Indigenous groups slam Alberta’s proposed new curriculum – What happens to Orange Shirt Day?

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange assures Albertans that the proposed curriculum is comprehensive in the way it addresses First Nation, Metis and Inuit history and cultures.

By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – The Government of Alberta has released a draft of their revised kindergarten-to-grade six curriculum and announced that it will be tested in some classrooms starting in September.

It will then be finalized and fully instated in the rest of the province in 2022 after the UCP government collects feedback from Albertans.

The released draft has caused in uproar with the Indigenous population in Alberta.

Much of the flak is coming from the fact that the history of Indian Residential Schools will not be taught until Grade 5 social studies — which the government says was based off the feedback and advice from unnamed advisors.

Orange Shirt Day is currently an important component of teaching awareness about the impacts of Indian Residential Schools to students aged pre-school and up – each at a level appropriate to their age and comprehension. It is an important day for all Indigenous groups (as well as for all Canadians in the mainstream) across the country – including Alberta.

Would this new curriculum eliminate the commemoration of Orange Shirt Day for Alberta students under Grade 5. That would be viewed as a terrible slight to Indigenous people in Alberta and a disservice to all students. And it would make no sense to wear Orange Shirts without a lesson about what it represents.

Elder Betty Letendre, part of a working group formed by the UCP government to review the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit portions of its new curriculum, has spoken out and said she cannot endorse it.

“The work in this curriculum has to continue,” Elder Letendre said.

The group was made up of five elders and they were meant to provide feedback to the UCP.

However, they were not given enough time to do the critical examination needed for this caliber of a project. They were given “about six days of meetings and talking about this review and the changes we thought had to be changed,” said Letendre.

“What we had to do was way too extensive for us to say, okay, now it’s done.”

“It’s not.”

The Edmonton Catholic School District agrees with Elder Letendre and is not committing to piloting the curriculum at this time.

ECSD stated on twitter that they “will spend the next several weeks unpacking the new curriculum. We will be engaging our teachers, administration, Council of Elders, and other stakeholders before providing feedback to the Government. At this time, we will not be committing to piloting the curriculum.”

The new curriculum is supposedly the result of advice and feedback from 19 subject matter experts, 30 academics, and more than 100 current Alberta teachers.

The draft is more than 600 pages long.

The Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations outright reject the government’s proposed curriculum. They referred to it as a “Eurocentric, American-focused, Christian-dominant narrative” and believe that it does not provide a balanced perspective on Treaty 6 First Nations.

They also took issue with the fact that they were not consulted. “What First Nations consultation that did occur was limited in scope, hastily concluded and incomplete,” said the confederacy.

Grand Chief Vernon Watchmaker stated, “A history of Alberta that does not begin with the rich and deep histories of the Treaty First Nations and does not accurately portray how we have survived and thrived to this day, is a faulty and incomplete one.”

Elder and Residential School survivor Richard Lightning said,

“There is a lot missing in this new curriculum. We have many educated peoples who could have been a part of this work — I haven’t seen or read the word ‘colonization.’ The dominant society doesn’t have a clue about us and our history and that needs to change.

“Change is brought on with education, our history needs to be a part of this curriculum, it needs to be inclusive so we understand one another.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education said, “The new curriculum delivers on our commitment to Albertans to refocus learning on essential knowledge and skills in order to give our children the best possible chance at success.

“Parents and teachers have waited a long time for this, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve delivered.”

“Another promise made, promise kept,” concluded the minister.

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