This website was designed to help settlers and/or their descendants learn about two important aspects of their history and of the national identities that have been largely overlooked in the Canadian school system: treaties and settler colonialism.
In 1972, the National Indian Brotherhood published Indian Control of Indian Education to “be used as a basis for future common action in the area of education.” This document set requirements for all students “to learn about the history, customs and culture of this country’s original inhabitants and citizens” and to learn that happiness comes from personal pride, an understanding of “one’s fellowmen”, and the ability to live in harmony with the natural world:
“Living in harmony with nature will insure preservation of the balance between man and his environment which is necessary for the future of our planet, as well as for fostering the climate in which Indian Wisdom has always flourished.”
Indian Control of Indian Education reasoned that students would be unable to fulfill their potential without knowledge of self:
“Unless a child learns about the forces which shape [them]: the history of [their] people, their values and customs, their language, [they] will never really know [their self] or [their] potential as a human being.”
This quote asserts education rights that hold true for Indigenous youth today, and it can also be applied to settler Canadians. Settler youth cannot know themselves without learning about the legacy of their people’s colonial history that shapes current attitudes and maintains an inequitable system. Canadians cannot know their potential as human beings without education that explains current impacts of settler colonialism in Canada, and the collective power they have to interrupt it.
Best Endeavours aims to meet the learning goals found in Indian Control of Indian Education by exploring the truth about Canada’s colonial practices, and the nature of the foundational treaty agreements found in the oral histories of Indigenous cultures. Its goal is to help us determine what our responsibilities are now and how to act on them to restore balance in our relationships with each other and with the land.
Janet is an educator living in Toronto, the home territory of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee and Wendat Confederacy nations. She was conceived in Thessalon and raised by her adoptive parents in Falconbridge, a small mining town in Robinson Huron treaty territory near Sudbury. She is mostly French, with Wendat and Omàmiwinini ancestry. Janet has a Fine Arts degree and a Master degree in Urban Indigenous Education from York University. She has worked as an instructor for teacher education programs at OISE and Queens University, and currently works as a high school teacher in the Ontario public education system. In 2019 her article Truth and Decolonization: Filling the Educator Achievement Gap Darn It! was published in the American Review of Canadian Studies, and her work was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2021. Janet is the founding editor of bestendeavours.ca.
Isaac Murdoch (Bomgiizhik)
Isaac Murdoch is a renowned artist, storyteller and author from Serpent River First Nation. He is a direct descendant of Chief Shingwauk and Wiindaatigowinini who were both signatories of the Robinson Huron and Superior Treaties. Isaac’s knowledge of the oral treaty agreements comes from his family connections and from visiting Elders throughout Anishinabek territory and listening to them share their oral histories in their language. Isaac is currently working towards building a language camp named Nimkii Aazhibikong in Anishinabek territory.
Harlan Pruden email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Harlan Pruden is a proud member of the Cree Nation, or nēhiyaw in Cree. Harlan’s mother is from the Beaver Lake Reservation and father from the Whitefish Lake Reservation, both located in northeastern Alberta – Treaty 6 territory. After living in New York for 20 years, Harlan moved to Vancouver and now lives, works and plays on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the shared territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō, and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Harlan works with the Two-Spirit community locally, nationally and internationally. Harlan is currently a Ph.D student at UBC’s Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program and is focusing on historical images of Two-Spirit individuals. Harlan is also an Educator with the BC Center for Disease Control’s, Chee Mamuk Program and the Managing Editor of Two-SpiritJournal.com, an interactive multi-platform Two-Spirit media/news site. Closer to home, Harlan is a board member for Qmunity, the home for Vancouver’s LGBT, Queer and Two-Spirit community and was just appointed by the City of Vancouver as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Vancouver Public Library. Harlan serves as a representative to the International Indigenous Peoples Working Group on HIV/AIDS.
Before moving to Vancouver, Harlan was co-founder and Director of the New York City’s NorthEast Two Spirit Society and served as the principal Two-Spirit consultant to US’ Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Center and Trans Care BC. In August 2014, Harlan was appointed by President Obama to the US Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and provided advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of Health & Human Services and the White House. (In December 2018, Harlan was fired from PACHA by Trump via Fedex.)