Some Alberta Indigenous leaders and an elder say the provincial authorities has used them or misrepresented their positions to realize endorsements for a brand new elementary college curriculum they don’t help.
On March 29, as Training Minister Adriana LaGrange launched proposed drafts of a brand new curriculum in each topic, in English and French, Lubicon Lake Chief Billy-Joe Laboucan was invited to talk.
Earlier than the information convention, Laboucan had seen solely a page-and-a-half abstract of how the curriculum would come with First Nations, Inuit and Métis historical past and contributions.
“I’ve reviewed the Ok-6 curriculum draft and I very a lot help it and see it as a extremely good begin,” he mentioned on the time.
However when he later noticed the a whole lot of pages within the precise draft curriculum, his perspective modified.
Revisit the draft
“I felt betrayed, as a result of, I imply, they sought my recommendation, and I mentioned sure. And I used to be a bit misconstrued,” he mentioned in an interview final month. “It made me appear to be the token Indian.”
Successive provincial governments have been attempting to modernize the curriculum for a decade.
Laboucan mentioned the United Conservative Social gathering’s draft has regressed not solely from the former NDP authorities’s proposed draft however from the curriculum at the moment in use.
The drafts suggest college students start studying about treaties in Grade 4 and residential colleges in Grade 5. That is too late, says Laboucan, who can also be the Grand Chief of training for Treaty Eight, in northern Alberta.
Final month, the Sovereign Nations of Treaty Eight wrote to Premier Jason Kenney telling him to revisit the draft curriculum. The letter, co-signed by Laboucan, says the “evident absence” of First Nations individuals from the writing course of is “deeply offensive.”
Adviser says course of a ‘slap within the face’
After dealing with criticism final yr for initially hiring a slate of all-male, largely white curriculum advisers, the Alberta authorities requested 5 Indigenous elders to evaluate the fabric and supply suggestions.
One was Betty Letendre, a Métis residential college survivor who has labored for years with Edmonton colleges to assist train college students about Indigenous historical past and tradition.
She mentioned the federal government on a number of events handed the group of largely senior residents a whole lot of pages of paperwork and gave them someday, or a couple of days, to reply. They weren’t allowed to seek the advice of every other consultants and the circumstances had been insufficient for offering significant suggestions, she mentioned.
She feels the federal government took benefit of her place and id.
“You thought you had been going to get … tokenized individuals to agree and to be the ‘sure’ individuals to this curriculum, and that is identical to a slap within the face. As a result of we’re not tokens,” she mentioned.
LaGrange has mentioned within the legislature that each one of Letendre’s suggestions was included within the drafts. Letendre disputes this, and says mentions of Indigenous individuals and historical past seem as an afterthought.
Validator hasn’t seen curriculum paperwork
A regular authorities response when criticisms are levelled in opposition to the draft curriculum’s Indigenous views is to share a written quote attributed to Wilton Littlechild, a former Fact and Reconciliation commissioner.
The quote lauds the Alberta authorities for being first within the nation to vow obligatory treaty and residential college curriculum — a dedication made by the previous Progressive Conservative authorities.
“I’m honoured to be a validator of the brand new training curriculum and stay up for its reworking and optimistic change,” mentioned Littlechild’s assertion within the March 29 information launch.
Littlechild advised CBC that he had not but seen the draft curriculum and may’t touch upon it till he has an opportunity to evaluate it.
After the Métis Nation of Alberta referred to as for a curriculum rewrite resulting from “monumental considerations concerning the Euro-American colonial undertones,” LaGrange mentioned the nation’s training affiliate, the Rupertsland Institute, had been consulted on the drafts.
Lisa Cruickshank, director of Métis training and lifelong studying on the institute, famous that session is a “loaded time period these days” and mentioned the institute wasn’t as concerned because it wished to be.
The drafts are incomplete and comprise inaccuracies, akin to mixed-up terminology and incomplete details about Métis scrip, she mentioned.
She worries that Métis individuals might be upset and dissatisfied if they’re underneath the impression the institute helps the drafts.
It was solely when their considerations grew to become public that Alberta Training agreed to satisfy, she mentioned.
Who speaks for First Nations?
Treaty Six Grand Chief Vernon Watchmaker mentioned the federal government wants to hunt knowledgeable endorsement from Alberta’s treaty leaders.
Treaty leaders have additionally written to the federal government to share their considerations and disappointment. First Nations do not have to make use of the Alberta curriculum in colleges they function, akin to ones on reserves, they usually could take a look at options, he mentioned.
However that will not assist college students in provincial colleges, Indigenous or not, be taught correct historical past about Alberta’s authentic inhabitants, he mentioned.
Ideally, the federal government will invite educators from Treaty Six to assist enhance the drafts’ First Nations content material for all college students, Watchmaker mentioned.
Laboucan mentioned Treaty Eight colleges will even take a look at accelerating the timeline for growing their very own social research curriculum to keep away from utilizing the province’s.
In a written assertion earlier this month, LaGrange’s workplace didn’t straight reply questions on whether or not the federal government’s engagement with Indigenous individuals was superficial.
Appearing press secretary Charlotte Taillon mentioned Indigenous material consultants, together with Letendre, had been engaged for 4 months in 2020 and once more in March 2021. She mentioned First Nations, Métis and Inuit content material might be taught in each topic and in each grade.
She referred to as the draft a piece in progress, and that Alberta Training workers would meet with some Indigenous organizations and people to debate the curriculum.
“We’re wanting ahead to working collectively to make sure college students are studying a contemporary curriculum,” the assertion mentioned.