UR STARS: Resistance and Reconciliation

The UR STARS hosted Resistance and Reconciliation, a professional development event that was styled in a way for a round table discussion. The main focus of the event was to talk about what reconciliation looks like in a classroom and why resistance is so important to overcome. Speakers were Dr. Mike Cappello, Dr. Shanunee Pete, Life Speaker Noel Starblanket, Dr. Tana Mitchell, and Tamara Ryba, who all have experience working with the TRC’s calls to action. With each of the following questions asked, I was able to pull out key learnings, as well as bring in my own thoughts and understandings of the questions.

Q1: As we engage in the work of integrating treaty education and fully including FNMI content/perspectives what forms can resistance take?

A1: There will be resistance from parents, other teachers, non-aboriginal students and aboriginal students.Aboriginal students may not feel as though you have not earned the right to talk about their history, because they may not trust you to tell it right, and unbiased. One of the biggest things to note about treaty ed, is that we haven’t eliminated whiteness, we have just added content. Before we start removing resistance from parents, students and teachers we need to stop thinking that us as teachers know everything, that they way we teach may in fact be causing the resistance.

Q2: What are some effective strategies you have found to disrupt resistance?

A2: It is easy for our generation to think of aboriginals as victims, because of the mistreatment that happened to them for so many generations. However, when we think of aboriginals as only victims, and not as people, as a source of information and indigenous teachings and methodology. Aboriginal people are not victims, they are people who have been made victims. Noel Starblanket said “now that you’ve heard, you can’t unhear; now that you’ve seen, you can’t unsee–There is no innocence, remaining quiet is as political as speaking up”. By not teaching treaty ed, you are saying that the injustices found in Canadian history are acceptable. Not acting, is just silently acting.

Q3: What is your advice to teachers/pre-service teachers when they experience resistance?

A3: I cannot take responsibility for what those before me have done, but I can take responsibility for how I act on, and teach about the past. Treaty education is not only about content but it is about identity. Resistance comes from the students feeling as though their identity is being questioned. As teachers we need to identify that not every student is at the same place in their journey, this needs to be acknowledge and responded to.

Q4: What work needs to be done/steps need to be taken before we can even talk about reconciliation?

A4: Think about the words and vocabulary that you chose to use. What do the words mean, why are you using them, do the students understand the implications of using the words do you? These are all important questions to think about when teaching treaty education.

These four questions, while it may not look like much had so much depth and discussion around them. I am excited to bring the concept of  reconciliation into my future classroom, and while I know there will be resistance from parents, students and other teachers I hope that I can overcome it to fully educated my students. I believe that some of my learnings for the PD opportunity will make a difference in how I approach treaty ed, reconciliation, FMNI content and resistance within my future classrooms.