New Fire

Students fight for culture in the classroom

"Our culture is sort of slipping away so I'm trying to encourage all the younger kids to grasp it, hold it tight, and put it in your heart."
Guillermo Sulia’n Knockwood started a petition for more cultural education in his Nova Scotia school.

Aboriginal curriculum in the classroom is a hot topic right now - especially after the after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their recommendation for for curriculum development on residential schools, Treaties and Aboriginal history across the country.

This desire for more culture in the classroom is expressed by three Indigenous youth who shared their stories at a July event in Vancouver.

The Aboriginal Head Start Association of BC hosted a 20th Anniversary National Celebration of Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities in Canada where they gathered 52 graduates from their early childhood programs.

New Fire Host Lisa Charleyboy headed to the event to chat with Indigenous graduates in attendance, aged 14 to 25, to find out what they value in education.

Guillermo Sulia'n Knockwood

"Our culture is sort of slipping away so I'm trying to encourage all the younger kids to grasp it, hold it tight, and put it in your heart." - Guillermo  Sulia'n   Knockwood

When Guillermo Sulia'n Knockwood started junior high school in grade 7 he took action about the lack of culture in his classroom. He started a petition to advocate for Aboriginal inclusion and found success. Guillermo is 14 years old, entering grade 8 this fall in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and is of Colombian and Mi'kmaq descent.

Joshua Tordiff

"[He] would skip school every now and then, but where as me and my friends would skip school and go skateboarding and stuff like that, he would actually skip school and go to local elder's houses." - Joshua Tordiff

Joshua Tordiff is 21 years old, a proud member of the Northwest Territory Metis Nation hailing from Fort Smith, NWT. His favourite story about cultural education is about his younger brother, Evan, who was told at the age of six that he had a learning disability. Instead of being constrained by the classroom, Evan found his classroom out on the land. Elders were his teachers, and traditional knowledge was his passion. He was acknowledged his contribution for preservation and promotion of culture by becoming one of the first recipients of the Minister's Cultural Circle Youth Award in NWT.

Sheena Middleton

"In high school we speak French or Spanish, and in elementary school you grow up learning French, but I think it would be pretty cool if they would bring in a course where you could learn to speak the language of our heritage." - Sheena   Middleton

Growing up in Surrey, BC, Sheena Middleton had cultural teachings in many of her classrooms. At 21 years old, this young Cree woman from Fond du Lac, Saskatchewan, reflects on her desire to have Cree language lessons offered in her younger years.

Click the 'listen' button above for more of Guillermo, Josh, and Sheena's stories.