Interview with Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse author of Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools

Dr. Pamela ToulousePamela Rose Toulouse, Ph.D., is an Anishinabekwe (Ojibwe/Odawa woman) from Sagamok First Nation. Currently, she is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. She has 25 years of diverse experience throughout the elementary to postsecondary education continuum, and a 3M National Teaching Excellence Fellow. She is also the author of Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools.

In her book, Pamela Rose Toulouse explores residential school history, treaty education, Indigenous contributions, First Nation/Métis/Inuit perspectives and sacred circle teachings for teachers looking to respectively infuse these topics into their subjects and courses.

In your acknowledgments, you mention that your grandmother was a survivor of the residential school system, as well as one of the greatest influences of your life. How has she inspired the writing of your book?
This book came from my admiration and love for my grandmother. She was more than a survivor of residential school. She didn’t allow those experiences to define her, but shared her stories to compel me to be a better person. When I was doing my doctoral research, I interviewed her about residential school and was horrified at what she went through. She shared what happened to her and did not give away her personal power to those atrocities. People that knew my grandmother knew she told it like it was, always. Her honesty was harsh, but she was true to herself. I really am the luckiest person to have had Madonna Toulouse as my grandmother. Her humour and unique spin on life still inspire me today.

In 2018, you participated in the professional learning event Truth and Reconciliation in Every School: What we know, what we don’t know, and what we need to do to move forward respectfully. How do events such as this connect to the relationship building that you facilitate in your book?
Relationships are the foundation of truth and reconciliation. I participate in many events and professional development sessions to model the building of bridges based on compassion and action. I share my own stories, so people can relate at an emotional level first. They need to have a heart to mind connection to really get truth and reconciliation. Everyone can relate to being either a mother, father, auntie, uncle, cousin, or another familial role. Everyone can relate to feeling pain or happiness for a loved one. My participation in events is essential to humanizing what was dehumanizing. These messages plant that seed for participants to engage in action.

How does Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools help teachers to deliver on the TRC Calls to Action?
Every chapter has the specific education for the reconciliation Call to Action that is being addressed. This was absolutely critical to establishing the relevance of this book. It was really important that I honour my grandmother by doing my part. This book is my response to the TRC and honouring my grandmother. The history of residential schools, treaties and other aspects of our communities need to be shared. Every Canadian has a responsibility (whether they know it or not) to be a part of social change based in truth and reconciliation. The time is now and this book is only a small part of that path in K to 12.

Was there a specific experience that influenced the writing of this book?
I have been teaching and working in education for 25 years. I am so lucky that I get to work with preservice teachers and educators in the field. Many of those dedicated individuals would talk to me about how they wanted to teach about Truth and Reconciliation, but were afraid to, or did not know where to start. I wrote this book as a safe entry point for teachers to begin this journey with their students. Each chapter and lesson plan is very practical and visual and makes K to 12 curriculum connections for teachers. The book is that hands-on resource that honours Indigenous communities and addresses educator insecurities around sensitive topics.

Explore and infuse Truth and Reconciliation in your classroom by ordering Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools today.

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