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First Nations and Curriculum Discussion

Dec 07 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Notes from the FN TWS Curriculum discussion group

Thursday December 7, 2017 at 7pm

Present: Sonya, Arlene K, Kristin G., Arlene S, Phaedra, Christina, Natasha, Matt S., Laura H-W, Mel, Rob, Anna

  1. Hopes for our children and future generations:

-wanting to grow the “sensitive muscle” – less ignorant, more responsible

-teaching children a different geography, “Canada” no longer the norm – teaching about Turtle Island

-decolonized mind – concerned not only with our own kids, but many generations forward

-not appropriating/introducing stories & language

-offer both sides of the story – not just what the settlers did, but what it was like for FN

-personal connection to closest reserve to us, relationship with Everlasting Tree School

– affect future generations, understand it as permeating their understanding (not just one course)

-the work we do here is a multigenerational process, complicated

-practical – curriculum pieces: gr. 7, an easy place to reshape it, so far has been very colonial

-expanding for it to permeate across the curriculum

-looking at northern cultures, not just Norse on grade 4

-celebrate the many cultures (not just FN)

-how do we normalize the differences?

-Waldorf curriculum is not ‘values-based’ it is developmentally based on what the children need. It has to be living in the teachers for them to present these elements to the children at the right time.

-it is broader than just the curriculum

-decolonizing our minds is perhaps more important

-this is adding more richness to the children’s understanding of the land that they are on,

-John Young – these things need to be living in us, e.g. festivals – need to be living in the community

-demographics rather homogeneous at TWS

-another perspective: no, it is diverse but not as visual

– Looking at/reshaping the curriculum could help make us more diverse/appealing

-the emphasis is on decolonizing the curriculum shouldn’t get lost in the idea of multiculturalism

-Although we say our curriculum is value-free, we are imposing values on them, going to Pioneer Village.

-Seeing our own cultural backgrounds/ancestry allows us to not be ‘neutral Canadians’ but real people relating to FN people.

Whatever practical work happens, it needs to be accompanied by an authentic personal stab at decolonizing ourselves.


  1. Define decolonization? (the word is being used a lot)

-100s of years of people coming to Turtle Island, most Indigenous people had their lives turned upside down – language, culture, resource extraction, there is independence now but carries this history

Decolonizing myself: things we take for granted (language, Canada, how we occupy land, eg. Beaches and cottages) unceded territory like the Haldimand Tract

-Protocol around teaching Indigenous storytelling – the importance of how this works in Indigenous cultures

-For gr. 4 we need to imagine how they imagine themselves when they dress up as Pioneers and read Little House on the Prairie.

-colonization is something that is happen now – recolonization

-willingness to be open. Have challenging words and consider them instead of being defensive. Even education is colonial in some ways, its controlling nature, having someone at the front of the class, colonization is steeped in us

-realizing lack-of-culture culture issues

Cultural genocide – one culture obliterates another – wonder how we can ‘decolonize’ trying to let cultures exist without one dominating another. Hard to see what to do. You know  something is wrong, don’t know what to do.

-If we can tell how we are colonial, that can give us a hint of how to decolonize
-Yes, it’s happening now

-It is an act of openness to have these difficult conversations, develop new language

-want our kids to know how lucky we are to have this convo, how sad it is, that in the future they might not need to. Owning it, striving for our children to have a different conversation in 40 years, not just in curriculum.

-Building relationships, going to 6Nations instead of just inviting them here (pow wows, strawberry festival at Everlasting Tree) don’t want the children to learn this when they are 20 – they can learn an alternative geography early and have that be age appropriate.

– new way of being with our children, not to teach them to override another culture

-But it is more insidious than this: racism

-need to accept others and self

-Rob: Learning through imitation 0-7 years so we need to do our own work, for it to be living in us

we can do things at school, also at home, still honour what is age-appropriate, it’s good to have these difficult conversations, not easy


  1. Resources/what are people doing at home to foster decolonization? Recommendations?
    -being nature connected, humble, less in our head, more in our senses, that is one of the best things I can do for our kids, intentionally not being ‘teacher’; not a single authority at the front, a whole lot of mentors

-buying food from local producers, authentic, keeping our kids connected to their cultures and roots, decolonizing through what we eat, who we support

-Good books (Christina and Matt both have good resources), Braiding Sweetgrass

Being part of a community that is committed to this work

Becoming reconnected to your own roots, before colonization

Jan Sherman’s summer camp, spirit connections camp

Decolonizing parenting reading group happened a few years ago

Act dinner (so far once a year event in October) – email group (email amrbowen@gmail.com to be added)

– books for children from an Indigenous perspective

-privilege of choosing not to expose our JK kids to that material

Another reading gourp – treaty rights, white settler faculty deciding what it means to be a treaty people. Read the Royal Commission Report (what Truth and Reconciliation report is based on) online course – reconciliation through Indigenous education – you tube vids, telling protocol around storytelling, Australian kindergarten teachers decolonizing their curriculum.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – poetry and critical theory

Six Nations lecture series, Guelph Outdoor School, Talking about it, Visiting local reservations

ACT dinner, festivals, building relationships, teaching Wampum

Non-normative perspectives of the world – kids books, teaching something different about geography when travelling, e.g. “Saugeen Peninsula” instead of Bruce Peninsula

Visiting Chikasaw settlement – learn using herbs as medicine, making it normal to know the name of all the plants, awareness of birdsong

Educate ourselves, coming to things like this. Speaking up if you hear things

Be with young kids, non-judgmental, try not to put my own stuff on them. Learn more about my ancestry, the land we grew up with. Revisit the same spots in nature. Surround family with good people

Ability for children to witness how we think, how we step into things, that’s where we can have impact

-meals, variety of people, modelling justice and interesting conversations

-living in a space of questioning and curiosity

-think about who you are hanging out with – if they all look like you, consider expanding, calling out fairtytales

Education ourselves, participate in Canada working group (Waldorf) discussions, personal reading at home,

-as a visible minority, good to go into this question as well and contribute to discussion and change

Attend other festivals outside of family festivals, exposure to different cultures without an agenda – grand river powwow, food dancing, arts, participate where appropriate. White pine dancers – storytelling and dancing, Crawford lake.

In Guelph: Truth and Reconciliation Circle, Indigenous knowledge circle, are both open to join and ongoing.

Arlene and Rob to visit Everlasting Tree Schools, organize relationship, get to know each other more

Encourage you to ask questions, fi you want this more this is how it will happen

Arlene, Christina, Phaedra, will be connection with the ETS (or the Canadian Working Group?) if you want to be involved, let Arlene know

James Bryan – Rudolf Steiner center in Toronto. Direct – bring indigenous curriculum to the table. Online unconscious bias test

Articles in renewal

-how is Strat plan connected to this? Through pedagogy or social committees. Discussion of meeting in the new year.

Discussion of bringing the Blanket Exercise as a proposal to faculty (villa?)

And/or Chandra could offer this kind of orientation



Parents, faculty, admin and board members are invited to an open discussion to contribute to a conversation around how we approach First Nations issues, culture, and relationships in our curriculum and our community. Discussion could include issues around pedagogy, inclusion, ways to incorporate teachings and form community relationships while being sensitive to issues of appropriation.

Thursday, December 7th at 7pm at the school.  Please contact Rob Helmer with any questions.



Dec 07
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
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