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Indigenous student praised after altering ‘European discovery of Americas’ worksheet

Saskatoon

An Indigenous high school student in Saskatoon is being praised for her actions after receiving an assignment about the “European discovery of [the] Americas” in 1492.

Saskatoon Public School Division says concerns about the assignment are valid

Jason Warick · CBC News ·

A Saskatoon mom says she’s proud of her daughter for crossing out part of the phrase “European Discovery of [the] Americas” on a high school assignment this week and adding the word “colonizing.” (Submitted by Kathy Walker)

An Indigenous high school student in Saskatoon is being praised for her actions after receiving an assignment about the “European discovery of [the] Americas” in 1492.

Her Grade 9 social studies teacher at Evan Hardy Collegiate handed out a worksheet this week. It described historic events such as the invention of the airplane and the construction of the Great Wall of China.

But there were also three references to “European discovery of [the] Americas.”

The girl crossed out the word “discovery” and altered it to read, “Europeans begin colonizing the Americas.”

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand said he hopes educators will learn from an incident where Evan Hardy Collegiate students were taught about the “European discovery of [the] Americas.” (Saskatoon Tribal Council)

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand says he’s glad the girl had the intelligence and the confidence to correct the worksheet.

“I’m really proud of this young First Nations lady that’s going to school and picked this up and said this is wrong,” Arcand said.

Arcand and Rhett Sangster of Saskatchewan’s Office of the Treaty Commissioner say it’s wrong to spread such misinformation.

“This is not acceptable. It’s too bad this happened,” Sangster said.

The Treaty Commissioner’s Office has worked for years to introduce treaty education and correct historical inaccuracies. Arcand noted the tribal council signed a partnership with Saskatoon Public Schools over the summer. Three Saskatoon schools are increasing Indigenous involvement in curriculum development and other areas, but Evan Hardy was not among them.

Sangster and Arcand say they hope everyone can learn from this mistake.

“We need to change these things together,” Arcand said.

The girl’s mother, Kathy Walker, said she was disgusted by the assignment.

A Saskatoon mom says she’s unhappy this worksheet was handed out in a Saskatoon high school this week. Her daughter crossed out the word “discovery” and wrote “colonizing” instead. (submitted by Kathy Walker/CBC)

“I was in disbelief. This is ridiculous,” Kathy Walker said.

“Please don’t put the onus on me and other parents to undo this miseducation.”

Walker, a member of the Okanese First Nation in southern Saskatchewan, had been living in B.C. for several years pursuing her doctoral degree. Walker and her daughter recently moved back to Saskatoon, where she’s teaching an Indigenous governance course at the University of Saskatchewan.

Walker said she was surprised this curriculum is still being taught. She said it reinforces the stereotype that pre-contact Indigenous presence in North America doesn’t count.

“This doctrine of discovery seeks to erase the record of Indigenous existence. I thought we’d gotten past this,” she said.

Saskatoon mother Kathy Walker was surprised to see her daughter bring home a high school worksheet asking students to assign dates to historic events such as the “European Discovery of [the] Americas.” (Jason Warick/CBC)

Walker was happy to see her daughter’s alteration to the worksheet.

“I’m glad she noticed, and I’m glad she did something. I’m proud of her,” Walker said.

Walker said she’s hoping this was a one-time error rather than standard curriculum. The teacher made air quotes with his fingers while saying the word “discovery” to the class, but then continued the assignment as written, she said.

Walker said her daughter likes the teacher, and is still confident her daughter will get a good education at Evan Hardy.

She plans to raise the issue with the school’s parent council and other officials and hopes students won’t have to see this material again.

An official for Saskatoon Public Schools confirmed in an email to CBC News the assignment was provided during a social studies class at Evan Hardy this week.

The official said concerns about the material are valid.

“The only way we can do better as a learning community is if we are open to addressing such issues and move forward together. We aspire to achieve the goals set out in our school division’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action,” read the statement.

It’s not clear if this worksheet or similarly worded materials are used in the school or school division, but an official said they are looking into the matter.

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