For many teachers the experience of teaching about Indigenous women and girls, much like the teaching about Residential Schools, will require new learning, often only one step ahead of your students. This is not uncommon and should not be a deterrent to taking on this very important learning with your students. Consider this as an opportunity to learn with your students to co-create and learn together, respectfully and considerately.
Some teachers will be leading this initiative based on their own lived experience and/or with students who are directly or indirectly impacted by the issue of missing murdered family members. Again, this is not a reason to avoid this important learning. However, we acknowledge that the content can be difficult and emotional. We encourage teachers to access the resources and tools needed to develop both their personal and classroom-based strategies for self-care. Teachers who use a trauma-informed approach can create an environment that supports student self-empowerment, self-determination, and agency for change as students discover the power of their own voices.
Teachers are reminded not to assume that all Indigenous students in class are members of the local First Nation, Métis, or Inuit community. It is important to know the background of your students and to learn about the local Indigenous people and their lands. It is also important to remember that one of the significant inter-generational impacts of colonization and the Residential Schools system is separation from language and culture. Do not assume that Indigenous students know their culture, their birth family, or community of origin. Get to know your students, find out about their homeland, their traditional territory, and communities, and connect with them where possible.
Remember that relationship is key when learning about, with, and from Indigenous people. In-person, face-to-face learning opportunities are best for you and your students. We all have a role in this work but our roles are different depending on our background. We all have the responsibility to teach truth and move to action. Be aware that not everyone has the right to teach cultural protocols or talk about personal stories from other people’s lives without their permission. If you are non-Indigenous, connect with an Indigenous person/people from the territory to guide you and to do some of the teaching wherever possible.
Reminder about Indigenous Perspectives
The term “Indigenous” is used throughout this guide but it is important to remember that the perspectives, protocols, practices, values, teachings, and knowledge is unique to each First Nation, Inuit community, Metis community or settlement, family and individual. Educators, group leaders, parents, and anyone utilizing this guide will need to take the time to seek information, knowledge, and teaching from the people of the local territory. This is part of the necessary learning for change that creates safer places, spaces, and communities not only for Indigenous women and girls, but for all Indigenous peoples, and that fosters social justice and reconciliation.