The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) has released a learning tool that offers students and their teachers a new way to learn about the history of Canada. The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada Giant Floor Map shows unsettled land claims, as well as treaties and settlement lands, reserves, and locations of former residential schools in Canada.
The Giant Floor Map, without provincial and territorial boundaries, is unlike the typical maps we are used to seeing in schools. It also highlights spoken languages and language groups, and displays around the border a timeline that outlines key historical events of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada. The map spans 11 x 8 metres (35 x 26 feet), which is approximately half the size of a school gymnasium.
Unveiled in the fall of 2018, this fun and interactive experience allows students to walk, crawl and explore multiple aspects connected to both history and present-day Indigenous Peoples living in Canada.
“There are many layers visually represented on the map that brilliantly reflect the complexity of the history, and current realities, of Indigenous Peoples on a beautiful giant canvas,” said Charlene Bearhead, the Education Advisor who led the consultation process for the Giant Floor Map and its accompanying educational materials. “It truly honours and values Indigenous knowledge, science, learning, navigation and the stories that were shared by the Indigenous experts who contributed to this project.”
The RCGS collaborated with Indigenous educators and organizations from across Canada to develop the map, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Indspire.
The RCGS loans the map out on a 3-week basis to teachers and is available for students in kindergarten to grade 12. The RCGS also provides a teacher’s guide, cards and additional materials to facilitate discussions in the classroom. This, of course, is not an exhaustive resource, but is intended as a tool to help educators begin a conversation with students about Indigenous Peoples knowledge and cultures while expanding their own knowledge.
The RCGS encourages educators to reach out to local Indigenous communities, organizations and groups for deeper insights and discussions and to contextualize the learning from the map to the territories where their schools are located.
The RCGS also publishes the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, which provides valuable educational information regarding the First Nations, Inuit and Métis of Canada, as well as Truth and Reconciliation in a 4-volume set. Each volume of the atlas is unique in its design and content, discussing topics such as governance, housing, art, treaties, education and more.
“What’s important is we’re seeing kids understand what this country is and how long this country has not been Canada, how long it’s been Indigenous land,” said Ry Moran, Director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, to CBC reporters.
In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) calls to action, many organizations and businesses are also stepping up and taking advantage of the recently released resource. The Alberta Government purchased a 4-volume atlas for each and every junior and senior high school in the province including on and off reserve schools, setting an example for the rest of the country. Additionally, the Dow Chemical Company (Dow Canada) purchased the Giant Floor Map and entire kit (a $4700 investment) for the Elk Island Public School Division in Alberta as an act of reconciliation. The kit is now shared between the 33 schools in that division.
“We are three years post the TRC final report and education is where we see the most encouraging work and action,” said Bearhead. “We still have a long way to go but it’s so encouraging to see that people are not slowing down and that it continues to build because we have to keep moving in that direction.”
Service organizations, churches and industry partners in communities seeking ways to respond to the TRC Calls to Action could follow the lead of Dow Canada in supporting local school districts with the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada resources.
The only resource of its kind, the unique Giant Floor Map has caught the attention of many cartographers from around the world, including organizers of the 2019 International Cartographic Conference being held in July in Tokyo, Japan. “People want to learn about this unique cartography project. It resonates with so many people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” noted Bearhead. “There are many colonized countries in the world and many countries where Indigenous peoples and knowledge have been and continue to be oppressed. An initiative like this is very inspiring.”
The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada kit includes a four-volume print atlas, an online interactive atlas with an accompanying app, a Giant Floor Map, and various other educational resources for classrooms.
To request the map for your classroom go to: education.canadiangeographic.ca
Digital Atlas copies are available at https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca, and print copies are available for purchase at Chapters or Amazon.ca.
For more information and pre-map activities go to: www.canadiangeographic.com/educational_products/ipac_floor_map.asp
“The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada was created in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, which cites the development of culturally appropriate curricula for Indigenous students as a top priority. Lack of appropriate educational and financial resources for Canada’s Indigenous students has long been deemed a contributing factor to the marginalization of Indigenous communities.”
Canadian Geographic Indigenous People’s Atlas of Canada. The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada launches extensive new educational resources [News Release, October 22, 2018]