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Education for reconciliation

February 14, 2018
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By Diane Luckow

Last August, SFU’s Faculty of Education kicked off a unique, two-year program, Indigenous Education: Education for Reconciliation.

This Graduate Diploma in Advanced Professional Studies in Education (GDE) is helping educators learn how to weave Indigenous knowledge and practices into the B.C. school curriculum.

“Education for reconciliation is about intercultural learning, and transforming the systemic contexts in which we raise young people,” says education professor Vicki Kelly. “It’s about finding ways to respond to the call to attend to Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations, and what it means to live on this land together.”

A partnership with local First Nations

The program, developed through a partnership and collaboration with members of the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and the North Vancouver School District, is delivered on traditional Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nation lands.

The program attracted a first cohort of 25 educators, including new and seasoned teachers, a Squamish knowledge-holder, an environmental filmmaker and a community youth educator. They are learning about Indigenous perspectives, knowledge practices and pedagogies, and about the land, from members of each nation, and are participating in traditional activities and community events.

“The program is experiential and participatory, which is a foundation of Indigenous education,” says Kelly. “Students learn how to work with the knowledges, perspectives and histories of the nations, Indigenous storytelling, the use of talking circles, and with art, drumming and song. They are not only getting an understanding of different world views, but of how you educate from that place.”

Developing 'two-eyed seeing'

She says this GDE develops the capacity for ‘two-eyed seeing’— a braiding of Indigenous and contemporary holistic child development that educators can instill in their own teaching practices.

“We wanted to create a program that would foster sustained inquiry into the relevance of Indigenous education today for all children,” says Kelly. “The result is a program that expresses the Indigenous world view, values and understanding of human development, and that explores what that offers children and educators, as well as the Canadian public.”

“We are drawing from the knowledge and understandings of the people who are the leaders and mentors within these nations,” says Paula Rosehart, the program’s academic coordinator. “This collaborative work is for the children, youth and teachers of the next generation.”

A great step forward

Squamish Nation Councillor Chris Lewis, an SFU governor, says, “This program is a great step forward in providing meaningful, accurate and authentic local First Nation knowledge and understanding to those educators and champions who serve to educate our youth in the education system.”

Angela George, director of community development for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation says, “SFU Burnaby campus is in the heart of Tsleil-Waututh territory and collaboration and partnership is a key priority for our nation. This education initiative is an important step in our relationship-building that will combine the strengths, knowledge and understanding of the host nations, North Vancouver School District and SFU to collaborate on a rich and culturally appropriate program.”