Every grade 10 student in Fraser Cascade School District (SD78) will soon learn about Indigenous peoples with the introduction of Literary Studies in English on Indigenous Peoples 10.
The basic course received formal approval from SD78 at its January 18 meeting.
SD78 Superintendent Balan Moorthy said the program, which is “heavily vetted” by the BC First Nations Education Steering Committee, will be a two-credit offering that covers a lot of ground.
“It will provide an introduction to the challenges of 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, as well as the identities that Indigenous peoples have stolen from them. It will explore the concept of belonging and explore residential schools and reconciliation through literature.
These are things Moorthy, 55, didn’t learn when he was in the public school system.
“Even people 20 years younger than me haven’t learned any of this,” he said.
He said there was a growing call for students across the province to “study the history of British Columbia and Canada in an authentic way.”
He is happy to have SD78 in mind.
“This will ensure that all Grade 10 students in the Fraser Cascade School District gain a solid grounding in our own historical perspectives on the treatment of Indigenous peoples and the beauty of Indigenous learning principles.
Living in an area rich in indigenous culture and history offers opportunities. Moorthy said Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Elders from 15 local First Nations communities/organizations linked to SD78 will be invited to schools.
“We have powerful leaders in our Indigenous communities, people who have tremendous storytelling skills,” he said. “We have Sonny McHalsie, who is a walking encyclopedia of the native history of this area. From Hope to Agassiz to Boston Bar, our resources are incredibly powerful.
In Moorthy’s experience, the majority of students studying Indigenous learning principles love it because it’s so different from what they know.
“It has a lot to do with how we connect to the earth and it instills an almost holistic view of learning that is very different from what our traditional curriculum has done,” he said. “The principles of Indigenous learning are beautiful for many children, especially those who struggled to keep up with the flat Eurocentric level of education we received in British Columbia.
“The clear majority sees the benefits and the majority of students seem to thrive on it.”