Education is the pathway to reconciliation

Illustration by Kia Kortelainen

All educational institutions have a part to play in bridging the divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

Earlier this month, after a five-year investigation into the brutal history of the residential school system, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee released a report naming education as a pathway to reconciliation. 

The residential school system, and all its abuses, isn’t a distant history. Suggesting so wrongfully lessens the seriousness of its ongoing divisive legacy.  

Schools, from elementary to post-secondary, can mitigate the effects of this legacy by bringing the history and culture of Canada’s Indigenous peoples into various disciplines ­­­— from history to business to law. This can eradicate the tendency to misunderstand or dismiss Aboriginal people and culture out of ignorance. 

Educating future educators, politicians, historians and lawyers with an understanding and respect for the complete history of Canada will by extension disseminate this learning throughout our education system. 

The introduction of an Indigenous Studies degree plan at Queen’s in 2013 indicates the growing interest for in a culture that has historically been ignored. 

Universities need to evolve and cater to this growing demand by providing a greater selection of courses that teach Aboriginal culture and use Indigenous teaching methodologies. 

To do so requires hiring professors who are properly equipped to teach these subjects while respecting the lived experience of Canadian Aboriginals both past and present. 

But reconciliation goes deeper than teaching the history of the residential school system.

It requires a change in mindset and behooves us to be aware not only of what we’re learning, but also how we’re learning it.

Aboriginal language, literature and culture are very present, yet appear abstract and immaterial to most of us. 

The Eurocentric history we’re exclusively taught physically surrounds us, embedded in our textbooks, monuments and geographic borders.

What is required of us, then, is to empower the knowledge and experience of Aboriginal peoples by recognizing its immediate value. 

Our desire to implement changes ourselves needs to be balanced with respect for Aboriginal people’s right to teach their own history and culture.

Progress takes time and many voices speaking. 

There are already many resources in the Kingston community, like the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, that are more than willing to provide a wealth of learning. But only if we’re prepared to listen. 

It’s time we did.

                                                                                                                  — Journal Editorial Board


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