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
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!
- Student Teachers Anti-Racism Society
- 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.