CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE TEACHING
In our culture there is nothing more important than the learning that makes a person wise. The main thing the southern culture wants from school is ‘head knowledge’. That is what it has always emphasized. I do not know why. It intrigues me.
I think about what school would look like if we had worked together from the beginning to make the learning better for our younger ones. I look to the future in believing it will be more on our terms where both worlds can be combined. It will be not just about knowledge, but how to behave and be wise, not just knowing. This is what is happening now, but we have a long way to go.
Percy Henry, Tr'ondek Hwech'in Elder
More recent developments in Canada‟s Yukon Territory draw attention to how political changes have potential for accelerating practices in education that are responsive to Indigenous People‟s cultural knowledge systems and practices. In contrast to other provincial jurisdictions across Canada, treaties were historically never negotiated in the Yukon. Over the past three decades, the Governments of both Canada and the Yukon have moved towards actualizing policy developments with YFNs (Yukon First Nations), called Self-Government Agreements (SGAs). SGAs, which are unique to the Yukon, are complex and wide-ranging, and include financial compensation, land, harvesting rights, heritage resources and operative governance structures in areas like education and justice. The SGAs have come to finalization within the last decade and set out the powers of the First Nation government to govern itself, its citizens and its land. Self-government agreements provide self-governing First Nations (SGFNs) with law-making authority in specific areas of First Nation jurisdiction, including education. With the establishment of SGFNs, each FN with the required co-operation of Yukon Education (YE), faces the challenge of reversing assimilation and regaining a sense of identity especially within the processes that influence the education of their children.
This website has been created as a professional learning resource for Yukon Education and the Yukon’s First Nations that work together today for their children’s future in adjusting teaching practice. Although developed specifically for Tr'ondek Hwech'in, the resource is developed as a call to action in assisting all Yukon teachers to:
understand their current teaching practice,
based upon comments from parents, students and other personnel, understand what effective teaching practice looks from a First Nations perspective,
profile their own teaching to identify areas that might need adjustment and
evaluate the impact of these adjustments on student engagement and learning.
The site includes narratives, on-line surveys, teaching resources and personal video accounts that can assist schools and their teachers, with professional guidance, in moving towards a responsive teaching practice for First Nations students.