affect us today. I can speak from personal experience to how big of negative impact it is on students to ignore Treaty Education. I was educated in a school and community that is, give or take a few, 99% White, European background. In my education, we did not learn about Treaty Education or how “we are all treaty people.” This lack of education and understanding has allowed me to harbour negative predispositions towards the FNMI communities that I come into contact with because I had no knowledge of or respect for the relationships of the past. Now, through my university education, I have a whole new outlook on that aspect of my life and a greater respect for the positions of FNMI peoples. Treaty Education is fundamental in creating the actively engaged citizens that the Saskatchewan curriculums seek to inform.
Chambers, C. (2012). “We Are All Treaty People”: The Contemporary Countenance of Canadian Curriculum Studies. In Ng-A-Fook, N., & Rottmann, J., Reconsidering Canadian Curriculum Studies: Provoking Historical, Present, and Future Perspectives (1st ed.) (p. 23-38) New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. (2009) Social Studies 9 [Curriculum Guide]. Regina: Ministry of Education. Retrieved from https://www.edonline.sk.ca/bbcswebdav/library/curricula/English/Social_Studies/Social_Studies_Education_9_2009.pdf