N.W.T. piloting new northern studies course for Grade 12 students

Drummers take part in the opening ceremonies for Treaty 11 celebrations in Behchoko on Aug. 15, 2022. (Emily Blake/The Canadian Press)

The Northwest Territories has begun piloting a new northern studies course for Grade 12 students with an emphasis on reconciliation.

The elective course was created in the N.W.T. through engagement with Indigenous governments, education bodies, curriculum consultants and working groups.

The territory says it covers a range of topics, including oral history and traditions, colonization, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The territory says it plans to use feedback from the pilot and launch a final version of the course across all schools in September.

It is also working with the charitable Gordon Foundation to offer three pilots that simulate for high school students what it would be like to implement and negotiate treaties.

The simulations aim to help students gain skills in leadership, public speaking and problem solving.

“As we all work to advance reconciliation, treaties and local and territorial political structures are especially relevant to high school students as they move toward graduation and take on responsibilities as citizens of the N.W.T.,” R.J. Simpson, the territory’s minister of education, culture and employment, said in a statement.

“Both these initiatives are centred on respectful relationships with local elders, knowledge keepers and communities.”

The northern studies course is the first course created in the N.W.T. under British Columbia’s curriculum framework.

The territory announced in December 2021 that it planned to transition to B.C.’s junior kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum, ending its decades-long use of Alberta’s curriculum.

Following a review of curriculums in Western Canada, Simpson said at the time that B.C.’s was the most aligned with the N.W.T., because it emphasizes Indigenous knowledge and world views, is student-centred and flexible, and focuses on literacy and numeracy skills.

The territory plans to phase-in the new curriculum over several years ending with the 2027-28 school year.

The N.W.T. created its original northern studies Grade 10 course in 1991. The mandatory course was renewed in 2015 in partnership with Nunavut to include the history and legacy of residential schools and better reflect the North.

The N.W.T. government says that course will continue to be offered at schools.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: “We’re not just talking about reconciliation, we’re doing reconciliation,” say seal hunters, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Swedish Truth Commission begins collecting testimonies from Sami people, Yle News

Greenland: Danish PM apologizes to Greenlanders taken to Denmark as children in 1950s, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Can cross-border cooperation help decolonize Sami-language education, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Sami in Sweden start work on structure of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Alaska reckons with missing data on murdered Indigenous women, Alaska Public Media

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