University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
The Student Teachers Anti-Racism Society (STARS) promotes anti-racism education at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan through the support of the College. We work collaboratively to understand, identify, and address individual and systemic racism and its interlocking forms of oppression based on gender, sexuality, ability, class, religion and other socially constructed categories. We believe that anti-racist and decolonizing education, when woven together, can create humanizing and emancipatory change for everyone.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Black or White: Kids on Race. A CNN analysis of race

Although CNN doesn't provide a thorough race analysis of this study, the study is interesting and important because it tells us that children are STILL internalizing the hierarchy that STILL exists in our society. It also tells us that kids are thinking about race in complex ways. This documentary can be used in the classroom to show students how the history of race and contemporary racist ideologies, that support beliefs in white superiority, continue to hold power and influence everyone. One of the important messages in the study is that we have to examine our own beliefs before and as we teach children about racism - children model adults' behaviors (what we do and say) and these observations influence children more significantly than what we try to teach them. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYkUMqxr_o8

CNN tried to hold individual parents accountable for the children's responses, however, they did not explore the history and purpose of race or the structures existing in our society that allow racism to occur. These structures normalize the false beliefs that whiteness is ideal and dark skin signifies inferiority. Clearly, as this study demonstrates, it is never too early to start to teach children about racism and anti-racism education.

Some questions for students: How would you apply this study to a Saskatchewan context? What policies and practices do these messages justify? Who benefits? What are the social and material outcomes of these beliefs? From where do these ideas originate and why? What has to happen to challenge and change these ideas? What can one person do?

Thanks for sharing Janice!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"The one who takes the best meat for himself": Aaron Huey on America's Prisoners of War

In this video, Aaron Huey intertwines white privilege and Indigenous oppression while offering a decolonized perspective of American history extending to the present. Huey explores the notion of white privilege through the Lakota term "wasichu" meaning "non-Indian" or "the one who takes the best meat for himself." As he speaks, Huey explicitly indicates to the [predominantly white] audience that they are the beneficiaries of a brutal American history based on slaughter and exploitation:"We are at a private school in the American West, sitting in red velvet chairs with money in our pockets. And if you look at our lives, we have indeed taken the best part of the meat."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Islamophobia resources

Western society, especially the media, focuses on the cosmetic issues of the burqa and the hijab instead of real social, political and economical issues that are occurring in Middle Eastern countries. Muslim and Islamic people in our society are constantly vilified in the media. Here are a few useful links that you can use in your classroom.

See Yemen Through My Eyes

Dylan Ratigan Discusses the problem with the media portrayal of Muslims


Scholar Edward Said discusses Orientalism

Documentary - Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a people

Noam Chomsky on Terrorism

Maz Jobrani: A founding member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour, Maz is an Iranian-American comedian touring with his solo comedy show Brown and Friendly.


Hamdan, A. (2009). Muslim women speak: A tapestry of lives and dreams. Toronto: Women’ Press.

Hasan, E. (2010, March/April). Blanket condemnations: Contested feminisms and the politics of the burqa. Briarpatch. 39(2), 16-19.

Joya, M. (2009). A woman among warlords: The extraordinary story of an Afghan who dared to raise her voice. New York: Scribner.

Mernissi, F. (2005). Conclusion: Women’s liberation in Muslim countries. In W.K. Kolmar’s Feminist Theory: A Reader. Boston: McGraw Hill.

Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.

Sensoy, O., & Marshall, E. (Winter 2009/2010). Save the Muslim girl. Rethinking Schools. (14-19).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shannen's dream

Once students understand what racism is and how it works to justify racial inequality and the oppression of Aboriginal peoples, they will be able to use a race and power analysis to understand current injustices such as the state of First Nations schools in Canada. 

For more information and teaching resources see:

A Report Card No Parent Would Accept

Photo: Liam Sharp
Shannen Koostachin’s plea for a decent school for Attawapiskat would not surprise children on many reserves across Canada. In northern Manitoba, students from the Bunibonibee First Nation could not attend regular classes this year because their school is contaminated with mould. Lake St. Martin First Nation students evacuated a school infested with snakes a decade ago and still go to class in portables while awaiting a new school.
Federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser has reported serious problems in educational funding at INAC several times since 2001 and told a Senate committee in November 2009 that she has seen little improvement over the decade. The Parliamentary Budget Officer supported complaints of underfunding in a special report on capital spending in First Nations schools last year. Only 49 percent of schools were listed in “good condition”; 77 schools were housed in “temporary structures”; and 10 schools were closed due to their condition. More than 20 percent of the schools were described as “not inspected.” Comprehensive reports from INAC and its independent critics are all available online.
Charlie Angus, the NDP MP for Timmins–James Bay and a long-time advocate for a new school for the Attawapiskat children in his riding, introduced a motion in Parliament this fall to guarantee equality of education for First Nations students. For more information, see www.shannensdream.ca.
“In provincial schools, there are guarantees by law and regulation on everything from curriculum to class sizes to the quality of the school building and the square footage of classrooms,” says Angus. “That doesn’t exist in Indian country. You get what Indian Affairs gives you.”
Linda Goyette

Mickey Mouse Monopoly Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power

One of my former students sent this link to me. Thanks Jocelyn! The Media Education Foundation's study guide for the film provides excellent anti-racism and anti-oppressive teaching resources/discussion questions for children (with some modifications) and youth. Mickey Mouse Monopoly part one (all five parts are on YouTube):
Mickey Mouse Monopoly youtube playlist

Media Education Foundation (click on study guide):
The Disney Company's massive success in the 20th century is based on creating an image of innocence, magic and fun. Its animated films in particular are almost universally lauded as wholesome family entertainment, enjoying massive popularity among children and endorsement from parents and teachers. Mickey Mouse Monopoly takes a close and critical look at the world these films create and the stories they tell about race, gender and class and reaches disturbing conclusions about the values propagated under the guise of innocence and fun. This daring new video insightfully analyzes Disney's cultural pedagogy, examines its corporate power, and explores its vast influence on our global culture. Including interviews with cultural critics, media scholars, child psychologists, kindergarten teachers, multicultural educators, college students and children, Mickey Mouse Monopoly will provoke audiences to confront comfortable assumptions about an American institution that is virtually synonymous with childhood pleasure. Sections: Disney's Media Dominance | Disney's Gender Representations | Disney's Race Representations | Disney's Commercialization of Children's Culture

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Louis Riel Day (the third Monday of February)

Happy Louis Riel Day!

Many teachers continue to use the term rebellion when referring to Metis resistance and focus on Riel's sanity instead of what he was fighting for and why. The oppression of Metis people continues to be an untold story in most classrooms.

In honour of Riel here are two useful websites:

Gabriel DuMont virtural museum
Virtual Museum of Batoche

Louis Riel Day

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The RACE Project

"[Racism] is not about how you look, it is about how people assign meaning to how you look." - Robin D.G. Kelley, historian
The RACE Project is the first national [American, but an important website for all anti-racism educators] collaborative effort to present an integrated view of race and human variation through biological, cultural and historical perspectives. The public education program explains how human biological variation differs from race, when and why the idea of race was invented, and how race and racism affect everyday life. The program has three primary messages. (1) Race is a recent human invention. (2) The idea of race is about culture, not biology. (3) Race and racism are embedded in our institutions and everyday life.

For more information and grade 5 - 12 lesson plans and activities visit: www.understandingrace.org

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Kit: A Manual by Youth to Combat Racism Through Education (2000)

The KIT is an amalgamation of three complementary sections, all addressing racism: information, tools, and resources. The Information section looks at current issues and key concepts in racism, and debunks a range of myths and misconceptions. Want to discuss privilege, practice intercultural communication, or hold a debate on racism in Canada? The Tools section includes a wide range of interactive workshops for a variety of ages and interests, as well as a step-by-step guide for organizing an activity. A multitude of books, films, youth organizations, and educational materials are listed in the Resources section for further reading, action, and inspiration! And, a time line noting key moments in Canadian history relevant to racism and anti-racism runs throughout the KIT. 

Find the Kit here. 

United Nations Association in Canada youth corner

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ab-Originals: Supporting Media Equity

Aboriginal and other racially oppressed artists are underrepresented in mainstream North American media. Expose your students to talented musicians who they don't often hear on TV or the radio. Discuss why you don't often hear these voices in mainstream media...discuss why programs such as "Ab-Originals" exist...
"Ab-Originals is a weekly podcast of the hottest Aboriginal music in Canada. Four of the best-known musical hosts in Indian Country will bring you live concerts, urban and hip-hop music, top 10 chart artists, and all the rest of it in their musical podlatch."


Download some podcasts- share them with your students!


Provincial Aboriginal Education Resources

It is always interesting, and valuable to see the initiatives and goals of provincial and territorial Aboriginal Education departments across Canada. Educators can enhance their knowledge base, goals and objectives and Indigenous resource base by investigating provincial Aboriginal Education policies and curricula:

Provincial/Territorial Departments of Education
British Columbia Ministry of Education: Aboriginal Education Enhancements

Alberta Education: First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework

Saskatchewan Learning: First Nations and Métis Education Branch


Manitoba Education: Aboriginal Education and Training

Ontario Ministry of Education: Ontario First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework


New Brunswick

Nova Scotia


Prince Edward Island Education: Aboriginal Education

Government of Nunavut: Department of Education

Northwest Territories Teacher Induction: Links and Resources

Yukon Government Department of Education: Yukon Native Language Centre

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Saying Nothing is Saying Something": The Act of Speaking Out

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing." -Edmund Burke
This quote rings true for the countless injustices that take place on our planet everyday. Although we may not agree with racism, sexism, violence, wars, genocide, corporate crime, etc. etc. our power to stop these things is lost when we do not exercise our right to speak out against them.

Racism has been granted institutional and systemic power through history because not enough people speak/spoke out against it.

Speaking out is all to often regarded as too 'political' and too 'extreme.' However, we forget that remaining neutral, or remaining silent is an extremely political act as well. The oppressor uses this silence to his or her advantage. By saying nothing we encourage the status quo.

Jason Carney does a beautiful job expressing how the act of silence has worked to shape his life. Check out "My Southern Heritage":

USASK Indigenous Studies Portal

"The Indigenous Studies Portal (iPortal) connects faculty, students, researchers and members of the community with electronic resources: books, articles, theses, documents, photographs, archival resources, maps, etc.

Visit http://iportal.usask.ca/ to check it out!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lesson Idea - Western Borders and Indigenous Sovereignity

Learning about Indigenous Sovereignty through the experience of the Iroquois Nation Lacrosse Team

This lesson idea came out of a current event that students may or may not be familiar with.
It suits many subject areas: Social Studies, Geography, Native Studies, History, Social Justice, English

Lesson Framework:

Objectives- Students will develop an understanding of how European land conventions (borders, land division, private property) are given power above Indigenous rights to land and ways of regarding land.
Outcomes- Students will begin to deconstruct how/why European institutions are socially accepted and often unchallenged. They will begin to rethink how Indigenous land rights are dealt with internationally. They will begin to formulate an understanding of Indigenous sovereignty.

Background Info:
In late July 2010, the Iroquois Nation Lacrosse team, based out of the traditional Iroquois land area (on both sides of the Canadian and American border), was refused entry to Britain as they offered officials documentation issued by the Iroquois Confederacy. Because they did not show American or Canadian passports, the players were not allowed into the country.

You can access more information on this issue on CBC and YouTube:

Article: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/07/14/us-iroquois-lacrosse-team.html


To learn more about the Iroquois Confederacy visit the social studies section of BrainPop (a subscription is needed, ask your administrator- your division likely has one)

To further expand on this concept share the story "Borders" by Thomas King with your students.

Where you go with these resources is really based on your subject area, students and teaching style. I hope you can make use of this lesson framework!

Indigenous Education and Race- The missing discussions

Finding a Place for Race at the Policy Table: Broadening the Indigenous Education Discourse in Canada Tracy Friedel (UBC) January 2010
"This publication is part of the Aboriginal Policy Research Series, which focuses on public policy issues affecting Métis, non-status Indians, and other Aboriginal peoples residing off-reserve. The series is produced in a partnership between the Institute On Governance (IOG) and the Office of the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians (OFI)."

This informative publication focuses on the need for a discussion about race and the effects of racialization on Canada's Indigenous population in the Canadian Education system.

Canadian education systems have typically addressed issues of 'race' and culture through multicultural curricula add-ons. Current Anti-Racist research has determined that a multicultural approach to education lacks the ability to combat racism and/or eliminate the power and privilege lighter skinned citizens are afforded in our society.

The author concludes with several recommendations promoting the need for anti-racist education.

This publication is a definite must read for educators!! Pass it on to other teachers and administrators!

Monday, July 26, 2010

What did your students learn in class today?

Have you ever witnessed or experienced troubling cross-cultural or race-based encounters in an educational setting and wondered how to effectively address it? Check out this UBC project which has the potential to create positive changes in our classrooms.

How Do You Talk About Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom?

"What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom is a research project that explores difficult discussions of Aboriginal issues that take place in classrooms at the University of British Columbia. Students frequently report troubling and sometimes traumatic discussions of cultural issues in class. These situations often affect their ability to function in their coursework, and even their ability to return to class.

The project looks at how the challenges around talking about race work as an educational barrier at the classroom level. This is something that has not been sufficiently addressed in educational institutions, and yet, is something that desperately needs to be discussed.
Classrooms, especially classrooms at major institutions like UBC, are becoming increasingly diverse and require attention in order to have effective cross-cultural discussions. This project works to improve the conversations around politically and culturally sensitive issues in a classroom by asking: how does cultural communication happen in a classroom, and how can it be improved?

Developed in the First Nations Studies Program at UBC, this project examines the experiences of students, instructors, and administrators at the university to make these problems visible, better understand how difficulties arise, and to find ways to have more professional and productive classroom discussions."

Issues surrounding culture and race impact our students' lives every day. These issues are real and meaningful to students; providing an open, honest and safe space for discussions is one of the most effective ways we can teach and learn from our experiences and observations regarding racism. stereotypes, myths, etc.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Race: a social construction

As established in the previous post; race is a human creation that has no biological basis. Once we debunk the illusion of "race" we can begin to effectively deconstruct the historical white ideologies used to justify the dehumanization process of darker skinned people.

For example, Indigenous people on this continent were considered inferior to white Europeans who constructed them as animal-like using words such as "savage" or "wild." A sub-human description of Indigenous people justified the capture, killing and overtaking of indigenous people and lands for European economic gain.

An historical understanding of the emergence of race enables us to see how the pattern of using ideologies to construct darker skinned people as inferior continues today. The word "savage" continues to be used, along with others like "lazy" or "dirty" to maintain the well-established belief that Aboriginal people are "less-than" white people.

Here are some resources which can help deconstruct the myth of race and lead students to better understand race as something humans made up for financial and political gain. They may help students see racism as a very obscure construct.

1. PBS- Race: The power of an illusion
This is a fantastic interactive website that explores the construct of race. It takes visitors through a series of activities that challenge our notions of what race means. This would be a good place to do an online scavenger hunt or to just let students log on and learn. The site is designed to compliment the PBS video series "Race: the power of an illusion" however it can definitely stand alone. Be sure and check out the background information for a continued discussion regarding this topic.

Only a segment of one video could be found on YouTube:

2. A similar series, "Racism: A History" was produced by BBC and all 3 episodes can be found on YouTube. Here is a taste:

We have all inherited this history. Lets try to change it!

Monday, June 21, 2010

National Aboriginal Day - June 21

Today is the annual day that Canada celebrates “it’s” Aboriginal citizens. Across the country jovial festivals showcasing Inuit, Metis and First Nations food, costume and talent will be in abundance.

As a group working towards anti-racism we recognize the importance of valuing the uniqueness of all cultures, however, we also question why it is that certain days are set aside for the appreciation of “other” non-dominant cultures in this country. We find that the celebration of non-dominant cultures fails to equip citizens with the tools (awareness, knowledge) necessary to deconstruct the implications of colonialism and race-based social constructions that maintain unequal distributions of power in our society. Without an understanding that racism is a complex system comprised of power and privilege, multicultural celebrations will not address racial inequities in Canada. (For a more in depth critique of multiculturalism visit: http://briarpatchmagazine.com/the-myth-of-the-multicultural-patchwork/ )

To accompany or replace the celebration of Indigenous dining, dress and dance educators can use a more critical lens to examine how racism influenced (or continues to influence) the development of practices and policies during colonization with your students.

Resource Example 1- Residential Schools:

Shi-shi-etko and Shin Chi’s Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell are gentle storybooks about two young siblings who must attend residential school in the coming fall. (K-12)

My Name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling is a diary based on the authors memories of residential school. (5-12)

Web resource: http://www.wherearethechildren.ca/ is an interactive website designed for students to explore daily life at residential school and hear survivor stories.

Resource Example 2- Poem:

This poem is a great discussion starter for older grades. It covers a lot of historical and current Aboriginal/Canadian relations through colonization. There are a million ways you could go with this poem...
a) dissection and debunking the term “halfbreed” (mixed race does not exist)
b) unfair treatment of Métis because of race
c) policy in favor of settlers.

Letter to Sir John A. MacDonaldMarilyn Dumont

Dear John: I’m still here and halfbreed,
After all these years
You’re dead, funny thing,
That railway you wanted so badly,
There was talk a year ago
Of shutting it down
And part of it was shut down,
The dayliner at least,
‘from sea to shining sea,’
And you know, John,
After all that shuffling us around to suit the settlers,
We’re still here and Métis

We’re still here
After Meech Lake and
One no-good-for-nothin-Indian
And John, that goddamned railroad never made this a great nation,
Cause the railway shut down
And this country is still quarreling over unity,
And Riel is dead
but he just keeps coming back
in all the Bill Wilsons yet to speak out of turn or favour
because you know as well as I
that we were railroaded
by some steel tracks that didn’t last
and some settlers who wouldn’t settle
and its funny we’re still calling ourselves halfbreed.

We hope these resources will help you and your students to engage in a dialogue critical of racism today and everyday!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SAFE - Social Justice and Anti-Racist Anti-Oppressive Forum on Education

SAFE (Social Justice and Anti-Racist Anti-Oppressive Forum on Education) is a STF Special Subject Council dedicated to centralizing anti-racist and anti-oppressive pedagogy in Saskatchewan schools.


The SAFE mission is as follows:
"It is our belief that oppressions such as racism, sexism, classism and homophobia continue to permeate our schools, as well as other institutions within the society. These are issues which greatly affect our teaching staff and our students within the system, yet because they are considered to be ‘controversial’ in nature, they are often ignored or silenced. The research study that I conducted for my thesis indicates that in the Saskatchewan context, teachers are ill equipped to deal with the many oppressions that our students face, and do not have the resources needed to respond to issues such as racism, which create institutional and systemic consequences (McLean, 2007). Our goal is to provide the ongoing knowledge, resources, workshops and conferences which will support teachers in their approach to Anti-Racist Anti-Oppressive theory and praxis. We want to create SAFE spaces to discuss these issues and maintain a dialogue that normalizes the work towards social justice in our schools."
-Sheelah McLean

SAFE welcomes all (including community members, pre-service teachers) who are interested in working against socially constructed oppressions.

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