Student Voices: No More Fake Teeth | Work of Arts
Student Voices: No More Fake Teeth | Work of Arts

Student Voices: No More Fake Teeth

Indigenous student blogger speaks out about the backlash against Indigenizing the Academy

Over the past couple of weeks there has been a lot of talk about the Mandatory Native Studies courses here at the U of A. To me, it’s no surprise that the groups making efforts to speak out against mandatory Native Studies courses are people who have benefited from the lack of Indigenous content in mainstream education their entire lives.

First of all, I just want to say that I do not speak for any groups working towards making Native Studies mandatory across campus; I am speaking on behalf of myself as an Indigenous student on campus.

There are many sources of media lashing out against the efforts to make Native Studies mandatory. Because of the bigotry of the wider Canadian population, I have been living with a fake tooth since grade two. There was a boy who pushed me into the coat hangers at school because his dad told him I was a dirty native and he took it upon himself to punish me for it. That is just a small part of it that affects me personally.

There was a boy who pushed me into the coat hangers at school because his dad told him I was a dirty native.

Indigenous students receive 40% less funding on reserve schools than the wider population. Not to mention that the education system fails us because we have never addressed the problems between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples – in the classroom, lack of knowledge, lack of understanding and lack of education, which leads to ignorant people being offended when they learn about their privilege and their ignorance towards my people, towards the land upon which they stand, and towards the fact that this university literally sits on top of a stolen reserve! These issues are only surface level – there is so much that needs to be addressed.

Do you feel uncomfortable learning that your ignorance makes our lives that much harder? Good! How do you think it feels living with this our entire lives! The fact that people feel uncomfortable talking about these things just proves that these conversations need to be had. It proves that there needs to be more people tackling these ideas and questioning why they literally never have to deal with it in their day-to-day lives… hmm. What does that sound like, guys? Privilege!

My life was eons different from every other student in the class simply because I was Indigenous, growing up on a reserve.

When I was going to K-12 schooling, teachers had no idea how to deal with my intergenerational trauma. They had no idea that my life was eons different from every other student in the class simply because I was Indigenous, growing up on a reserve. We are talking about a complex line of trauma that extends its grips through our generations as a colonial construct that has been left by residential schools, colonialism and the Canadian government – and now these so-called intellects: my peers here on campus.

It makes me sick knowing there are students who have benefited from their lack of knowledge on these issues to the point that they think they shouldn’t have to learn about these things. Sorry for screwing up your picturesque version of Canada, guys, but your privilege sits on top of my misery as a minority. That’s going to change and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. Indigenous issues need to be talked about because I’m tired of kids like me living their lives with fake teeth because of this.

 

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.

 

*Banner photo is a project Thomas did in grade 10 social studies on Pikangikum First Nation, which had the highest suicide rate in the world in 2000.


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About Tarene Thomas

Tarene Thomas

Tarene is a Gitxan, Tahltan, Haisla, and Nehiyaw fourth year English major focused on Indigenous Literature. She is a poet, writer, shameless scribbler, facilitator and actor. Tarene works as an instructional assistant for the transition year program at the U of A, and also as an Indigenous peer mentor for the Faculty of Arts. Tarene is interested in dismantling the system, and writing as revolution.