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Province adds treaties to curriculum in schools

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/9/2014 (1736 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TEACHERS already teach it, but with an announcement Tuesday, Manitoba Education Minister James Allum made treaties a part of the school curriculum from kindergarten to Grade 12.

Rather than making the subject mandatory, however, the curriculum is being integrated into existing classes voluntarily.

That means the relevance of treaties can be taught as part of subjects already on offer, from math to social studies, history and English.

The design was deliberate. It allows teachers and individual schools to decide to adopt the curriculum.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/9/2014 (1736 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TEACHERS already teach it, but with an announcement Tuesday, Manitoba Education Minister James Allum made treaties a part of the school curriculum from kindergarten to Grade 12.

Rather than making the subject mandatory, however, the curriculum is being integrated into existing classes voluntarily.

That means the relevance of treaties can be taught as part of subjects already on offer, from math to social studies, history and English.

The design was deliberate. It allows teachers and individual schools to decide to adopt the curriculum.

"My sense is things don't need to be mandatory in order for it to spread across the province, and I think that's what's going to happen," Allum said after the announcement at a training session for about 25 teachers Tuesday in Winnipeg.

"It's been a pilot project in the past," the minister said, "and while it's not mandatory, you'll see from the teachers that are engaged in it, that it will become a core part of what's taught in classrooms day in and day out."

Two hundred teachers in 33 schools from kindergarten to Grade 12 teach treaties are a cornerstone of the province's history.

They also teach social and economic realities that marginalize the province's aboriginal people are related to misunderstandings over what treaties mean and their modern relevance.

Aboriginal people make up nearly 17 per cent of Manitoba's population and are its youngest and fastest-growing segment.

Flanked by Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak and Manitoba Treaty Commissioner James Wilson, Allum made it clear winning converts is why the province made the announcement a soft roll-out, not a hard sell.

First introduced as a pilot project for grades 5 and 6 in 2010, the last three years have seen treaty lessons expand from kindergarten to Grade 4 in 2012-13 and grades 7-12 last year.

The commissioner gave the credit for the design and the content to a "dream team" that included a social studies teacher, a curriculum writer and partners from aboriginal elders to education officials, First Nations leaders and teachers themselves.

The treaty commission offers a two-day in-service session based on that collaboration.

With a $500 kit of materials and teaching resources, the sessions train teachers from schools that adopt treaties as part of their curriculum.

The fact it's not mandatory is part of the secret to its success.

"It's important for us to make sure we've got all these partners on board, like the Manitoba Teachers Society, to say we don't want to be forcing our teachers to do this," the commissioner said.

Wilson added in schools that offer it now, the role of treaties quickly moved from a historical topic to a way for both aboriginal and non-indigenous students to talk openly about their perspectives.

"One of the most important findings in surveys of teachers in the pilots is just how easily they were able to weave treaty topics into courses," the commissioner told the news conference. "In turn, this opened doors to discussions that built on treaties, such as residential schools, traditions and customs and it gave students greater context for understanding issues like the court action over the Kapyong Barracks and the Idle No More movement," Wilson said.

"If you understand the context for these issues, the solutions become not obvious, but they become apparent."

Kapyong, the former military base in Winnipeg for the second battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, has been the focus of a court battle between Treaty One First Nations and the Canadian government ever since Ottawa declared it surplus and announced it would it put the land up for sale.

Treaty One First Nations said they were owed first rights to refuse the land under outstanding treaty land entitlements and the federal government has appealed every legal victory secured by the First Nations.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul
Reporter

Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 8:03 AM CDT: Adds image

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