ECS 210 (Summer 2020): Blog 4

o   During fall semester several years ago,Dr. Mike Cappello received an email from an intern asking for help. Here’s part of it: “As part of my classes for my three week block I have picked up a Social Studies 30 course. This past week we have been discussing the concept of standard of living and looking at the different standards across Canada . I tried to introduce this concept from the perspective of the First Nations people of Canada and my class was very confused about the topic and in many cases made some racist remarks. I have tried to reintroduce the concept but they continue to treat it as a joke. The teachers at this school are very lax on the topic of Treaty Education as well as First Nations ways of knowing. I have asked my Coop for advice on Treaty Education and she told me that she does not see the purpose of teaching it at this school because there are no First Nations students. I was wondering if you would have any ideas of how to approach this topic with my class or if you would have any resources to recommend.”

o   This is a real issue in schools. As you listen to Dwayne’s invitation/challenge, as you listen to Claire’s lecture and as you read Cynthia’s narrative – use these resources and your blog to craft a response to this student’s email, being sure to address the following questions:


Hello _________


I am sad to hear about this. It is a great idea to cover Treaty Education in your Social Studies 30 class. Teachers can have a powerful influence, both positive and negative, on how people understand First Nations’ rights and the injustices they have suffered.


What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?


In two YouTube videos by Michael Cappello, a teacher named Claire shares the importance of including Independent Nations’ perspectives in the classroom. Claire argues that because Indigenous students are a minority, it is difficult for them to express themselves. That is why it is important for teachers to take the task upon themselves. Claire admits that her own knowledge of Indigenous issues might not be the best; however, teaching it was also a learning experience and she improved her knowledge. She gave an interesting example of this: For an assignment where her students pretended to interview past Indigenous peoples, the class addressed the issue of the Independent Nations ceding their lands to white settlers. Thanks to the help of one of her students, Claire learned that in fact the Independent Nations agreed to share their land, not give it up. This was a transformative discovery. Claire stresses that often with historical topics teachers only teach names and dates rather than explore relationships. She emphasizes that we must recognize that the Treaties were not just legal agreements but also expressions of ongoing relationships. Therefore, it is important not to simply regard them as ‘history’, but also as continuous agreements of friendship and cooperation. Similarly, a video by University of Lethbridge professor Dwayne Donald stresses that the damage done by colonization was that it created a disconnect between Indigenous and European peoples. They were pitted against each other, with First Nations peoples emerging weakened and diminished. Unique First Nations identities were undermined. Donald asserts that culture is a verb rather than a noun. This ‘active’ quality requires that it be treated sensitively and respectfully, in the same manner that you would treat someone’s race.


What does it mean for your under standing of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?


Cynthia Chambers’ article “We are all Treaty People: The Contemporary Countenance of Canadian Curriculum Studies” states that “treaties are a story that we share” (29). The emphasis on “we” argues that the Treaties apply not only to First Nations peoples, but to all Canadians. They represent a living agreement that shapes active relationships relative to land and resources. Interestingly, Chambers also uses the term “common sense”. However, she defines it differently than Kumashiro. For Chambers, common sense is an Indigenous concept meaning having an innate understanding of human beings’ relationship to nature and the universe. Indigenous common sense provides a sustainable outlook toward the natural world and ecology. Indigenous worldviews often prioritize the natural world and its life forms as the “old times,” and human beings as the “new comers,” which results in a less disruptive and polluting outlook upon nature.


_______, I hope this information provides you with the resources and confidence necessary to effectively teach your Social Studies 30 class.


Best wishes,



Cynthia Chamber’s “We are all Treaty People”: We are all Treaty People.

Dwayne Donald’s lecture on Vimeo: “On What Terms Can we Speak?”

Claire’s presentation on YouTube: Claire Introduction and Mike & Claire  



1 Comment

  1. Thank you Jaques for your thoughtful post. I really like that you posted in your blog about what Cynthia Chambers article articulated that, ““We are all Treaty People: The Contemporary Countenance of Canadian Curriculum Studies” states that “treaties are a story that we share” (29) I really like the perspective that the treaties are stories that we all share, there are different historical references dependent on your culture however we share that story in many different ways. When I think of my own understanding of curriculum “we are all treaty people” is that I am on borrowed land being of white settler descent but this is still my home. I want to educate to all students in the class on the truth of our dark Canadian history.
    I also would agree with you that Indigenous worldviews often prioritize the natural world. They have a deep rooted connection to the creator and all that is provided, something that has been passed down through traditions and culture. I do feel a disconnect however in my own treaty education and how much I still need to learn as well teach in the classrooms in the near future. These articles have stirred up my own connection to ancestry and my views on how I can bring in Treaty Ed properly into my classroom. How do you plan to bring treaty education into your future classroom?


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