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Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus: “Our languages haven’t died, they are asleep and we need to reawaken them”

About 200 participants at the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus discussed the many impacts of colonialism as it relates to education and exchanged ways in which to move forward in securing their full rights. Whether it’s Australia, the Philippines, Central America, South America or North America, the patterns of colonialism are all too similar for Indigenous peoples. Participants heard how colonialism has affected many aspects of Aboriginal life, including health, traditional roles, culture, socio-economic conditions, access to services, and equity among others.

One topic of great concern is the violence and racism manifested towards Indigenous peoples which are driving students away from school because of the fear for their well-being. Teachers are also not immune to appalling acts of violence. For example, in one of the sessions, participants heard about an Indigenous principal who was driven away from her small community school in Australia (and consequently from her profession), after racist citizens left a disemboweled kangaroo at her doorstep. These issues all point to the importance of creating safe spaces for all. The expression “cultural safety” was introduced and defined as the creation of an environment that is spiritually, emotionally safe for people in which there is no assault on their identity. Panelists often highlighted the recently adopted ILO convention on gender-based violence in the world of work as an important step towards better protection against violence at work.

Sessions were not always somber as teacher leaders were invited to share examples of their union’s initiatives that aim to bring about positive and long-lasting change for Indigenous Peoples. These include adapting the curriculum to include Indigenous culture, perspectives and language, building alliances with civil society organisations, and providing union training and capacity development programmes. 

The last plenary focussed on ways that Education International can be engaged in the upcoming World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education 2020

Teacher leaders in attendance came from many countries which include Samoa, Burkino Faso, Fiji, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Columbia, Nicaragua, Panama, Argentina, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Latin America, Honduras, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Malaysia, Canada, the UK and USA.