Updated: Indigenous cultures focus of RDC conference

Conference focused on building understanding, appreciation and empathy for indigenous cultures

The rich offerings of Canada’s indigenous cultures was the day’s lesson for future teachers at a Red Deer College conference on Friday.

More than 100 students, mostly third- and fourth-year education students, attended the Indigenous Perspectives Conference in the Cenovus Learning Commons.

The conference focused on building understanding, appreciation, empathy and awareness of Indigenous cultures through literacy, literature and the arts.

Brent Galloway, college instructor in the school of education, said the theme of the conference this year is “Continuing on our Path to Awareness through Literacy, Literature and the Arts.”

“We wanted to focus on the importance of literacy, literature and also how we can learn from culture and all that culture encompasses,” he said, during a break in the day-long conference.

A new teaching standard has just been released that says all teachers in Alberta must apply foundational knowledge about the First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures to the benefit of all students.

“As educators, we started this last year because we knew it was coming.”

A number of keynote speakers talked about subjects such as the importance of integrating literacy into teaching. Students could also attend talks on primary and elementary school level literature and storytelling.

As a result of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Indigenous cultures will play a larger role in school curricula.

“We started this knowing this was just the start of our work towards truth and reconciliation,” he said. “We have the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and this part of our journey towards that.”

Local Aboriginal leaders and teachers were among those joining the college’s effort.

Late Canadian musician Gord Downie’s and Jeff Lemire’s film “The Secret Path” kicked off the conference on Thursday evening.

The animated film and Downie’s accompanying music tell the story of Chanie Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who died fifty years ago on October 22, 1966 as he fled the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School near Kenora, Ontario, trying to walk over 600 kilometres home.

“We watched the film and there was a panel discussion afterwards. That kind of set the scene.”


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