Assessing Student Awareness of Indigenous Peoples Project

Assessing Student Awareness of Indigenous Peoples Project

Assessing Student Awareness of Indigenous Peoples Project

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Two members of the Assessing Awareness of Indigenous Realities research team visiting the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band office. Project Summary

Many Indigenous leaders contend that non-Indigenous ignorance of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and topics makes it impossible to address the conditions of life for Indigenous people in Canada in a sustained or coherent way. The 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made clear that challenging and altering the imagination of people in Canada about First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples is fundamental to meaningful restitution and reconciliation. If there is no follow through from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, if we do not to recognize the ongoing structures of colonialism and if Canadians are not educated well enough to understand the larger context of the Commission and why it was necessary, then the truth will remain hidden, limiting opportunities for reconciliation.

The Race Relations funded Learning About Walking in Beauty report (2004), suggested that, in spite of very significant social change in Canada since the 1970s, most young Canadians are learning little more about Indigenous life and issues than did their parents, or their parents' parents. Are Canadians substantially unaware of Indigenous peoples, issues and cultures? If they are, why is this so? Our research team, relying on the collective wisdom of Indigenous educators from across Canada, seeks to develop a reasonable measure of what any Canadian, particularly any young Canadian, should know about Indigenous existence to be an informed and responsible citizen. Simultaneously we will explore how young Canadians have learned to think about First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, focusing particularly on secondary education; its administration, its delivery and its results, particularly as the students themselves see their education.

In 2010 we analyzed the 2004-2013 Ontario curriculum and conducted a pilot survey at Queen’s University (Godlewska et al 2010, Godlewska et al 2013). In 2013 we began work in Newfoundland and Labrador through Memorial University. We analyzed the curriculum and texts used in Newfoundland and Labrador schools (Godlewska et al. 2016). We developed a questionnaire specific to Newfoundland and Labrador in consultation with staff, students, faculty and administrators at Memorial and Indigenous community members in Sheshatshiu , Miawpukek/Conne River, Goose Bay, Nain, Corner Brook and Stephenville, and distributed the online survey to all first year students at Memorial (St. John’s and Grenfell campuses) (Godlewska et al. 2017a; 2017b). In 2014 we developed the questionnaire in Ontario. Working through the Aboriginal Resource Offices at 10 Ontario universities, we met with over 200 First Nations, Métis and Inuit knowledge holders as well as staff, academics, students, and administrators. The questionnaire went out to over 42,000 students in September/October of 2014 (Schaefli et al. in press 2018). In 2016 we began work with St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario to develop the questionnaire for use in the college system. We are currently working in British Columbia (2018-2019) and Manitoba (2018-2019) while also conducting analyses of the curricula and texts in use in each of these jurisdictions.