Schools Have Failed First Nations by Lying About History

Dave Courchene

We, the First Peoples, are the roots of this land. As the original free and independent nations of Turtle Island, we honour our sacred traditions, which were given to us by our Great Creator. We recognize that our first step must be to show our appreciation and gratitude towards Meymeynosh—the Earth herself. Being the roots of this land comes with the responsibility of leadership in educating our children.

When we truly reflect on the present education system as it is delivered to the youth, we must return to the original intent of education itself—and see that we have failed our children in providing the best education possible.

We pride ourselves in that we live in an advanced society because of our education system, yet we have not been able to find more peaceful resolutions to our differences, and we continue to challenge nature’s authority.

In the English dictionary, education is defined as “to develop [a child] mentally, morally or aesthetically, especially by instruction.”

The education system has failed First Nations people because it does not tell the truth of the history of our people. It does not share the stories of the roots of the original people of this land who have a knowledge and understanding, particularly in how to have a respectful relationship with Meymeynosh herself.

RELATED: First Nations Call Federal Education Act a Bust 


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Bharat's picture
Congt. for this development.
Dr. R's picture
All you say is true. However... Today's Tribes use the same toxic chemicals that cause cancer and gender-bending in the people. Today's Tribes plant the same GMO crops knowing that they are unnatural monsters of corporate america. Today's Tribes have forgotten how to live in harmony with nature and instead have taken up the mantle of European pollution, greed and destruction of the environment. It is right to teach what the past was; but it is useless if you choose to ignore what is happening today on the Tribal Lands. Where is the "education" in that?
Dr. R
Two Bears Growling's picture
Dr. R, Very interesting slant in what you had to say my friend. It is true that so many of our people hear & know what is so yet they STILL do the SAME things our ancestors speak against. Until our many peoples start to live the truths, think the truths & have the truth in their hearts nothing is going to change for the better. So many times as I have been across a number of places across Indian Country I continue seeing similar things in our native communities: Embracing the Invader culture through listening to the latest music, wearing the latest fashions, carrying on like the very culture around them instead of standing up against it all. So many of our youth may have that CDIB card, but so many of them know little to next to nothing about our cultures, try to learn & speak our languages or even care less about learning the ways of our ancestors. This is the most tragic of all: Not caring. Still, many want to claim they are "Indian". Claiming & looking like a certain people means nothing if someone knows nothing about their people, language & culture & don't even want to learn any of it. That makes a person exactly like the Invaders themselves. That is a great tragedy. Without the spirit of our ancestors within us we are no more. Without trying to learn our cultures & languages we will become no more. It is our native spirit that makes us so, learning our cultures & languages that make us who we are. Those who refuse to even try to learn our ways, culture & languages should be taken off our tribal membership rolls. If all someone has that CDIB card for is the benefits associated with tribal membership that is shameful, dishonorable & disgraceful being unworthy to even call oneself of the People. It is a great honor to have the heritage of our ancestors regardless of any benefits associated with or without a CDIB card or even national recognition. Be proud of where you come from my friends regardless of a CDIB card or national recognition of ones tribe. The Creator made us, loves us & expects each one of us to live our lives in a good way that honors Him above all others my friends.
Two Bears Growling
metis22's picture
Then it is time that not only must young, and older, indigenous be taught to be doctors, journalists, lawyers, etc, they must also know they can be and ARE historians with the same validity as "historians" of the 1st immigrants. They must know in their hearts that their history, or "version" of history is equal to that told by anyone else. When Mr. Courchene speaks of the "book of nature," it is called "natural research"/ natural history and there is NO reason it should not be demanded to be taught in "common core" classes - there is no greater common core than "the book of nature." All hospitals, etc are legally REQUIRED to have interpreters who speak each and every patient's first language - how many Indigenous DEMAND their right to this? All the immigrants and guest workers certainly do. DEMAND the cell phone companies have people who speak your language - all other countries' peoples coming here do. Each Indigenous Nation/Tribe is a book in the tome of Indigenous History. We can not demand European immigrant schools teach our history if we must beg them to write it. Who will stand and write history and DEMAND it be included in the Ameri-European history book of OUR country???
Christina Rochette's picture
This is so true! It is true if all children, however. We all need a connection to Mother Earth and each other. We all need an education of spirit and emotion and body as well as of mind. I feel there is an educational model that does this, which is a very small portion of the education models used today, and that is the Waldorf/Steiner model. I think it has a good set of ideas that could be used and adapted, and I don't think it is the perfect thing for everyone, but with cultural adaptation for the people and the times, I see it as something that could serve as a model that would help many people. One thing that is done, which I think is very important, is encouraging children to remain home with their family until they are 6-7 years old. This allows them to develop their bodies in a way that is good (to play and be active) and helps them to learn the stories of their people, how to work in the homes and lives of their families. While I don't agree with a lot of the reasons behind some of the approaches in Waldorf schools, I think the approaches make a lot of sense and could be adapted to different peoples. Much of the education is focused upon teaching the stories of different peoples in order to teach them a good relationship with the world and with other people and with themselves. All children are taught to be in good relationship with the Earth and to be strong within themselves so they may make their own choices instead of following blindly with the crowd that is blinded by technology and the detachment from everything around them. All children are taught art and cooking and gardening, caring for other things and working with other children and adults in a loving way. The students have a single main teacher for 8 years, allowing them to develop a relationship with them and grow together. It is a beautiful model that I think could be so well adapted to different peoples.
Christina Rochette
Mark Grant's picture
The system has failed in the education dept...having native from both sides of family altho i look like a big ole apple i will say this...the natives who make us look ill informed and uneducated please stop...got land? those people...we got land and quite possible are here today because of the britsh colony in 1812...saving canada from being taken over from united states ...in that time period why there are so few natives in the states today is because they were killing them off...if the british did not come to save us we would either be american no not here because mine and ur ancestors would of been killed off...so to those who make us look not so bright and educated saying...got land thank a native...do your homework and give thanks to where it s deserved...to the british colony .
Mark Grant
Cherokee_Brandon's picture
You are right that the education system has failed us. When I was in school we were taught the same old Hollywood and Disney version of reality, which was "Columbus invented America and everything was good." We were taught to have disrespect for our heritage, to think of it as barbaric or primitive (and they wanted us to think of primitive in a negative way), to pass our former way of life off as something that "just happened and is all over now" as if it wasn't important enough to continue to remember. There is nothing that can be done if we continue trying to assimilate with each others cultures, white and First Peoples. They have taken so much away from us and we are forced to pretend we are happy with what awfulness they leave behind for us. If we can spread the word about the real history and what really happened children would not have the burden of deciding between their own heritage and white history. Shame on the education system. Shame on "leaders" of the world. What truly saddens me is that we are so far past the point of no return that even if we wanted to return to our previous way of life, we would find it nearly impossible to do so.
Valerie Goodness's picture
Dr. R. If in fact, you are a Dr. I am very disappointed that you have not cited your reputable references. Even though your opinions have NOTHING to do with the focus of this article which is " Schools Have Failed First Nations by Lying About History"... Equally troubling is the fact that you lump all tribes under one banner, which any Dr. would know is lazy and rather yellow journalistic. My question to you would be, are you Native American, which tribes do you refer to, how is that connected to the failures of our government's education system in including Indigenous scholarship, and your references..please....Since I know a little something about Tribal land management, and I am Native American and I also happen to teach Indigenous Natural resource and agriculture science, I can guarantee you that you are misinformed and have half truths, for the most part, about how tribes manage their lands despite terrible misdeeds by corporations and our government's generational ability to look the other way when states grant leases to polluter's fraudulently. Getches, Pevar, Hauptman, Grinde, Vecsey, LaDuke and many many more have written extensively about the environmental injustices committed on tribal lands by NON-Tribal people. But I will leave you with this; the World Wildlife Fund states that the last sustainable lands in the Americas is Indigenous lands, which kind of makes your comments moot. Additionally the UN and UNESCO since the late 1980's have continuously admonished countries to include cultural diversity in their education systems. Because multicultural diversity in the STEM sciences is key and connected to biodiversity within our ecosystems and their services. NSF scholar PhD candidate in natural resource science and Indigenous history VGG
Valerie Goodness
andre's picture
Interesting article, which elicited some great comments. I'd offer this. Until you control the education system (even BIA) the results will always be lessons from his-story. We must keep in mind that (he) wrote the textbooks and the lesson plans that kids are taught from.
WinterWindTeacher's picture
They lied to many others also. They made us put our hands on our heart and swear that the flag was a nation who gave liberty and justice to all. I cried. I thought it was a beautiful flag and then I could not look at it anymore. There were privileges, there was denial and betrayal. Some of us had to tell the truth, it did not matter much. One did not leave much behind, it never could be home. The fields of solitude, the thunder and lightening, the river in spring, the woodpecker in early summer, salamanders and frogs, lightening bugs, coyotes singing in the night. The fresh scented soil after summer rain, the smell of fresh cut hay, the arrival of summer air that irritated one to be kept inside. The smell of delicious roses, dew on the grass before the sun had warmed it away. The glare of sun so bright with everything covered in snow. Pulling our flying saucers up the steep hill in our frozen fun and flying and twirling around and around and down the steep hill in the middle of winter. Hearing the winter wind speak in an ancient tongue extraordinary, magnificent intelligence. The most beautiful clean delicious water from a spring - free. Raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, dandelion greens, corn, squash, maple syrup, the smell of horses, knicker for breakfast, barefoot all summer, wading in the cool streams and brooks, swimming in the pond on a hot day. Fresh milk with the cream. A warm fireplace. The sound of mice playing up and down the walls when the lights are turned out. The sorrow of looking at that vista; lake and trees everywhere, knowing summer had left but trusting it was a true friend and would return again. The thrill of the surging river in spring, carrying and pushing great huge pieces of ice way up on a hill or in the middle of the road. The biggest surprise of the year, awesome power. The friendly racoon that visited each camp and begged for food, watching him climb all over, so friendly and then eat and go wash his face and hands and on to the next. Yes, they lied about so much, it is hard to know what they said that was true, accept one thing - they said the government was crooked, that they stole from the people. I think that was a truth, I think the government has been very corrupt and evil and does not tell the people the truth about much if anything. There was so much beautiful life, but it was so lonely, for a human being it was lonely. How sad to cry in all that beauty, so much loneliness, so many lies, how hard it was till it was not possible, the impossibility of love, of truth, of being. It was dying or going, glad I left to find human being. Dirt roads and apple trees in cow pastures, how beautiful the belly of green pine trees that were tucked into winter blankets of snow. Forgetting to be cautious around pine trees and getting sticky pitch all over, good glue. Building igloo's and finding them fun to be about and offering warmth and protection from harsh winter winds. Raking up the autumn leaves, maple and oak, into a pile and jumping into them. Wanting to dream; strange to leave paradise because it would not tolerate human being, missing home, can never be home, just a place I loved for a little while. They did not tell us about you, nor did they tell us of the beautiful place where the river was born in the mountains; cloud in the sky. They did not tell us who was polluting the river, making it sick and smell. They never told us what happened to you, where did you go, where were you, they never said a word. They pretended and lied, but tears and pain were real. They were blind, deaf, and could find no intelligence, nor heart to feel. A lost refugee from some long ago caravan over the sea. It was wrong to come here, there was no liberty; truth and liberty are their enemies, their only enemies. Life told the the truth about you, I could see, hear, and feel it. Their books may not say a damn thing about you, but life will testify to the truth. It has said all these years - Native Indigenous America, so it must be written in the book of truth. I am grateful to have seen and lived with some part of your country, it was so awesomely beautiful. It truly was a great majestic beauty like no other. I can see your point, how painful the betrayal to teach your children false and mythical histories. One you will not have to struggle with is the teacher you always had, life. It speaks truth and it says your name - it loves you; rocks, trees, waters, mountains, valleys, plains, plants, grasses, bears, deer, buffalo; they all speak of 'the people', Native Indigenous America. The love they have for you is clear and they speak the truth of you. It is a blessing to have all this life everywhere loving you, it is a great gift and truth. It is amazing to see that myself, life in its many forms saying the great love of its life; is you, 'the people', Native Indigenous America. The time will come it is said when the book of truth will be opened by Angels and they will read the names written there, I am confident by life's testament - you are written there. Your teachers and teachings were the very best, the wisest, don't forsake that. If it's pushing bells and buttons for money, your capable. When it comes to intelligence, understanding, and wise; they have always been your teachers and true they were, remember them and find a way to return to the excellent education that is your culture and heritage. The time comes, your nations are restored and the land, it is necessary for you to lead the way into those tomorrows waiting to be born.