The superintendent of the Burnaby School District has apologized after a question on a Grade 9 social studies test asked pupils to describe how First Nations people benefitted and exploited their connection with colonists.
“We frequently explore the terrible impacts of colonization on North America’s First Nations people. Many of those present, though, were not simply victims. Many people took advantage of their friendship with the colonists. Describe some of the ways in which the First Nations peoples of North America profited from their interactions with European colonists ” reads the inquiry.
The question is accompanied by a drawing titled “Innu at HBC Trading Post” which depicts First Nations people receiving rifles and boots. Sofia Milandri, a 14-year-old Grade 9 student, shared a copy of the test question, which was part of a social studies exam at Burnaby Online schools.
“The question was horribly written, and honestly, like most other questions in this course, it was an attempt to deceive us into excusing the actions of the colonizers,” said Milandri, who instead of responding to the question submitted a text detailing why it was wrong.
“You don’t benefit from someone setting fire to your house, stealing all your belongings, and kidnapping your children, so I felt incredibly upset.” Burnaby School District Superintendent Gina Niccoli-Moen issued an apology statement on Thursday, stating she was “very disturbed and outraged to find that this question was placed on a student exam.”
“It is incorrect and worse, this type of question is disruptive and could be trauma-inducing for Indigenous youth, as well as damaging to healthy relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” according to a portion of the statement.
“This reflects neither our beliefs nor the genuine cost of colonization on Indigenous peoples. Nonetheless, it occurred.” According to the statement, the school system is assessing appropriate learning options and will contact students and families.
The district stated on Friday that the material was not created by a teacher, but was obtained from the Western Canada Learning Network, a curriculum established for a partnership of school districts from across multiple provinces.
According to the district, the teacher was also utilizing an outdated version of the course. The current version of the test asks students to identify the “positive effects” of First Nations peoples’ connections with European conquerors.