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Curriculum must authentically value Indigenous Peoples


May 12, 2021 Melissa Purcell, ATA Executive Staff Officer, Indigenous Education

In 2014, the Government of Alberta made a commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to “rebalancing the education system by including Indigenous ways of knowing in curriculum to advance reconciliation for all Albertans.”

The draft K–6 curriculum recently released by Alberta Education represents an overturning of that commitment. Specifically, the draft curriculum 

  • fails to authentically include historical and contemporary contributions of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit within Alberta and Canada;
  • perpetuates systemic racism through whitewashing of curriculum and any opportunities for learning the histories of the land through Indigenous perspectives and experiences;
  • supresses diverse perspectives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit and respect for holistic learning, being and doing; 
  • removes cultural authenticity and respect for First Nations, Métis and Inuit experiences and worldviews, and interconnectedness with the land; and
  • promotes stereotypes and perpetuates misconceptions that Indigenous Peoples are only part of the past.

During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) event in Edmonton on March 27, 2014, the Government of Alberta made a commitment to “rebalancing the curriculum and to including First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives and experiences.” Many survivors and intergenerational survivors from the Indian residential school system in Canada, as well as students, families, teachers, community and invited guests, were witnesses to this commitment to reconciliation. This commitment includes

  • mandatory content for all Alberta students about residential schools and treaties,
  • a kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum development standard and
  • support for related professional learning opportunities for teachers.

In 2016, the Alberta Teachers’ Association signed the Joint Commitment to Action (JCTA) with representatives of the Government of Alberta, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and other educational organizations within Alberta to ensure that all K–12 teachers receive additional training related to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit histories and cultures. This is a lifelong commitment that requires the collective efforts of all education partners, including the commitment to foster meaningful relationships with Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers and communities to authentically advance reconciliation. 

In keeping with this commitment and consistent with its responsibilities to uphold high standards of professional practice, the Association supported recognition of Indigenous peoples’ history, experiences, perspectives and insights in the foundational documents establishing the professional expectations of teachers. Effective Sept. 1, 2019, the Professional Practice Standards set out for teachers, school leaders and superintendents all included competencies to ensure teachers and all educational professionals have knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing, residential schools and their legacy; treaties; and First Nations, Métis and Inuit experiences and perspectives, cultures and contributions in historical and contemporary contexts. 

As part of its commitment to the JCTA and the TRC calls to action, the Association implemented the Walking Together: Education for Reconciliation professional learning project to support Alberta’s teachers and school leaders in meeting the competency for developing and applying Indigenous foundational knowledge. Resources, workshops and supports continue to be developed to support teachers and school leaders in meeting this competency. More information can be found on the Association’s webpage ( under My ATA > Professional Development > Indigenous Education and Walking Together.

Teachers and schools leaders across the province have been engaging in Indigenous education through ongoing professional development, exploring authentic resources, and establishing and maintaining relationships with local Indigenous Peoples. Teachers and school leaders have been working tirelessly to increase their foundational knowledge to contribute to rebalancing the education system. Albertans must have curriculum that reflects this work.

The Government of Alberta needs to work alongside First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Elders and Knowledge Keepers, communities and organizations, to ensure that the curriculum is rebalanced to authentically include Indigenous ways of knowing, and Indigenous perspectives, experiences and stories in order to advance truth and reconciliation. We need to continue to provide education on the importance of curriculum that accurately reflects Indigenous knowledge systems as a valid way of learning, being and doing. Albertans have a collective responsibility to hold each other accountable for our commitment to reconciliation through education. 

Advancing truth and reconciliation requires individual and collective commitment, and is a process rooted in relationship and responsible action. Albertans need a curriculum that accurately and authentically reflects First Nations, Métis, and Inuit perspectives and worldviews from within Alberta. A new curriculum must reflect the commitment to reconciliation through education. The Government of Alberta must closely work alongside Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, communities and organizations throughout the entire curriculum development process. ❚ 

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