Yukon schools testing new residential school teaching tools

Nine schools across the Yukon are testing new Grade 5 material surrounding the Indian residential school system.

One of the schools is in the remote community of Old Crow, located just above the Arctic Circle.

With only 270 residents Old Crow is the most northern community in the Yukon.

The Chief Zzeh Gittlit school is one of nine field testing the new “Our Voice, Our Stories” curriculum.

The three part unit teaches students about traditional ways of life, residential schooling, and reconciliation in an age appropriate way.

Before the material could be introduced into the classroom, teachers had to participate in a two day workshop.

The goal of this workshop was to get the teachers familiar with the content and to discuss protocols with how to bring this up to the students.

Nicole Birkeland is the grade 5 teacher at Chief Zzeh Gittlit and was a part of the workshop.

“There’s a big emphasis on the teacher not being an expert” Birkeland adds “it’s meant to be a learning process together”

residential school

(The Chief Zzeh Gittlit school in Old Crow. Photo: Luke Smith/APTN) 

The unit was developed in collaboration with Yukon First Nations governments, Elders, former residential school students and historians.

Resources include books, videos, and a compilation of stories from around the territory.

Tabatha Chiasson’s has a daughter in grade three and an older son attending school in Whitehorse.

Chiasson’s step father is also a residential school survivor.

She supports the new material being taught in school.

“It’s teaching children that kind of behavior is not okay. If kids are aware of that, they’re more likely to come forward if something happens to them”

“Our Voices, Our Stories” is still in the draft stage.

Once the nine schools conclude the field test, the new curriculum will be implemented into all Yukon elementary schools for the 2020-21 school year.

Reporter / Whitehorse

Chris was born in Toronto but has lived all over Canada. He moved to the Yukon in 2009 where he lived and worked in Dawson City. Chris’s background is in radio broadcasting and he has worked with CFYT 106.9, CBC Yukon, and CHON FM as a host and show producer. Chris joined APTN News in May.