All Canadians are called to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, but it is educators who have a particular responsibility. Most teachers though, don’t know how or where to begin and are nervous about making mistakes. In Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation, award-winning Indigenous author Monique Gray Smith invites educators to follow her on a journey to understand the impacts of colonialism and the Residential School system for Indigenous peoples. For concerned teachers, Smith offers a solution or a “call to teaching”; one that suggests educators learn with students and have them shape the outcomes rather than try to “teach” a particular curriculum. This is particularly important, as Dr. Marie Wilson says in chapter 4, because it will be “the children who will lead the way” forward.
Throughout the book, Smith provides ways to hold an open space in the classroom that enables students to ask the difficult questions and encourages them to “think with their heart” – the pedagogy of her book. Chapter one welcomes educators, provides the history of Residential Schools, and sets the landscape with the Seven Sacred Teachings. Smith uses the narratives of those on their journey towards reconciliation throughout Speaking Our Truth, to illustrate how we can “hold each other up” (the theme of her book for young readers, You Hold Me Up) and develop an understanding of what Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships can look like moving forward. The questions asked throughout the four chapters, and the multitude of resources she provides, serve as a “curriculum” guide for educators and students to work together collaboratively to imagine a different society not tainted by racism and discrimination, where all ways of knowing are considered valuable. Her Cree philosophy of tawâw – “there is always room” – sets the tone for this book that welcomes us all on the path to reconciliation. Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation is a critical guide for all educators, at all levels.
First published in Education Canada, June 2018
Orca Book Publishers, 2017 ISBN: 978-1459815834