My name is Liz Krieg and I am currently a teacher with the Vancouver School District. My family’s connection to unceded Coast Salish territory goes back to the turn of the twentieth century. When my ancestors immigrated, they benefited from the colonial government’s policies because they were from Western European countries. My family was provided with land, as well as economic and political opportunities. We also received an education that taught us that our skin colour, traditions, and ways of seeing the world were the correct way of being. As a white educator, I have been reflecting on Senator Murray Sinclair’s statement, “We have all been taught to believe in aboriginal inferiority and European superiority and that’s wrong” and that accordingly, the way schools treat Indigenous history and ways of knowing needs to be “re-evaluated and rethought and recast.” The most recent iteration of British Columbia’s K–12 curriculum makes significant progress in this regard. In particular, it calls on educators to integrate Indigenous peoples’ ways of knowing across all subject areas rather than relegating them to isolated units of study. The necessary next step to implement this curriculum requires us to address the truth about colonization and examine education’s role – present as well as past – in the perpetuation of inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The teachings that Elsie Paul shares in As I Remember It provide opportunities for such examination and reflection.
As I Remember It begins with an “Invitation to Listen.” Elsie explains: “You listen to these stories, or the legends, or examples, and you apply that to your life. That’s why you’re the one that’s responsible for the direction your life takes you.” For teachers and students to apply these stories to their lives in the classroom, this means thinking critically about teaching and the curriculum. Specifically, this means working collectively to identify and counter the systemic Eurocentrism and racism embedded in British Columbia’s public education system. The teachings shared here offer one way to begin to unpack the colonial narrative that has been the foundation of the formal education system in British Columbia. In place of the problematic tendency of much curriculum to teach about Indigenous peoples, Elsie provides an opportunity to learn from an Indigenous Elder and knowledge keeper.
We are each uniquely situated on a continuum of learning about the relationship between past and present, and the differences between Western European and Indigenous epistemologies. Elsie shares both ɬaʔamɩn history and ɬaʔamɩn epistemology in this book. Throughout, teachers will find examples that connect to each of the curricular areas across the K–12 spectrum.
The educator’s guide helps you identify which pages of As I Remember It address curriculum goals for specific grades and subject areas. As you go through the book, you will see additional possibilities for connecting your lesson plans with the history and teachings that Elsie shares.
For Your Consideration
Please read Paige Raibmon’s piece, “Transformational Listening: Stories Are a Gift, Learning Is a Process,” to help situate your own engagement with the teachings. Raibmon shares her experiences of coming to realize the importance of reflecting on “how and when and why we listen,” especially as a “settler-ally of Indigenous peoples living in a colonial nation-state.” Listening for the sake of listening, she notes, does little to “transform not only attitudes but also relations of power.” The ways we talk and teach about non-Indigenous peoples in Canada is an integral part of decolonizing the curriculum and furthering reconciliation. Too often, these discussions continue to treat settler practices as the norm. For consideration of how to make these often-hidden assumptions visible, see “How to Talk about Relations Between Indigenous Peoples and Europeans.”
Please refer to the Teacher: Background Information and Resources of the “Their Voices Will Guide Us: Student and Youth Engagement Guide.” Starting on page 11, the authors of the document share definitions and language important to know when learning and discussing the ongoing legacies of colonialism within education.
The teachings that Elsie Paul shares specifically reflect her community’s relationship to land, knowledge, language, history, governance, and law. They are not generalizable to other Indigenous peoples who have their own teachings, laws, and practices. Relatedly, although colonization is a process with global reach, each Indigenous people has experienced and continues to experience it in unique ways.
Becoming an Ally
Whether in the classrooms, on the streets, or at the dinner table, it is crucial to know when and how to speak and listen in order to make systemic change. One place to explore what it means to be an ally to Indigenous peoples is the Indigenous Ally Toolkit recently developed by Dakota Swiftwolfe from the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network.
Elementary school teachers have the incredible role in education of planting the initial seeds of understanding about truth and reconciliation. There are opportunities in these pages for teachers to draw out content and themes that they can use in Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, and Science. Note that the educator’s guide for K–3 subjects selects age-appropriate pages from the book. We encourage primary and intermediate teachers to scaffold the knowledge and concepts early on that are subsequently necessary for brave conversations around difficult subject matter with their classes.
We encourage secondary teachers to read all of the chapters, not just the ones that appear most aligned with a particular subject. Reading the entire book reveals possibilities for curricular cooperation and makes apparent the interconnected nature of the different chapters. For example, “Community” deepens readers’ understanding of the impacts of residential schools discussed in “Colonialism,” which in turn provides context for the knowledge Elsie Paul shares in “Territory” and “Wellness.” A teacher of “Science for Citizens 11,” where the curriculum asks students to know, “personal and public health practices, including First Peoples traditional health and healing practices,” could draw upon each one of these chapters to meet the learning outcomes.
With humility, bravery, and willingness to learn, educators are in a strong position to make the changes outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Findings. As we all listen and process the teachings that Elsie Paul shares, we get closer to the heart of Senator Murray Sinclair’s statement, “education is what got us here, and education is going to get us out.”