How will embracing indigenous knowledge enhance general education?
This is the question of the decade with the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the celebration of Canada 150, and the advancement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It’s been a conversation long in coming, more than 600 years of impact, disease, removal, land grabs, child apprehensions, and uber colonization finally culminating in a discussion inclusive of nation-to-nation dialogue and change. Hopefully, this means the change indigenous people are looking for, which doesn’t only mean using the term indigenous, citing the 94 calls to action or making a new best friend. What it does mean is extending and sustaining a deep recognition of why the restoration of jurisdiction and authority, providing the kind of funding any legitimate government can expect, and building the kind of relationships that balance the needs of First Peoples with a proper allocation of resources — both fiscal and human — are necessary.
Education has been identified as the pathway that brought us to our knees as indigenous peoples, and it will now be the pathway that will ultimately lift our nations and restore their strengths. The history of Canada will never ring true without the inclusion of indigenous voices, stories, song, dance, experiences and art. We can never claim an identity as a country without recognizing the very foundation upon which our uniqueness was forged.
Indigenous knowledge reconnects humanity to the earth, to the waters, and to the very air we breathe. It expresses our basic needs for sustenance, the building of a diversity of relationships, and encourages our expression of spirit. We all bring something to this experience of being human, and we all need to embrace the value of reciprocity and respect. Our education must be inclusive of the world in which we live from the ground up, and this means having regard for the natural environment. Our elders have long said, “you cannot eat money,” and we would be wise to listen and include the value of living softly on the earth along with the development of technology and economics.
What will we teach our children? What are the first lessons they learn? To share, be kind, have respect for each other and clean up after themselves. All elements of indigenous knowledge are essential for the future of this beautiful country we now know as Canada. Let’s ensure the next 150 years will be about inclusion, celebration of our diversity of cultures and languages, and recognition (that) we all have incredible gifts to offer each other.
Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, PhD
Chair on Truth and Reconciliation, Lakehead University