In order to minimize exposure to COVID-19, many educators will be teaching and learning outdoors. This is a wonderful opportunity to re/connect with land, explore environmental justice through inquiry, and integrate First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples’ knowledge and perspectives throughout the curriculum.
As a non-Indigenous ally and accomplice, I am learning about the critical importance of teaching through relationships. This year, I will be teaching Grade 2 and I hope to be outdoors every day, learning with, through and from the land around our school. We will use environmental inquiry and land education to explore the “big ideas” of gratitude, reciprocity, and respect, as we critically reflect on land in the context of colonial settlement.
In every school, the day begins with a land acknowledgment of the traditional First Nations, Metis, and/or Inuit territories that the school is situated upon. This is an important way to honour Indigenous protocol and understand ourselves in relationship to land. It can also be a call to action to decolonize schools and recognize Indigenous sovereignty.
In “What are land acknowledgments and why do they matter?” Indigenous writer Selena Mills invites us to think about how land acknowledgements connect to reconciliation and justice. Land acknowledgements are an important way to honour Indigenous peoples’ kinship beliefs, deep connection, and relationship to land. They can also be used to unsettle colonial narratives and hold all of us accountable to our responsibilities as treaty people.
This year, our school days and entry times might be staggered, and many students will be learning remotely, but I hope that educators will continue to begin each day with a land acknowledgment. This can be shared orally and/or it can appear visually at the top of your virtual classroom.
Call to Action
It is our responsibility as educators to deepen our understandings of Indigenous protocols, history, world views and perspectives, and to integrate these teachings throughout the curriculum. These calls to action are clearly outlined in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report, which are endorsed by ETFO.
After learning more about the diverse communities that have lived and continue to live on the land, students can demonstrate their understanding by writing their own land acknowledgement, and include actions that they will take to care for the land. Here is a template from Amnesty International to consider.
Where Do I Begin?
Every time I teach about lived experiences that are not my own, I approach the new learning with curiosity, humility, and respect. I position myself as a co-learner, actively listen, and share my own questions and learning process with others.
I reach out to families and invite community members to share their knowledge and teaching with us, paid for by Parent Council funding and/or my classroom budget.
I search for resources that are culturally relevant and responsive, written or created by the communities we are learning about. I site the voices and sources of the texts we are using, and focus on narratives that celebrate resistance, love, beauty, innovation, pride, and achievement.
With my students and their families, I try to create a community of collaboration and curiosity. At the beginning of the year, I will encourage reflection and critical thinking about the questions, “Who am I?” and “Where am I?” Throughout the year, I will use the Land Acknowledgment to:
- share stories about our multiple and diverse relationships to land
- ask questions and learn about the original inhabitants and caretakers of land
- identify and disrupt settler colonialism and systemic racism
- learn about treaty agreements and Indigenous rights
- encourage deep connection and gratitude for our relatives
- acknowledge our collective responsibility to protect land
- explore and honour our family journey stories
- engage in acts of solidarity with Indigenous resistance
As we (re)story our relationships to land, we can begin to transform schools, and build relationships of mutual trust and accountability between Indigenous and Settler communities. Teaching beyond the land acknowledgment is a powerful place to start.
ETFO has developed outstanding resources to support the integration of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis perspectives in the classroom. Ask your Teacher Librarian and/or Administrator to bring these inclusive texts into the school:
- Starting from the Heart: Going Beyond a Land Acknowledgement
- Engaging Learners Through Play
- An Introduction to Treaties
- Cultural Appropriation VS Appreciation
- Aboriginal History and Realities in Canada: Grades 1-8 Teachers’ Resource
You can find additional resources, including posters, webinars, and literature at: www.etfofnmi.ca You can also find excellent articles in ETFO’s VOICE magazine.
Please share any other resources that you use in the comments below. Thank you!