It is essential that all secondary school students complete the Aboriginal Literature course as it reveals the impartial truth about Aboriginal Canadians’ history, allowing students to become more culturally aware citizens of Canada. The Aboriginal English course emphasizes history as a strong foundation to comprehending issues between the First Nations people and Canadian Government. The course also educates students to improve their understanding and awareness of other cultures, namely the First Nations. Finally, the Aboriginal Literature class helps young adults to become better Canadian citizens by educating them on the original habitants of Canada.
One essential aspect of the Native Studies English course is the importance placed on history. A philosopher named George Santayana once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Up until 1996, the Canadian Government forcefully and unethically removed Aboriginal children from their families and their communities (and in the case of Inuit Children, removed them entirely from the Northwest Territories) and put them in residential schools. This was a very traumatic experience for young Aboriginal children and if this wasn’t bad enough, many of these children were also subjected to physical and sexual abuse in the residential schools. In the poem I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe, students gain first-hand insights on the detrimental effects that residential schools had on First Nations children. The Canadian government did not respect the importance of being raised in a loving family and community or that learning their own culture is important to the Aboriginal children. In order to remove the “Indian within the child”, the government placed young Aboriginal children in sterile environments free from Aboriginal customs, rituals, food, and even language. The Canadian government has only recently acknowledged their mistake and begun compensating those who were in residential schools. In June of 2008, Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, issued an apology stating, “The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language.” then added, “Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country”. Prime Minister Harper admits that the government was wrong and assures Canadians that it would not happen again. Unfortunately, the government did not learn enough from the residential schools as history repeats itself in the form of the astronomical number of Aboriginal children who are currently in foster care. As of 2011, approximately 14,000 Aboriginal children are “wards of the state”, making up 48.1% of all children in foster care (Statistics Canada, 2011). These events show that as a society, Canada has not learned enough about their indigenous peoples culture and history. By learning the history of the indigenous people of Canada, students obtain a better understanding of who they are today as a culture.
Another influence that the Aboriginal course has on young adults is emphasizing the importance of awareness and understanding towards another culture. By educating young Canadians on Aboriginal culture, including their values, morals, beliefs and traditions, the students become further aware of other cultures and reflect upon their own culture. When students read narratives such as A Long Story by Beth Brant, which compares the stories of two families (one lesbian, one Aboriginal) they make connections between the two cultures, and realize that while they are very different, they also share common elements. Furthermore, they can better understand how Canada originated, changed, and evolved from being a country that tried to violently assimilate their indigenous