self-educate, Indian Act, colonialism, listen, label, Indigenous knowledges, curriculum, land acknowledgement, First Nations languages, land education, professional development, classroom environment, circle, Two-Spirit youth, support, advocacy, suicide
Tara: If you were to, um, have an opportunity to talk to teachers today, um, and uh, the subject would be about serving the kids you have worked with well. Kids, um, who also feel different the way that you did, what do you think you’d tell them?
Alec: Educate yourself.
Alec: About colonialism, about the Indian Act, what it did to, uh, to the families of this country. Uh, be compassionate. Listen. Listen more. Don’t assume and label kids if you think they’re slow, they might just be thinking. (Laughs). Thinkers. And um, yah. Um, try to incorporate Native knowledges into your curriculum, like I love what they’re doing now which is acknowledging that they’re on First Nations land at school now.
Alec: Oh wow, that’s amazing. Yah that’s a good start.
Tara: That’s wonderful. I’m gonna ask Austen, is there anything you wanted to ask at this point?
Austen: Um, just what you were talking about earlier made me- caused me to question um, or to think about- I’ve heard discussion about some people saying that the colonial school system in Canada is- that our schools are based on and sort of descended from- is so broken and so horrible for Indigenous people, for First Nations people, that it can’t be repaired. Do you think there is anything that can be done to make our school system useful for First Nations youth, or do you think that there has to be something else done?
Alec: I talked in one of my classes about rehauling the education system. Yah it is based on the colonial mindset, Western mindset, which is different from Indigenous mindsets, so yah, incorporating more Indigenous mindset into the curriculum, like getting outdoors more…
Alec: Getting into the land, language, teaching the language, we’re taught French but we’re not taught Cree, we’re not taught Ojibwe, we’re not taught, yah, Mohawk. We share three founding- three of the major language groups, and um, yah that would be a good start to even teach the language for one hour a week that would be good. Over that, um, yah. More cross-cultural with teachers. Teachers um, I guess, developing, think about that when they’re doing their professional development. Think about, um, yah, going to a- going to some kind of conference where they can educate themselves about Indigenous ways of thinking. Yah. Then there’s the whole- even the physical setup of the classroom is hard to learn in for Indigenous people, ‘cause it’s all rows.
Alec: Right? And Indigenous people learn sitting in circles facing each other. Yah. That’s a major one even here at U of T. Trying to have a circle in a classroom is very hard.
Tara: I think it’s very important to acknowledge what- the harm we’ve done. And um, try and do something about it. We’re losing a whole generation of native two-spirit kids, right, who still have to go through this system, and it’s not helping them. I think it’s set up the way it’s set up to make them fail, right? And um, yah I’m hoping that will change in my lifetime. I mean they’ve been talking about this for how many generations?
Tara: I know.
Alec: Two or three generations? Fixing this? And it has to happen now. Don’t put it off any longer.
Alec: People are getting frustrated. Parents are getting despair. Children are getting in despair. They’re killing themselves. Suicide is a huge problem right now, and I want it to stop. Personally, for me and my community. Yah.