Weaving Indigenous content into the everyday curriculum is important to all School District 47 educators, but many need support. The First People’s Curriculum is now mandatory everywhere in B.C., from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
In the past, schools may have had units on First Nations arts or residential schools; now every subject must have an Indigenous component. It’s part of B.C.’s commitment to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.
In qathet, a powerhouse trio of Tla’amin educators are making those commitments come alive for every student in the district: Gail Blaney, Indigenous curriculum coordinator and reading intervention teacher; Tyler Peters, Indigenous student support teacher and Karina Peters, Tla’amin language teacher.
“A lot of teachers want to do it and they want to do it right,” said Gail. To that end, teachers can request a resource person or material online, and lesson plans and resources are available for all grades and subject areas.
Teaching about Indigenous culture has come a long way since Gail was a child. In elementary school, all she was offered was a single chapter on a far away First Nation. At Brooks, she got a glimpse of what the future could hold.
It was the 1970s, and Betty Wilson was one of the first educators hired to teach local culture. “I remember her coming in and we were really excited,” said Gail. “That was where I learned the Mink and Frog story.”
Today, Indigenous learning is integrated across the curriculum, from history to math. There’s also a district-wide cross-cultural program, two new initiatives spearheaded by Karin Westland – a wildcrafting course and a nature soundscapes program – plus a celebration of success for Tla’amin students in June.
The district also celebrates Orange Shirt Day in September to promote awareness about the residential school system and offers a salmon barbecue at James Thomson in October. A welcome pole was carved at Henderson Elementary and unveiled last fall. The legacy project the year before was a beautifully carved door to the Indigenous Learning Centre at James Thomson.
Tyler focuses on student support. “I try to make sure the Indigenous students’ needs are met,” he said. “For many students, I am the bridge between school and the parent.” Tyler also works on the Grade 7 and 8 transition students. Besides going on tours, he tackles specific problems – like how to work the lockers at Brooks! Karina Peters teaches the Tla’amin language.
At the elementary level, all students learn about the Tla’amin culture and language. “I tell them language and culture are intertwined. You can’t have one without the other.”
Karina uses the Total Physical Response (TPR) method to teach. “You learn a language through action.” She also incorporates storytelling in her teaching. By the time her students reach high school, they’re reading and writing in the language.
Content in this story has been reproduced with permission from SD 47 and Powell River Living.