How Do We Move Forward in Education?

Treaty 2 Territory – Marlene Gallagher, a speaker from the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba’s speaker’s bureau,  joined the Lodge and Lifelong Learning Circle staff for a zoom session last week, to discuss Traditional Education.  She shared with us her knowledge and childhood experiences, having attended an Indian Residential school and also having been a part of the 60’s Scoop.  

Marlene Gallagher is an Anishinaabe Ikwe from Sagkeeng First Nation, which is signatory to Treaty No. 1 & 3. Marlene attended residential school. She speaks Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) and takes part in various cultural practices and ceremonies. She possesses a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education degree’s with double majors in History/English, a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in History from the University of Winnipeg and a Masters of Education degree from the University of Manitoba.

Marlene previously worked as an Education Consultant for the Province of Manitoba. In this position, Marlene worked closely with schools throughout Manitoba to support Aboriginal Education, Cultural Awareness and Community Schools. She worked as a sessional lecturer at the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg and Canadian Mennonite University. She has also been a writer/editor with Portage and Main Press and Scholastics Canada.

As Marlene stated, our Traditional education developed the whole person.  Our system of education included not just the child, but also the family, community and the nation.  This complex system of education included the events of day to day living. It was a system that included the modelling of behaviours (look, listen, learn) and values, and it included many things such as:

Our Ways of Knowing; Identity- who we are; Knowledge that was passed down: values, customs, history, life styles, stories, skills; Language- that builds that understanding of the world; Our sacred view of Natural World and the environment; Education – experiences and how they direct our lives; Stories – Community and family stories; Well-being – balance between family and community; Health- our medicines and Gifts – families, elders worked with child to develop gifts

We had complex systems of education that started with the family and community.  They were our first teachers, teaching us our language, our identity, our stories and our ceremonies.  The knowledge passed down to the children included many things, such as:

Knowing where you come from; Knowing your gifts; Our shared history, multi-generational, connection to community; knowing our ancestors as a way of understanding our past; the clan system and our responsibilities within the community; creation stories; language as  a way to navigate the world; how to live in harmony with the land, how to be stewards of the land, our inter-relationships; and Spirituality

Marlene finished off with a discussion about how move forward in Education.  What is it that we need to teach our children? She acknowledged that we do need to teach literacy and numeracy, but there is so much more.  There is a need for schools to make education more meaningful, more ‘hands-on’ activities and should provide opportunities for children to develop their gifts and interests.  Education should be a space and place that focuses on ancestral knowledge, teachings and spirituality; a place that provides lifelong learning and pride in who they are.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba – Speakers Bureau in providing this Zoom session.

  • Renee McGurry, Development Helper, The Lodge