Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 03, 2012 - 12:22 pm

Residential school high school program for Nunavut students launched Oct. 2

“I think this is ground-breaking work"

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Inuit children from the western Arctic gather outside a residential school in this undated file photo. A new course will soon tell Grade 10 students in Nunavut more about the residential school experience. (FLEMMING/NWT ARCHIVES: N-1979-050-0101)
Inuit children from the western Arctic gather outside a residential school in this undated file photo. A new course will soon tell Grade 10 students in Nunavut more about the residential school experience. (FLEMMING/NWT ARCHIVES: N-1979-050-0101)
Nunavut Premier and Minister of Education Eva Aariak, with Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Marie Wilson and NWT Minister of Education Jackson Lafferty at the launch of new residential school curriculum in Yellowknife on Oct. 2. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GN)
Nunavut Premier and Minister of Education Eva Aariak, with Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Marie Wilson and NWT Minister of Education Jackson Lafferty at the launch of new residential school curriculum in Yellowknife on Oct. 2. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GN)

Nunavut high school students will learn more about residential school history, thanks to a new mandatory course for Grade 10 students in Nunavut schools.

The material, piloted last spring in Pond Inlet, Taloyoak and Arviat, was officially launched Oct. 2 in Yellowknife, with Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak, also Nunavut’s minister of education, and officials from the Government of the Northwest Territories in attendance.

The new course will be integrated into the Nunavut social studies program in Nunavut and the NWT.

“I think this is ground-breaking work,” said Cathy McGregor, director of curriculum and school services for the Government of Nunavut.

The material in the new course touches on topics such as the history of residential schools and the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

It will also 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.”

Through this new course, Nunavut students will be able to gain an understanding of why social issues in the territory exist, McGregor said.

“It’s not because people want to be that way — [it’s] because they’re suffering from the effects, whether it’s dog slaughter or residential school or being forced to live in Grise Fiord or Resolute Bay or being told to come off the land and live in the communities so your kids go to school,” she said.

Those stories belong part of a history that needs to be told, “so people understand and we can move forward,” McGregor said.

“It’s not just for aboriginal people to understand, it’s for all Canadians to understand,” she added.

Then “we can really be the Canada that we say that we are.”

During the pilot programs, McGregor wasn’t sure how things would turn out, “because it’s a very sensitive topic, you don’t always know what the students are going to experience or what the teachers are going to experience.”

The story of children being taken away from their parents wasn’t always easy to cover.

“It’s not just intellectual content. It’s very real and very emotional and very personal both for the students and for the teachers,” McGregor said.

However, because the course targets teenagers, its material doesn’t delve into the most difficult aspects of some former students’ experiences at residential schools.

The overall goal of the course is to get youth to think about their past and future, and leave them feeling proud about who they are.

“There are parts of the story in the unit that are negative, but it ends on a positive note, in terms of looking at how some young people today have taken an opportunity to regain their cultural tradition,” McGregor said. “There’s a hopeful ending to it.”

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