VIOLENCE AGAINST ABORIGINAL WOMEN – A RESOURCE GUIDE FOR INFORMING STUDENTS ON THE ISSUE
Many scholars have argued that colonialism in Canada has undermined the social fabric of aboriginal people and damaged the integrity of their communities, with aboriginal women suffering additional injustices relating to their racialization (i.e. the imposition of a racial stereotype or context) and gender (University of British Columbia). In this assignment, our group set out to develop a set of educational materials for high school students that would educate and raise awareness to the issue of violence against aboriginal women in a manner that is appropriate for their age group, and that would shed light on this issue from a community development perspective focusing on students’ agency in taking action and bringing about change.
Based on our preliminary research on the British Columbia Social Studies curriculum for public high schools, we have learned that textbooks are substantially lacking when it comes to providing information on aboriginal people in Canada, both historically and in the present. This in turn leads to students being misinformed, and potentially sustains existing prejudices against aboriginal people. Moreover, we discovered a blatant lack of information on the violence faced by aboriginal women, and on Canada’s missing and murdered women, even though it is an issue that has been recorded since the early 1980’s (Culhane). These events constitute a human rights problem that does not simply fall under the category of gender inequality, aboriginal peoples issues of colonization, or even a lack of proper education, as it is a complex issue of inequality in a broader sense.
Our end goal is to correct misinformation and eliminate prejudice among students while challenging them to think critically and inspiring them to make relevant change in their communities. We will focus on both historical and current issues that affect aboriginal women, and how this has been a developmental issue within Canada. We will also involve youth in the process of understanding how this issue is perpetuated, and how it impacts their communities and society at large. In this way, we believe that students will find meaning and motivation to work towards informing others about these issues, eliminating prejudice in their own environments, and understanding appropriate ways to help make change.
Through our study of action strategies from such organizations and campaigns as Victoria International Development Education Association, WeCan Campaign, Justice Education Society of BC, and Amnesty International, we encountered a variety of approaches that overlap in their focus on community building. We plan to combine certain aspects of each campaign to create a successful multi-faceted action strategy that focuses on violence against aboriginal as a local development issue that has national and international affects (Hayward; WeCan Campaign; Justice Education Society of BC; and Amnesty International).
For our final project, we created a high school lesson plan designed to tackle students’ and teachers’ misinformation around the historical and current maltreatment of aboriginal women, create a space for dialogue and sharing, and encourage joint community action with pre-action community assessments, and action plans to help youth find their place with regards to development issues and leadership within their own communities. The material is designed to be taught over the course of 5 teaching days during the second week of February, at the end of which students will attend the Annual Women’s Memorial March on February 14th in the location closest to them, or alternatively, students residing in distant locations will watch a live broadcast of the Women’s March at the end of the program.
The material students will be exposed to will include relevant case studies to introduce them to real life situations of violence against aboriginal women. This will conclude with providing students with accurate and culturally sensitive material on the topic in the form of video, text, and personal accounts. This information will provide the basis for understanding the lasting impacts of early history of violence against aboriginal women. Importantly, the program allocates time for students to reflect on what they know about aboriginal women’s issues in the classroom and share their own experiences with the issues that were raised in class.
In the next section of our lesson plan, youth will be challenged to determine how they may affect the existence of violence against aboriginal women through dialogue and personal accounts. We will also design an anonymous blog as a medium for students to post additional personal information about experiences and points of view. By encouraging students to invite and share the class blog with their peers and families, we hope to increase views and contribution to the blog, which would in turn stimulate meaningful discussions and broaden the possibility of connecting with others in cyberspace.
Furthermore, based on a campaign by Justice Education Society of BC, we will teach youth about community assessment strategies in order for them to learn about what action their community is already taking and what it needs (Justice Education Society of BC). Specifically, we will ensure a focus on campaigns that act to promote aboriginal women’s agency, and are fronted by aboriginal women who are active in promoting equality in their communities. Once this gap is filled, students will start engaging in activities intended to discover leadership style and skills. These transferable skills will be then supplemented by teaching students how to design their own action strategy intended to promote change using the 2013 Amnesty International Canada Youth & Student Program Groups’ Guide.” Also, we will provide a list of other ways to get involved for individuals who do not want to invest the time or resources but still want to help make a difference. By linking the students with websites for other action strategies students will be able to discover a variety of options to help. As the program nears a close, students will be engaged in team management activities that will aid them in finding peers with similar interests and thus break into smaller groups, where they will form concrete plans for their action strategy projects.
We believe that action strategies should usually begin at a local level with specialized tactics for the specific community, but as the action grows it branches out and reaches other communities that can use similar strategies to battle the issues they are facing within their own area. This helps to avoid the tendency to view some issues, such as gender inequalities or discrimination against aboriginal people, as being acted out in the same manner all over the globe, when in reality these are global issues with specific circumstances and histories. Therefore, the approaches that should be taken are dependent upon and impacted by the different values and traditions of each society.
With our action strategy we also aim to help youth understand how their actions impact the group they are discussing. Excluding the people you are trying to help from the discussion disempowers them, so we will help the youth assess what is needed in their community before imposing action strategies on them. We are encouraging the youth to approach development as a community, with understanding as the first step to action. This could mean working in conjunction with pre-existing groups that may be fronted by aboriginal women, or creating sensitive campaigns that don’t patronize the people they are trying to help.
We hope our project will set an example for other provinces in Canada to re-examine their own social studies curriculums and recognize the great urgency in introducing students to the issue of marginalization of aboriginal women and the violent acts instigated upon them. The materials we have created can and should be used in public and private schools in British Columbia and in other provinces. We also hope that these materials reach other countries where there are indigenous communities that might be facing similar struggles.