New Brunswick

More Indigenous education needed in school systems, expert says

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada wants the New Brunswick education and post-secondary education to teach Indigenous education to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.

Charlene Bernard said Indigenous history is 'our collective history, it's not a separate history'

Charlene Bearhead is education lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and wants all students to know Indigenous history and culture. (Sam Martin/CBC )

With students preparing to head back to schools and post-secondary institutions next week, one expert is continuing the call for more Indigenous education to be taught in those classrooms.

Charlene Bearhead, the education lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, told Information Morning Fredericton on Friday why she believes it's important for Indigenous content to be taught in schools.

"We need to understand that that's our collective history, it's not a separate history," she said.

"We cannot separate out what the history is of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this country it's our history together."

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada wants the provincial educational systems and post-secondary education systems across Canada teaching Indigenous education to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was tasked with investigating and shedding light on the dark history and legacy of residential schools. Last year, the commission made 94 calls to "redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation."

Bearhead was in Fredericton Thursday to talk to the Anglophone West School District about the need for more Aboriginal education in their curriculum. 

Bearhead said Indigenous history is Canadian history and it's important Canadians learn Indigenous history, culture and the legacy and history of residential schools.

Bearhead said for stretches of Canadian education Indigenous and non-Indigenous people were learning that Indigenous culture and history were not important.

"The interference with the Indigenous knowledge that happened through residential schools and in other mainstream education about Indigenous people has also lead to the environmental issues that we're facing now," said Bearhead.

Changing times

But she points out that times are changing.

Bearhead said the Canadian Teachers Federation conducted a study and a majority of teachers wanted to hear from Indigenous people in their area about Indigenous history and culture.

Part of that, she said, was because teachers themselves were taught in an old system that placed little value on Indigenous culture and history.

"One of the impacts of residential schools is the broken relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people," said Bearhead.

Crafting a more accurate view of Canada's aboriginal past. Christine McLean talks to the education lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

"The lack of trust, so it was difficult for non-Indigenous teachers to reach out or where they might get the knowledge and support and the resources and in many cases it's difficult for Indigenous people to trust people that were reaching out to them."

Bearhead said it's important to understand the past struggles for the Indigenous students might rest in the misinformation about their culture in classrooms.

"How do you focus on your achievements when your very identity, who you are as a human being is under attack or misrepresented all the time," said Bearhead.

She said she hopes that Canada as a whole gets behind educating Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

"The responsibility is not on the Indigenous people to do the education. It's for us to reach out and connect with one another. And we each have our parts to contribute," said Bearhead.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton