In September 2017 I started teaching at CGCEC. I went from teaching English as Second Language (ESL) at a college in downtown Vancouver, BC, to a First Nation school on the Cote First Nation in rural Saskatchewan. I had absolutely no idea what I was in for.
Four years later I have to say that it has been an incredible learning experience. I was the student—my students were my teachers. I have witnessed the generational trauma of residential schools and cultural oppression. I’ve studied treaty rights, the Indian Act, local history and more.
At times I had to meet extremely difficult challenges and I felt so ill-equipped for the job; however, most people I worked with were patient with my questions and under the leadership of Principal Jonas Cote I felt welcome as a staff member.
It seems to me, if we as a country are to move forward to make reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a reality, we need to study the Indian Act and ask ourselves how would we as non-Natives feel if those restrictions were put on us? For starters: denied the right to vote; forbidden the right to speak one’s native language; forbidden the right to form a political organization; renamed with a European name; denied the right to leave one’s reserve without permission from an Indian agent (using a pass system). Would you want to be subjected to those laws?
I would like to see non-Native educators truly take the initiative and learn and participate in sharing the facts with all Canadians.
It is with great respect that I thank my students and the friends I made teaching at CGCEC for the opportunity and may we all participate in holding ourselves in a state where the new can be born for future generations.