Blog

 
November 2018

Indigenous Culture and Education in the News


There seems to have been a recent surge of interest in Indigenous culture not only in Waldorf circles, but in Canadian society at large. 

At least some people are finally asking “Why is a quarter of Canada’s prison population Indigenous?” instead of just totally ignoring the status quo (as in this Feb. 18th, 2018 story from “The Conversation”) .

In a recent Canadaland podcast from October 22nd, Ryan McMahon wonders out loud how a city like Thunder Bay can be white nirvana for some, while remaining “Murder Bay” for the Indigenous population.

Finding The Path Forward

In a Toronto Star story from October 31, Star reporter and this year’s Massey lecturer, Tanya Talaga, who is herself Indigenous, highlights the role that educators can play in Indigenous reconciliation. From that story:

“The Indigenous experience in all of these colonized nations is startlingly similar, Talaga said. It is marked by violent separation from the land, from families and from traditional ways of life.

In Canada, that experience has seen children removed from their homes and placed in residential schools and foster care. It has also resulted in an epidemic of youth suicides.

“When children are born into adversity, into communities without clean water or proper plumbing with unsafe housing, parents suffering with addictions and traumas, when they have to leave their communities to access health care and education — basic rights easily obtained by other children in this country — when they do not have a parent to tuck them into bed at night or tell them that they love them, children die,” Talaga said.

She gave high praise to educators for taking it upon themselves to learn and teach about the true history of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.

“While education has played a huge role in damaging relations between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, it is also going to play a crucial role in reconciling that relationship,” she said.

Legions of teachers are reading and teaching books by Indigenous authors and historians even if their governments are not keeping pace with what they are doing in the classroom.

“The educators will always lead us forward,” she said to loud applause….”

The Walrus magazine published an excerpt from Tanya Tagaq’s book “Split Tooth”, a fictionalized account of Indigenous youth experience, in their October 2018 issue.

Student Walkout in Ontario

Back in September non-Indigenous students across Ontario walked out of their classrooms for a day of protest against premier Doug Ford’s rollback of the 2015 sex-ed curriculum, as well as changes to the Indigenous curriculum in Ontario. The following is from a CTV news story dated Sept. 21st, 2018:

“It’s time for all students to stand up and fight for our right to education. We the students will walk out, protest, and demand the reinstatement of the 2015 sex ed curriculum and re-establishment of the indigenous curriculum rewrite. We the students will not stop. We will not relent. Not until we win this fight.”

The Upside Down

In Australia, while the general attitude towards the Indigenous peoples is probably no farther ahead than in Canada, there are a few bright spots, such as the National Museum of Australia exhibit on the Seven Sisters Songline, and Bill Lang’s book “Old Man’s Story”.

In New Zealand, Neil Boland is working on promoting a working together of Waldorf and Indigenous cultures.

The Indigenous Waldorf  Movement

And on the Waldorf front, the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto and the Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf are not the only organizations working on bringing Indigenous and Waldorf cultures together.

In the United States, the Lakota Waldorf School has been a pioneer in integrating Waldorf and Indigenous culture. And in a recent issue of the Waldorf Today newsletter, there was an announcement about a gathering Oct 5-7 in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento titled:

“Reconnecting - Bringing Indigenous Wisdom into Life and Education Weekend” 

The announcement ran as follows: “We invite you to a gathering on Indigenous People’s weekend for educators, and all who care about our young people and the future of Mother Earth. With well known native artists/educators James Marquez, Stan Padilla, Aiona Anderson and Waldorf educators Jack Petrash and Nancy Poer

Reverent awareness of our interconnectedness with the natural world is primal knowledge among First Nation’s indigenous peoples. Today there is alarming disregard for our Mother Earth, and a disconnect from the very sources of life itself. We need a vital reconnection more than ever.

In this gathering respected indigenous educators and healers will share their native wisdom in dialogue, story, art, food, ceremony, healing practices for daily life and making beautiful crafts as community gifts. We will look at how we can enhance the Waldorf curriculum with renewing ideas. This ongoing work on behalf of our young people is to bring them a truer, deeper story of our nation’s history and support a higher, more inclusive understanding of life.

White Feather Ranch retreat center, at a site of ancient native grinding rocks, is an hour east of Sacramento in the Sierra foothills. There are rustic ranch style accommodations and 70 acres for camping. The program includes campfires, a chance for sleeping under the stars, a sunrise ceremony on Sunday followed by practical indications for our teaching curriculums….”

So Indigenous Waldorf is not just a local phenomenon.

Excitement Building for Waldorf Development Conference on Integrated Indigenous Cultural Material in the Waldorf School Setting, Nov. 9th and 10th at the RSCT in Thornhill

As of Monday Nov. 5th there have been registrations from as far away as Squamish B.C., Washington D.C., Detroit, Buffalo, Kingston, Ann Arbor, London, Montreal and the Waldorf Academy in Toronto. And from the Toronto Waldorf School alone, 18 teachers have registered. In total so far, 75 people have already registered for this event.

That's compared to 55 people who attended last year's conference. The difference in numbers might indicate that this year's topic has caught the imagination of Waldorf teachers across the continent.

Don't miss out on this unique opportunity to learn about integrating Indigenous material into the Waldorf curriculum. Here's a link to the website page with links to online registration forms (the links to the online forms are down at the bottom of that page).

There will be online registrations only, for this event. Deadline for registering is Friday Nov. 9th at 6 pm. But please register as early as possible to help with planning the food and the space. Thank you.