October 24, 2017 6:06 pm
Updated: October 24, 2017 6:57 pm

Alberta schools to teach Indigenous history and culture in classrooms

WATCH: It's a historical subject that was never taught in schools across Canada. But this generation will now have knowledge about a disturbing chapter in our country's past. Jill Croteau reports.


It is an uncomfortable and often misunderstood chapter in Canadian history but many who experienced the trauma from the dark legacy of residential schools say it’s long overdue to bring that part of our country’s past into classrooms.

READ MORE: Canada’s aboriginal residential school system was ‘cultural genocide,’ report says

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As part of a pilot project, Calgary’s Dr. Martha Cohen School participated in teaching students about the history, culture and abuse within the residential schools.

Grade 7 teacher Meagan Lundgren said it was an emotional experience.

“What they’ve always pictured Canada to be isn’t the reality,” Lundgren said.

“Some students said they felt ashamed and there was anger. They said, ‘Why have we been lied to and why don’t my parents know this?'”

Even the students who had some knowledge about residential schools didn’t know the real extent.

READ MORE: Alberta study finds teachers lack confidence to talk about residential schools 

Grade 7 student Dominic Bigelow said his grandparents are survivors.

“Especially how they treated kids — serious, horrible whipping, abusing. It’s not right,” Bigelow said. “That really stood out to me.”

READ MORE: University of Alberta launches pilot program offering hands-on education to aboriginal youth 

Alberta Education Minister David Eggen said the lesson plans are available for teachers to use at their discretion.

“Many teachers may be learning about this dark chapter for the first time themselves,” Eggen said.

“It will take commitment and courage to help strengthen relationships across the province.”

The lessons were crafted with the help of elders and others from First Nations communities.

READ MORE: Cree app launched to help preserve indigenous language 

Chief Tony Alexis with the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation said hearing from those directly impacted has been profound.

“Most of the stories came from the non-Indigenous community. As an Indigenous person observing that, it brought emotion,” Alexis said. “It was like I was a witness to someone else’s story when it was really our story.”

Until the curriculum is permanently changed, the resources are available to teachers Grades 1 to 9.

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