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How teachers can involve themselves – and their classes – with Project of Heart:
Health, Nutrition, Phys. Ed
Students can research various Aboriginal artists and the influences on their art (i.e. Norval Morriseau). Students can also learn how various artistic movements (i.e. Inuit print-making cooperatives) were aided by the dislocations and uprootings caused by Canadian government policies (of which the residential school systems were a part).
Students can learn which careers (which primarily benefitted the dominant European Canadian population) grew out of the “business” of residential schools. Students can learn which careers today depend on the continued colonization of Indigenous peoples. Think of careers dealing with people, like health, social work, and education. One can also research jobs in the corporate sector where businesses that rely on resource extraction or development (many times on contested land-claims territory) are taking place.
Students can research what participation in “civic” life meant for the average Indigenous person within his or her nation. How leadership presented itself and lived itself out in the lives of the tribe and how decisions were made in traditional government (consensus) are areas that students and teachers could learn about and comparisons could be made to the way our government/political processes work. The democratic processes within the 2 world-views could be analyzed and reflected upon. Students can research why Canada (the Department of Indian Affairs) had so much power over them and why they had no choice but to submit to its dictates).
Students can be exposed to the work of people like Tompson Highway, Drew Hayden-Taylor, Yvette Nolan. (Highway’s work is heavily influenced by his residential school experience in northern Manitoba.)
Students could read novels, biographies, autobiographies re: Indian residential schools and the effects of forced assimilation. Books by Maria Campbell, Tomson Highway, Basil Johnston are great places to start.
Students can learn how European-style clothing was the “uniform” of evangelization. Students can compare traditional clothing styles of particular Indigenous nations with the clothing they were forced to adopt at residential schools.
Students could track the journeys of the children from their home reserves in whichever province or territory they lived, to the schools. (Some students were sent 200-300 miles away from their parents. Many children within the same family were split up and sent to different schools.)
Students can research what children at a particular residential school ate and how they ate. They can also find out how the food was grown (forced labour in the afternoons) and what was done with it afterward. Students can find out what the children did in the spare time they had, the games they played, the extra-curricular activities they engaged in.
: This is quite self-evident. We cover this in the first part of our history course.
Students can research how the residential schools were built. Because the Department of Indian Affairs was so underfunded during the early part of the century, and the schooling of natives was a lucrative venture for the churches (the government paid them “per head”), there was very little effort put in to ensuring that the buildings were made properly. The majority of deaths were attributed to T.B., which thrived in the wet, poorly insulated, hastily-built structures.
Students can research traditional legal “systems” within various Indigenous nations to determine their pros/cons. For example, Indigenous legal/political systems can still be seen today within the 6 Nations Confederacy, which still has a traditional arm of governance, although it is not recognized by Canada (the Department of Indian Affairs). Students will find out how the Canadian Criminal Justice System was able to enforce the legislation it did to forcefully remove Indigenous children from their communities as well as to criminalize some traditional practices.
Numbers of schools, percentages of students who lived/died being compared. Comparisons between schools in eastern Canada and western Canada. The years involved (1880’s up to the 1970s) and what death rates were like in which decades. Students can look at present day statistics by comparing rates of disease (AIDs, diabetes, etc.) of Indigenous peoples with the non-Aboriginal population.
Students could research traditional Indigenous ways of parenting, how these ways differ from the dominant European-Canadian “norm” and how residential schools disrupted family (clan) styles and led to a social breakdown within Aboriginal communities.
Students can research how selected people within the nation were delegated the responsibility to be the doctors and the medicine people. Depending on where the residential school was situated, students could research what medicinal plants or herbs could have been used for what ailments. Students can understand how, when the children were sick and dying in the schools, western medicine did no good (or many times was not administered) and they had no access to their own doctors.
Students can research how Christianity became the tool of the state in order to “civilize” the Aboriginal people. Students can learn how Christian-European ethnocentric practices enabled such oppressive measures to be taken at the Residential Schools (financed by the Government of Canada). Students can learn how Christianity was enforced in order to replace traditional spirituality.
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