There is no doubt that the Northwest Territories is a special place – though small in population, it is diverse, and its natural beauty is undeniable. The midnight sun, the unique traditions of its Indigenous groups and its abundant natural resources make this territory something to write home about.
But it doesn’t have it’s own school curriculum.
The Northwest Territories is a unique place that deserves its own, tailored curriculum for its elementary and high school students.
This week I spoke with Lucy Kuptana, director of operations, culture and communications at the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation while she was attending and co-hosting the National Indigenous Education and Reconciliation Network Gathering.
This is an issue she brought up – why does the territory follow Alberta’s curriculum instead of developing its own?
Yes, this would be a costly endeavour for the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), but one well worth it.
It is important that students here are given the opportunity to learn about the history of land they’re living and learning on as it applies to every subject in school, not just in their culture and language classes.
The GNWT should be equipping its students with the tools and resources they need to become informed, responsible, active citizens in their communities and territory, and this could be done so much better through a specialized curriculum.
Another reason why the GNWT ought to develop its own curriculum is, because, as Kuptana told me, school calendars here follow Alberta’s, but this doesn’t really make sense for students because of the unique solar forecasts and traditional on-the-land schedules.
Kuptana said one presentation at the gathering highlighted the fact that school attendance plunges in December and January, the darkest times of the year, as well as in the spring when students are fishing or hunting for geese with their families.
Why can’t the school calendar accommodate these needs?
Students could get some time off in December and January as well as May and June instead of in the summer months in order to improve attendance and accommodate traditional cultural practices.
The territory’s 33 communities are all a little bit different in terms of these needs, but that could also be addressed in a GNWT-specific curriculum.
The NWT has been using Alberta’s curriculum since the 1970s. It’s time for our own.