Every Grade 10 student in the Fraser Cascade School District (SD78) will soon be learning about Indigenous peoples with the introduction of English First Peoples Literary Studies 10.
The core course received formal approval from SD78 at its Jan. 18 meeting.
SD78 superintendent Balan Moorthy said the curriculum, which is “heavily vetted” by B.C.’s First Nations Education Steering Committee, will be a two-credit offering covering a lot of ground.
“It’ll provide an introduction to challenges with representation, some of the oral traditions of First Peoples, the stories of first peoples and look at childhood through the eyes of indigenous writers,” Moorthy explained. “It will examine our own identities and how we define ourselves, and the identities that Indigenous peoples had robbed from them. It will explore the concept of belonging and explore residential schools and reconciliation through literature.”
These are things that Moorthy, 55, wasn’t taught when he was going through the public school system.
“Even people 20 years younger than me didn’t learn any of these things,” he said.
He said there has been a growing call for students across the province to “study the history of B.C. and Canada in an authentic way.”
He’s happy to have SD78 leading the way.
“This will ensure that all Grade 10 students in the Fraser Cascade School District get a solid foundation of our own historical perspectives of the treatment of Indigenous peoples, and the beauty of indigenous principles of learning.”
Living in an area rich in indigenous culture and history provides opportunities. Moorthy said Indigenous knowledge keepers and elders from 15 local First Nations communities/organizations connected to SD78 will be invited into schools.
“We have powerful leaders in our indigenous communities, people who have tremendous story-telling capabilities,” he said. “We have Sonny McHalsie, who is a walking encyclopedia of Indigenous history in this area. From Hope to Agassiz to Boston Bar, our resources are incredibly powerful.”
In Moorthy’s experience, the majority of students who study Indigenous principles of learning love it because it’s such a departure from what they know.
“It’s a lot to do with how well we connect to the land and it infuses an almost holistic look at learning which is far different from what our traditional curriculum has done,” he said. “The principles of Indigenous learning are beautiful to a lot of kids, particularly those who have struggled in the Euro-centric flat level of education that we’ve received in British Columbia.
“The clear majority see the benefit of it and the majority of students seem to flourish in it.”