[Individual articles from the Winter 2018 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]
Change in education is evident in Labrador, particularly in the field of Indigenous education. Indigenous education can refer to: education of Indigenous students; education by Indigenous educators; education controlled by Indigenous governments; education using Indigenous instructional approaches; and curricula that reflect Indigenous worldviews, histories and values. Indigenous education is essential for overcoming the legacies of the Doctrine of Discovery by revitalizing Indigenous ways of knowing and being and contributing to decolonization for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Three main influences are shaping changes to education in Labrador. The first is the growing awareness of the ways colonizers used education as a tool of domination and control and the impact this has had on Indigenous people, families and communities. Pedagogies and curricula based in Eurocentric knowledge and values limited or negated Indigenous ways of knowing and being. The removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities to stay at residential schools represented colonial education in a stark form. The domination of one way of knowing over another in colonial education results in what Mi’kmaw scholar Marie Battiste calls the “cognitive assimilation” of Indigenous peoples (Battiste 6).
Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions, providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning
The establishment of Indigenous rights such as self-determination is the second influence on educational change. The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established to address the harmful legacies of residential schools concludes that Indigenous peoples must lead and control the reform of education and that self-government is important in this reformation (TRC 148). The 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), meanwhile, insists that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions, providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning” (Article 14).
Indigenous rights within Canada are also recognized through land claim settlements. The Innu of Labrador had their claim settled in 2008 and now govern their schools in the communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish. Innu educators are teaching the Innu language, Innu-umin, in schools and weaving Innu culture into curricula from kindergarten through grade 12. The Nunatsiavut land claim, on the north coast of Labrador, was settled in 2005. Although it has jurisdiction over education, the Nunatsiavut Government (NG) has not yet taken over the school system. NG does, however, have an agreement with the Labrador School Board to offer their language, Inuttitut, in the schools and has begun offering traditional skills courses from kindergarten through grade 9. The NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC), representing the Southern Inuit, is advocating for the settlement of their land claim on Labrador’s south coast. In the 2016-2017 school year, nine schools piloted a project to integrate traditional skills into the school curricula. Meanwhile, the NCC is developing a locally-approved course that teaches the history of the area.
Finally, the third influence on educational change in Labrador is Indigenous teacher education. The Inuit Bachelor of Education (IBED) began in fall of 2014 through a partnership between the NG and Memorial University (MUN). The training of this cohort of teachers is a step towards NG taking control of education in its region. The IBED infuses Inuit culture in the teacher education program and focuses on developing teaching skills in culturally relevant education. The Labrador Inuttitut Training Program, developed by NG as part of its language rejuvenation strategy, prepares future teachers for a role in the on-going rejuvenation of Inuttitut.
In addition to undergraduate courses, MUN offers two graduate education courses developed for Labrador teachers enrolled in a master’s of education program. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers participate in graduate courses offered in Goose Bay, courses also accessible through videoconferencing to all communities in Labrador. In the Perspectives in Indigenous Education course, teachers critically examine how a curriculum framed by a dominant worldview can negate Indigenous worldviews and how approaches to teaching may exclude Indigenous pedagogy. Battiste defines decolonizing education as “a process that includes raising the collective voice of Indigenous peoples, exposing the injustices in our colonial history, deconstructing the past by critically examining the social, political, economic, and emotional reasons for silencing of Aboriginal voices in Canadian history, legitimating the voices and experiences of Aboriginal people in the curriculum, recognizing it as a dynamic context of knowledge and knowing, and communicating the emotional journey that such explorations will generate”(Battiste 20). In the Decolonizing Pedagogies course I teach, educators consider ways that individual teachers, schools and communities can contribute to decolonizing education. In a recent course, students collaboratively listed 144 ways for educators to be involved in decolonizing work. They have drawn on this list to create posters and brochures for colleagues. This sharing will have ripple effects through their schools and continue the work of educational change that helps to overcome the Doctrine of Discovery in Labrador.
Sylvia Moore is an Assistant Professor of Education at Memorial University and the faculty lead for Indigenous Community-based Teacher Education in Labrador. A member of the Mi’kmaw nation, the mother of four children and grandmother of six, she is also part of the KAIROS Blanket Exercise facilitation team of MCC Newfoundland and Labrador.
Battiste, Marie. “Enabling the Autumn Seed: Toward a Decolonized Approach to Aboriginal Knowledge, Language and Education.” Canadian Journal of Native Education (1998): 1, 16-27.
Battiste, Marie. Indigenous Knowledge and Pedagogy in First Nations Education: A Literature Review with Recommendations. Apamuwek Institute, 2002. Available at: http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/education/24._2002_oct_marie_battiste_indigenousknowledgeandpedagogy_lit_review_for_min_working_group.pdf
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2015. http://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Final%20Reports/Executive_Summary_English_Web.pdf
Kovach, M., Carrier, J., Montgomery, H., Barrett, M.J., and Gilles, C. Indigenous Presence: Experiencing and Envisioning Indigenous Knowledges within Selected Post-Secondary Sites of Education and Social Work. Available at https://www.uregina.ca/socialwork/faculty-staff/FacultySites/MontgomeryMontySite/Indigenous%20Presence.pdf
Black, C. Schooling the World. (film). 2010. http://schoolingtheworld.org/.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation. From Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools. Available at http://www.ahf.ca/downloads/from-truth-to-reconciliation-transforming-the-legacy-of-residential-schools.pdf