Nearly 25 teachers from within the Brandon School Division and surrounding areas volunteered to learn more about incorporating First Nations treaty education into their classrooms by participating in a two-day training session held at Brandon University.
The two-day session, which began Tuesday and ends today, was co-ordinated by members of the Treaty Relations Committee of Manitoba, giving teachers the opportunity to learn more about adding treaty education into the Manitoba social studies curriculum for students in grades 5 and 6.
"We need to come to conferences like this to learn more about the treaties because we only covered so much in university," said Brent Demers, a Grade 6 teacher at St. Augustine School. "I just want to get a little bit more knowledge about the Treaties for myself so that when I'm dealing with questions in class I'm a little bit more comfortable with the background on it."
The TRCM, in partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Manitoba Education and the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, are working together to develop K-12 teacher resource packages and related teaching materials to increase the knowledge of treaties and the treaty relationship in schools across the province. So far TRCM curriculum sessions like this one have been held in The Pas, Winnipeg, Sagkeeng First Nation and Thompson. The next stop is Island Lake, according to education co-ordinator Amanda Simard.
"We find it important to go across the province because not all teachers have access to come to Winnipeg, so we go out to them," Simard said. "We want to make it equal access to all teachers in the region."
The TRCM started this initiative with hopes that more students would learn to understand the impact of the treaties and treaty relationships within Manitoba, something that TRCM curriculum writer Connie Wyatt Anderson said applies to all Canadians.
"All Canadians have benefited from the treaties, whether you’re a farmer, whether you live in downtown Brandon, if it weren't for treaties, these lands wouldn't be developed," Anderson said. "They are foundational documents of Canada."
Anderson added that although having treaties included in the social studies curriculum isn’t part of the provincial education mandate, she hopes that more teachers will choose to learn about this initiative and take the time to incorporate treaties into their lesson plans.
"The goal is to support teachers in Manitoba to teach about the treaty relationship," she said. "We’re in this together and it’s meant to support the curriculum that they already teach."
Some of the TRCM teaching materials already include teaching guides for Grade 5 and Grade 6 students that complement the provincial social studies curriculum, a treaty education kit for classroom teachers and a treaty essential learnings as a reference document to assist K-12 and post-secondary education instructors.
"It’s important that people are informed so that they can make informed decisions," she said.