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Concerns raised after Saskatchewan minister's comments on Indigenous education

Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre suggested there might be too much "infusion" of First Nations history in the Saskatchewan school curriculum.

Indigenous leaders and teachers are raising concerns after Saskatchewan's education minister suggested there might be too much "infusion" of First Nations history in school curriculum. Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron speaks at the opening of the Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting in Regina, Sask., Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Cameron says the minister needs to understand that Indigenous history and treaties will forever be a part of who we are. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

Indigenous leaders and teachers are raising concerns after Saskatchewan's education minister suggested there might be too much "infusion" of First Nations history in school curriculum. Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron speaks at the opening of the Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting in Regina, Sask., Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Cameron says the minister needs to understand that Indigenous history and treaties will forever be a part of who we are. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

REGINA — Indigenous leaders and teachers are raising concerns after Saskatchewan's education minister suggested there might be too much "infusion" of First Nations history in school curriculum.

Bronwyn Eyre said in a speech last week in the legislature that "there has come to be at once too much wholesale infusion into the curriculum, and at the same time, too many attempts to mandate material into it both from the inside and by outside groups."

Eyre said her son, who is in Grade 8, brought home a history assignment that suggested all pioneers to Canada were ill-meaning.

"He'd copied from the board the following ... presented as fact: that European and European settlers were colonialists, pillagers of the land who knew only buying and selling and didn't respect mother Earth," she said.

When pressed by reporters Tuesday on what she meant in the speech, Eyre said it's about a broader discussion of curriculum.

"One thing one might discuss, though, is should there be a specific course on ... Indigenous history, history of residential schools, and treaties ... as one specific course in a high-school-level course, for example, as opposed to maybe more infusion into social studies," she said.

Reaction came swiftly.

"We are the original people, the First Peoples of these lands, our history and treaties are crucial," federation Chief Bobby Cameron said in a news release Wednesday.

"This is the reason why it's vital to teach about the treaties in the classroom and to all levels of government, who need to be taught the same thing."

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said treaty rights need to be taught throughout classrooms.

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation said treaty education must be a fundamental part of education.

"All education partners in Saskatchewan have been working collaboratively to ensure that Saskatchewan students have an opportunity to learn the history of our shared experiences and to learn together on our shared land," the teachers' federation said in a news release.

It also said the minister's comments "could serve to divide communities and create unsafe space for Saskatchewan teachers and students."

"Now is the time to renew our collective efforts to ensure education is a positive force for reconciliation."

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon all levels of government — in consultation with survivors, Indigenous peoples and educators — to make mandatory for all students age-appropriate curricula on residential schools, treaties and Aboriginal peoples' contributions.

Eyre said Wednesday that Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to mandate treaty education in schools and that won't change.

The minister said she was talking about a review that is set to take place for the high-school curriculum.

"I think it's appropriate that one can have these serious discussions about such things as curriculum and how these things are best taught — not whether they're taught, heaven forbid, that is not the question," she said.

 

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had the education minister's last name spelled incorrectly

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