Maskwacis elders Judy Louis (right), with her husband Roy Louis seated closest to her, prepare for an blanket ceremony exercise with students at Red Deer College on Thursday morning as college instructor Brent Galloway, standing and representing a fur-coated “European” looks on. The ceremony is used to teach about the effects colonialism had on First Nations.

Red Deer College aims for more inclusiveness of aboriginal peoples

Three-year strategy focused on First Nations, Metis and Inuit issues

The overhead display at Red Deer College flashes an image of a piece of paper known as a “Treaty Ticket” that once belonged to former Samson Cree Nation Chief Jacob Louis.

His son, Roy Louis, uses the ticket as part of a talk about the history of his people during an inaugural Aboriginal Perspectives Conference at the college on Thursday, called The Pathway to Awareness.

Jacob Louis was not allowed to leave the reserve without carrying the ticket, and had to have permission from the local “Indian agent” to go anywhere off the reserve.

Roy and Judy Louis, elders from Maskwacis, were keynote speakers during the conference that was attended by about 100 students and Central Alberta educators. The couple touched on many of the difficult aspects of First Nations history in Canada.

They included residential schools, the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop where thousands of children were “rescued” from their communities, mostly without permission, and adopted by families all over the world.

It has been determined that about 6,000 children from reserves who were sent to residential schools never returned to their homes and communities, and about 20,000 children were taken away during the Sixties Scoop.

Much of this was revealed during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings across Canada from 2008 to 2015. From that, there was a comprehensive list of calls for action, one of them being for education to be more inclusive.

That’s what the college’s School of Education is now doing, said Brent Galloway, an RDC instructor in the Bachelor of Education program.

Martin Brokenleg, a retired professor and indigenous speaker who is an expert on inter-generational trauma and resiliency, and involved with training individuals who work with youth at risk, also spoke at the conference.

RDC School of Education staff really felt the need to take inclusion a little bit further, and so they decided that for the next three years they will focus on First Nations, Metis and Inuit issues in the schools, Galloway said.

They wanted a larger conference not just for students, but also for Central Alberta educators and aboriginal liason workers “to get the conversation going”.

“How do we as educators better teach and support our own students … about how to understand the issues, create an appreciation and awareness for our aboriginal peoples? Then what can we do as educators to support those children in our local schools?” he said.

Participants experienced a mix of aboriginal culture, including a blanket ceremony exercise that teaches about the effects colonialism had on First Nations.

Galloway said that since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he’s seen a paradigm shift in his students, who are future teachers, who are really wanting to “know, understand, appreciate, and experience aboriginal people.”

The conference was a partnership that included the RDC School of Education, Education Undergraduate Society and Central Alberta Regional Consortium.

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