NEWS: Nunavut February 28, 2012 - 8:30 am

Nunavut to share res-school history with students

Grade 10 social studies pilot projects to roll out soon


Nunavut curriculum planners will bring the history of residential schools into a new course for Grade 10 students that will be introduced later this year in territorial schools.

The course’s photos, interviews and stories, in Inuktitut and English, will help students learn more about the 1950s and 1960s, when Inuit children left their homes across the Arctic to attend government-funded, church-run residential schools.

The new course will contain the personal stories of former residential school students like Marius Tungilik, who shared his experiences in a book that will be used for the course called “100 Years of Loss.”

Tungilik, originally from Repulse Bay, attended the Sir Joseph Bernier residential school, run by the Roman Catholic Church in Chesterfield Inlet in the 1960s.

“It was traumatic, because first of all, we were removed from our families and our communities for a long period of time,” Tungilik told Nunatsiaq News
at the recent teachers’ conference in Iqaluit. “Even at school we were not allowed to interact with our siblings.”

Tungilik began talking publicly about his residential school experience in the early 1990s, advocating for an apology from the church and the government.

“We all live here in Canada and we need to know what happened and how it affected people in different ways and how we can work together to move forward,” said Tungilik, who attended Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s formal apology in 2008 for the federal government’s role in creating residential schools.

“I think this module is great,” Tungilik said of the new curriculum, “because Canadians need to know their history.”

That’s the same message Ken Beardsall, the Nunavusiutit co-ordinator for the government of Nunavut’s education department, gave during a workshop on the new course at the teacher’s conference.

During the workshop, Beardsall showed a sample lesson with a video of Harper’s apology to the teachers.

After viewing the footage, teachers debated its impact: some teachers felt the apology insincere, while others said they felt it was important.

This is the type of response Beardsall said he hoped for. He also wants the course to encourage students to think for themselves.

“In education we are getting away from the notion that it is all black and white,” Beardsall said. “What is exciting about this lessons module is the opportunity to fully explore the subject and give the students a lesson in critical thinking as well.”

A draft for the proposed lesson plan will be ready by the end of February.

Then, teachers will roll out the material in pilot projects for some schools this spring, with all schools expected to offer the new course by next year.

News about the curriculum comes just as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released an interim report Feb. 24 recommending that education departments throughout Canada create age-appropriate learning materials about residential schools.