Eyre needs ‘better understanding’ of First Nations, child advocate says
Education minister should talk to Indigenous people: O’S oup
The first Indigenous person appointed as Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth says Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre “needs to gain a better understanding” of how Saskatchewan’s history is taught.
Corey O’ Soup, a member of the Key First Nation, expressed dismay at Eyre’s recent public comment suggesting there is too much “infusion” of First Nations history in school curriculum.
“She needs to learn a little bit more before she makes those statements ... I think she needs to maybe challenge herself to sit down with some of our people and get a better understanding of what’s happening out there,” he said.
Indigenous children have been trained in the dominant European perspective for hundreds of years in Canada and it’s time for First Nations and Metis perspectives to be presented adequately too, he said in an interview on Thursday at the Revitalizing Our Grieving Spirit conference at Saskatoon’s Indian and Metis Friendship Centre.
O’ Soup referred to the recollections of Metis Senator Nora Cummings, who told the gathering that as a child in school, she was told to stand up and was pointed out as a savage.
“That’s what they were taught. We need to be taught something different ... I believe it’s OK for our non-Indigenous children and youth to learn our history.”
O’ Soup, who worked as teacher with at-risk youth in Saskatoon and then in policy with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, was hired as Advocate for Children and Youth last year, after serving three years as special adviser to the minister of education and deputy minister of education.
“When I was there, our goal was infusion. Our previous minister supported that and we worked with our deputy minister’s office and I gave him lots of advice and that was my job, to teach them, encourage them and to advise them,” he said.
O’ Soup said Eyre’s suggestion that a single class may be the way to teach Indigenous issues looks to him like she isn’t aware that infusion is a deliberate expansion of the Aboriginal studies classes that already existed. Infusion was needed, he said.
If we don’t specifically mention First Nation and Metis people in the curriculum, in the documents, in the outcomes, in the indicators, then we get forgotten and we get left out.
“Hopefully we’re not taking a huge step backwards,” he said.
In his current position, O’ Soup has already made education one of four areas of emphasis and is expected to release a report later this year.
Saskatchewan Party leadership candidate Ken Cheveldayoff, who attended Thursday’s conference, said “everyone has a different idea on things.
“Those are her personal comments and they’re not government policy … I think we have to look at the best way to teach history in our province, whether it’s with infusion as the debate is right now or in a specific class.”
Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth, Corey O’Soup, said Indigenous history needs to be infused throughout the school curriculum.