Indigenous peoples continue to remediate the negative impacts of past government policies that forced cultural assimilation culminating in the removal of Indigenous children from their families to attend Indian Residential Schools. These policies continue to have significant multi-generational consequences for Indigenous peoples.
With this in mind, the Ministry of Education recognizes the importance of supporting Indigenous learners beyond the normal structures of public schooling. One of the ways that this is accomplished is through the infusion of First Peoples Principles of Learning throughout the redesigned provincial curriculum. With a more in-depth understanding of Indigenous peoples and their histories, cultures and traditions, all students in British Columbia will have a foundation for developing mutual understanding and respect.
Excerpt from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report:
Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future
Too many Canadians know little or nothing about the deep historical roots of these conflicts. This lack of knowledge has serious consequences for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples, and for Canadians as a whole. History plays an important role in reconciliation, it will take many heads, hands, and hearts, working together, at all levels of society to maintain momentum in the years ahead. (pg. 9)
The Ministry of Education also encourages districts to work collaboratively with local First Nations, Métis or Inuit communities to co-construct an Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement (AEEA). The AEEA establishes a collaborative partnership between Aboriginal communities and school districts that involves shared decision-making and specific goal setting to meet the educational needs of Aboriginal learners. Aboriginal Education seeks to:
- Improve the success of Indigenous learners;
- Support all students learning about Indigenous peoples; and
- Help teachers in their efforts to bring Indigenous knowledge into their teaching practice.
Surrey Schools support 2977 students who self-identify as being of Indigenous ancestry. Our students of Indigenous ancestry come from a wide-range of communities. The Surrey Schools Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement outlines our vision and three goals:
To have every Aboriginal learner graduate with dignity, purpose, and options.
Surrey schools is deeply committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, adhering to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and aligning our practices with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This commitment applies in all of our work throughout the priority practices and under the framework of Learning by Design. It also involves more targeted work to specifically support Indigenous students as they navigate the education system by providing culturally appropriate, safe, and respectful learning environments. Supports for Indigenous students go beyond the classroom and into the social environment, and include providing spaces for Indigenous students to explore their relationship to their learning in ways that promote a fuller integration of their passions, talents, and gifts into the learning process. The district is currently scanning the entirety of its practices to ensure that Indigenous students are supported, that our curriculum and instructional strategies teach histories accurately and respectfully, and that all of our students, teachers, and staff are living up to our commitments to reconciliation.
- Increase positive identity and sense of belonging;
- Increased knowledge and understanding of Indigenous histories, traditions and culture for all learners; and
- Increase achievement of Indigenous learners.
We believe that our students are our future, and consequently, all members of the Surrey Schools community share in the responsibility to promote the goals agreed upon in the AEEA.
Two music videos, Hide & Seek and Show Us The Way, centre on young Indigenous people embracing and acknowledging Indigenous heritage and feature 22 Indigenous students, representing 19 Nations from Surrey Schools. Student-written lyrics along with compelling visuals shed light on some of the challenges facing Indigenous youth in an urban setting. Through the arts, students share their powerful messages:
“The closer you look the more that you see, the wisdom of elders come back to me. Once taken from home, but now we are free, we won’t forget where we are meant to be.”
“See who I am, I’ve got something to say; I’ll show you again, don’t want to be afraid; I’ll be learning for the rest of my days; So I’ll stand tall if you teach me the ways; As we look to the future will you see me the same?”