Thursday, 16 October 2014

100 YEARS OF LOSS: ABORIGINAL HISTORY WILL NOW BE TAUGHT IN CANADIAN CLASSROOMS

MUSEUM INNOVATIONS
BY: JAIME CLIFTON-ROSS

Often discussed in MMSt courses are the ways in which museums and other cultural organizations effectively and respectfully represent difficult knowledge or “dark” aspects of history. How can museums portray the history of cultural oppression while illustrating truth, instigating affect, and maintaining integrity? How do they consider audiences who were directly or indirectly impacted by traumatic events?

Do YOU remember learning about the history of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples in elementary school and/or high school? Was is it even part of your class curriculum? I personally received the bulk of my knowledge of Aboriginal cultures while growing up on Vancouver Island where First Nations art is prominently displayed throughout the city, in art galleries, and museums. It wasn’t until University though where I finally learned about the social significance of potlatches, animal symbology, and weaving traditions. I also learned about the devastating history of Indigenous colonialism which is largely omitted from grade school curriculums in Canada.


Aboriginal students and staff assembled outside the Kamloops Indian Residential School
Aboriginal students and staff assembled outside the Kamloops Indian Residential School

In collaboration with the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF), Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), and Canadian Heritage, the Legacy of Hope Foundation's (LHF) innovative development of 100 Years of Loss - The Residential School System in Canada is working to change this. In producing this invaluable education program, modelled on museum education practices, the LHF is on a quest to integrate Aboriginal history into Canadian grade school curriculums for ages 11-18.











Their primary mission is to “increase public awareness and knowledge of the Indian Residential School System” (100 Years of Loss Website), to move forward with the healing and reconciliation process, and to instigate more equality for Aboriginal people of Canada. The LHF collaborated with residential school survivors, numerous Indigenous community members—including museum curators, researchers, educators, and curriculum developers—over the course of ten years. By involving a range of stakeholders, they ensured that all educational materials produced would accurately reflect the testimonials of survivors and maintain cultural respect.

Offered in both French and English, this program includes the following components:

THE EDU-KIT:

The curriculum is comprised of a “small-scale wall-mounted timelines, videos including Survivor testimonies, and a Teacher’s Guide with six customizable Lesson Plans (12-24 hrs of activities), teacher resources and extension activities” (Legacy of Hope Website).

100 Years of Loss Education Program Booklet Cover
100 Years of Loss Education Program Booklet

MOBILE EXHIBITION (travelling exhibition):

This unique exhibition consists of “eight thematic pods (4 in each official language), and a wavy wall that presents interweaving timelines” (Legacy of Hope Website). Complete with photographs, documents, and text, this exhibition has travelled throughout the county and has even visited The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, The Canadian Museum of History, as well as Parliament Hill, to name a few.

Mobile Exhibition on Display
Mobile Exhibition on Display

WORKSHOP:

“The workshop process, whether using the activities-based Edu-Kit or the inquiry, research, and discussion-based mobile exhibition workshop, is designed to take youth through the spectrum of awareness, to sensitization, to understanding, and finally to action that has the potential, and indeed initiates the process of reconciliation” (Legacy of Hope Website).

DIGITAL EXHIBITION:

The corresponding digital exhibition depicts the history of Residential Schools through photographs, testimonials, texts, and a timeline. This user-controlled narrative —similar to those developed by Google Cultural Institute—utilizes contemporary storytelling techniques that enable users to intimately engage with the content. This web and mobile app can be accessed online or downloaded via Google Play and iTunes.

100 Years of Loss Digital Exhibition Screenshot.
100 Years of Loss Digital Exhibition Screenshot.

By developing a range of materials, both physical and digital, the curriculum implementation process was successfully initiated in 2012. Future generations of Canadians will now learn the vital history of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples that were largely absent from our childhood educations.

CHECK OUT "WE ARE THE CHILDREN", ANOTHER DIGITAL EXHIBITION DEVELOPED BY THE LHF IN 2001.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing about such an tragic part of Canadian history that is often glossed over in the regular school curriculum. Many of the children who will be taught about the history of residential schools will be similar in age to some of the children that were forced into these institutions. Although it is certainly an area of 'difficult knowledge', it is a history that should be confronted and discussed, rather than forgotten. The images of Thomas Moore you included exemplify the sadness of the cultural loss that these children experienced. I may not be reading into this enough, but is this an optional addition to the regular curriculum? If so, I wonder how many schools or teachers will choose to not teach it because it is a difficult subject. I would be very interested to see how the Catholic school system would treat a subject where their own abusive actions contributed to the experiences that deeply affected generations of children.

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    1. Yes, as far as I know this is an optional curriculum element. Teachers can purchase the edu-kit for their classrooms for approx. $50. It can be purchased by non-teachers fro roughly $250. Perhaps this program will encourage provinces to eventually implement it permanently into their curriculums, making it mandatory! The only way we can effect change is if we learn about it! Thanks for reading and for your comment!

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  2. To add to Kathryn's comment, what is impressive in this initiative to remember difficult moments is the multiple entry points to this history - I really like the tangible forms of display which are meant to travel and be present in multiple and diverse spaces - I believe that in cases of difficult memory, a tangible component is essential, in addition to other digital moments which individuals need to look for specifically; a display in a public space is more permanent and in a way forces those who occupy the space to encounter the memories and think about them. Great story, Jaime!

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    1. I feel as though multiple entry points is key in developing an accessible program, especially one that needs to be circulated amongst a variety of communities. By having tangible videos that account for personal memories, but also poignant images that illustrate hardship, the public may recognize the "human side" of things that are often absent in history text books. Thanks for reading and for your comment!

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