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teacher and students sitting on stairs displaying indigenous history projects
Photo by Christine Cousins
Feature

Teaching Indigenous Histories Through an Authentic Voice

Tanya C. Leary

As I reflected on my brief but fun time in the Grade 5 classroom, I thought about the danger a single story could have created in that classroom. I could have left the students with a single narrative. I could have walked away and not dealt with their burning questions, one of which was, “Why does it matter what you are called anyway?” By bringing in stories children can connect to, powerful things can happen. Powerful stories can be told, stories that shape their future.

Taking the Plunge

If you’re still reading, congratulations. You are ready to take the plunge. Take a risk. Introduce your students to a story about Canada, one that may have frightened you to talk about in the past. Perhaps you’re worried you’ll get it wrong, or say the wrong thing. Journey with your students, and empower them to take their own risks. Teach them that all people have many stories that make up their identities, that help them not only look into their histories but also look toward their futures.

If you’re looking for a place to start, visit ETFO’s spirithorse website. Spirithorse.ca has a magnitude of authentic resources to get you and your students started on your storytelling journey.

Finally, as the school year comes to an end, celebrate National Aboriginal Day on June 21st. Let your students decide how to celebrate. Let your students guide their inquiry. Let your students learn about the rich culture our Indigenous peoples in Canada have. And don’t forget to tell them about your learning journey and share your story along the way. Baamaapii (until we talk later).

Tanya C. Leary is Sealteaux First Nation, and a member of the Hamilton-Wentworth Teacher Local.

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