Anyone who throws the blanket note that teens and preteens are disengaged and ego-centric are clearly not seeing how amazing our kids are.
As part of our History curriculum, I have been talking to my students about how the Canadian government decided to treat the Cree First Nations people in the late 1800s (not well). Coincidentally, one of the cases that came up at Amnesty International’s 2010 Write for Rights letter-writing campaign was one of the Lubicon Cree in Alberta, who are currently living in poverty due to the destruction of their land by oil and gas companies (you can read about this in more detail here).
On International Human Rights Day, I joined millions in the letter-writing campaign and wrote a personal letter to Alberta’s Premier Stelmach, urging him to protect the rights of the Lubicon Cree to use their land and preserve their rich culture.
Today, I brought my experience to my grade 8 History class, showing them that 200 years later, the indigenous people of Canada are still being mistreated; 200 years later, our government is still violating Human Rights Laws. My students insisted I read my letter out loud, so I did. At the end of it, they cheered and asked, “Ms. Au.. Can we write our own letters to the Premier?”
My heart soared.
My students are Champions.
Scrap the formal History lesson. You can bet I said YES. “Let’s do it.”
And they did a fantastic job, at the tender age of 13. Here’s an example of one of them (grammar mistakes are preserved!):
Dear Premier Stelmach,
Greetings, Mr. Premier. My name is ——. I a writing this letter from Richmond Hill, Ontario, concerning the issue of the Lubicon Cree.
I know that it is not my place to write about such a subject, as I am mearly a simpleton next to you and your achievements, but I figured that I might be able to persuade you towards moving of Lubicon land, or giving some compensation for using it.
Indiginous people have the right to use their own lands for their own purposes. If you would like to borrow it, might I suggest asking first. Since your making a profit off of the land, maybe you could offer some sort of compensation or even a gift to the Lubicon Cree so that not only do two benefit from one, but you also get on friendly terms with the Cree.
These are just ideas, but keep them in mind. Think about how it would benifit you to have the Lubicons as partners instead of enemies. Thank you for taking your time to read my letter.
There’s no question about it. I have amazing students. Amazing students who will someday learn to break out of the mold and do whatever it takes to make this world a better place.
It all starts here. And I couldn’t be more proud of them.