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Education the Focus of Indigenous Day

Content by: South-South News

11 August 2016, New York, USA | South-South News — Indigenous education was the focus of this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9. At a news conference, speakers pointed out that historically – including in their own lifetimes – the educational system of the state discouraged the teaching of indigenous language and culture.

Discussing the Inuit cultures of the Arctic, Karla Jessen Williamson said, “I must say that large part of the education system is still very much based on theories that are introduced from the outside.” Williamson, an Inuit born in Greenland who now teaches at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, added, “In recent years, some effort has been made to make the local population be involved in the education of the youth and school systems are put in place where the self-government institutions are negotiating curriculum and languages to be revitalized across the Arctic. But we are still very much engaged in the colonial system in so far that the higher education is very much predicated upon the colonial system.”

Octaviana Trujillo, a Yaqui from Arizona, is a bilingual educator who teaches at Northern Arizona University. “As someone who felt that there was a better way to teach American Indian students, I continued my education, and then within this teacher education program, I was able to develop curriculum. I felt strongly that we were not the problem, that we could learn and we could succeed.”

She added, “We needed to work with teachers and for teachers to better learn how to teach our children. And that’s why I’ve always been an advocate for quality education for all children, but we need to do a better, better job of teaching indigenous children.”

The Director General of School Education at the Ministry of Education in Guatemala, Juan de Dios Simon, said, “I would like to acknowledge the organizations for indigenous peoples that have made it possible for the states to now be transforming, in the midst of transformation. You can see in the current laws that there is a certain acknowledgement of what inter-cultural bilingual education is all about.” De Dios Simon is a Maya Q’eqchi.


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