The mother of a Saskatoon high school student says she was disgusted by a history assignment with a question about the “European discovery of [the] Americas.”
“I was in disbelief. This is ridiculous,” Kathy Walker said.
Walker picked up her daughter after school Wednesday at Evan Hardy Collegiate. Her daughter showed her the sheet they’d worked on that day.
It asked students to match dates or time frames to historic events such as the construction of the Great Wall of China or the invention of the airplane. One item grabbed Walker’s attention. There are three separate references to “European discovery of [the] Americas” in the year 1492.
“Please don’t put the onus on me and other parents to undo this mis-education,” she said.
Walker, a member of the Okanese Fist Nation in southern Saskatchewan, had been living in B.C. for several years pursuing her doctoral degree. Walker and her daughter recently moved back to Saskatoon where she’s teaching an Indigenous governance course at the University of Saskatchewan.
Walker said she was surprised this curriculum is still being taught. She said it reinforces the stereotype that pre-contact Indigenous presence in North America doesn’t count.
“This doctrine of discovery seeks to erase the record of Indigenous existence. I thought we’d gotten past this,” she said.
But Walker was also happy to see something else on the worksheet. Her daughter had crossed out the final reference so it read “Europeans begin colonizing the Americas” in the 15th century.
“I’m glad she noticed, and I’m glad she did something. I’m proud of her,” Walker said.
Walker said she’s hoping this was a one-time error rather than standard curriculum. The teacher made “air quotes” with his fingers while saying the word “discovery” to the class, but then continued the assignment as written, she said.
Walker said her daughter likes the teacher, and is still confident her daughter will get a good education at Evan Hardy.
She plans to raise the issue with the school’s parent council and other officials, and hopes students won’t have to see this material again.
An official for Saskatoon Public Schools confirmed in an email to CBC News the assignment was provided during a social studies class at Evan Hardy this week.
The official said the concerns over the material are valid.
“The only way we can do better as a learning community is if we are open to addressing such issues and move forward together. We aspire to achieve the goals set out in our school division’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action,” read the statement.
It’s not clear if this worksheet or similarly-worded materials are used in the school or school division, but an official said they are looking into the matter.