Teaching Indigenous History in Canadian...

Teaching Indigenous History in Canadian Elementary Schools

by Susan Huebert
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Teaching Canada’s history is useful for understanding the way people think and act. An important part of this education is learning Indigenous history. For Canadian elementary school students, learning Indigenous history with good teachers can be a useful experience.

For many years, Indigenous stories were only a minor part of history classes in Canadian schools. Recently, however, people have become aware of the need to learn about Indigenous history. Part of the change came because of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which published its report in 2015.

Among other things, the report recommended correcting the way that many people ignored or minimized Indigenous history in education. Even when teachers talked about these people, they tended to focus on the history of exploration and settlement. They tended not to talk about what happened before European explorers and settlers came to live in what later became Canada.

Many people now agree that including Indigenous history in Canadian elementary schools is important. However, knowing how to do this can be difficult. The University of Victoria has information and suggestions for how to incorporate this kind of education. Some of the suggestions, such as fostering respect, are useful for any kind of learning. Students cannot learn about another culture if they are afraid of being bullied by their classmates for speaking up.

Another suggestion is to include storytelling and sharing circles. Although every culture has some element of storytelling in its background, this feature is especially important for Indigenous cultures which might not have as many written records as people of European backgrounds.

Bringing in subject matter experts is another suggestion that could help students understand Indigenous culture better. A subject matter expert is someone who has studied a particular subject such as transportation or food and can give people detailed information about that topic. Having someone come in to talk about farming or cooking in traditional Indigenous cultures could help students understand more about everyday life for the people.

One of the major points that participants in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission considered was the effects of residential schools on Indigenous children. For many years, Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to go to residential schools, where they lived in dormitories and were sent to classes. Conditions could be very bad in some of these schools, and many children died or lost their connection to their families and communities.

Learning about residential schools should be an important part of every student’s education because it is part of Canadian history. Students need to know what happened in the past so that they can understand how these events are still affecting the present. If they can also use this information to help them find solutions for the problems people are facing now, that will help make their education especially valuable.

Indigenous history is an important part of Canada’s past, but it can also help people understand the present. If people teach it sensitively and in the context of other events in Canada and around the world, Indigenous history can be a valuable tool for students to use in their careers and their daily lives.



Amin, Faiza. “Calls Grow to Overhaul Indigenous Studies Taught in Canadian Schools.” https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/06/14/calls-grow-to-overhaul-indigenous-studies-taught-in-canadian-schools/.

Kabatay, Jasmine and Rhiannon Johnson. “Charting Progress on Indigenous Content in School Curricula.” https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/indigenous-content-school-curriculums-trc-1.5300580.

Mandewo, Alexandra. “The Importance of Teaching Indigenous History in Education.” https://www.theindigenousfoundation.org/articles/the-importance-of-teaching-indigenous-history-in-education.

University of British Columbia Library. “Indigenous Education Lesson Plans (Elementary).” https://guides.library.ubc.ca/c.php?g=676257&p=4765077.

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