Teaching Students About Mi’kmaq: Embracing Indigenous History and Culture
Indigenous peoples around the world have a rich and varied history that deserves to be celebrated and respected. In North America, the Mi’kmaq are one of the oldest Indigenous cultures, with a history that stretches back over 10,000 years. They have lived on the eastern coast of Canada, from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, for thousands of years.
As educators, it is our responsibility to teach our students about Indigenous cultures, especially those that are under-represented in our history books and curriculums. One such culture is the Mi’kmaq, a people who have persevered through centuries of oppression, residential schools, and cultural erasure.
Teaching students about the Mi’kmaq is a step towards reconciliation, and a way to counteract the harmful effects of colonization on Indigenous peoples. It is also a way to foster empathy, kindness, and understanding in our students.
Here are some ways to teach students about Mi’kmaq culture:
1. Learn about Mi’kmaq history and beliefs
Start by providing an overview of Mi’kmaq history and beliefs. Discuss how the Mi’kmaq lived and survived for thousands of years before European contact, and how their way of living was drastically altered by colonization. Teach about the Mi’kmaq creation story and the importance of their connection to the land and animals they depend on for survival.
2. Incorporate storytelling and legends
The Mi’kmaq have a rich tradition of storytelling and legends that can help students understand their culture. Share some of these stories with your students and discuss their meaning. This can help students understand the Mi’kmaq belief system, values, and worldviews.
3. Use traditional art and crafts
Mi’kmaq culture is known for its beautiful traditional art and crafts, such as quillwork, beadwork, and birchbark art. Incorporate these art forms into your lessons as a way to teach students about Mi’kmaq traditions, techniques, and symbolism.
4. Invite a guest speaker
Consider inviting a Mi’kmaq elder or knowledge keeper to come and speak to your class. This can give students an opportunity to learn firsthand from someone who has lived the culture and can provide insights into their history, stories, and practices.
5. Participate in cultural events
Participating in Mi’kmaq cultural events, such as powwows and traditional ceremonies, can help students experience the culture in a more engaging and authentic way. If opportunities are available in your area, consider attending with your class.
Teaching students about Indigenous cultures, including the Mi’kmaq, is an essential part of creating a more inclusive and respectful society. By learning about Mi’kmaq traditions, beliefs, and practices, students can develop greater empathy, understanding, and respect for all cultures, including their own.