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Cultivating ignorance of Aboriginal realities

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The principal problem in Aboriginal education in Canada is the education of Canadians. This article exposes Canada's long history of ignorance of Aboriginal Peoples and suggests that while education may not be the source of ignorance, it is now perpetuating it. Using the Ontario secondary school curriculum as an example, this article looks at mainstream Canadian and World Studies, of which geography is an integral part, and Native Studies courses, offered in Ontario since 1999, but available for study to few young Ontarians. Curricular reforms during recent decades have removed the worst expressions of racism, but have not addressed fundamental colonial attitudes in the mainstream curriculum. As a citizenry we are complacent about a deep-seated ignorance of the country's past and present, affecting both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. Lack of interest in traditional and modern Aboriginal cultures doom immigrants and established settlers to a dysfunctional relationship with the growing and increasingly internationally recognized indigenous population. As university educators and teachers of teachers, geographers must assume responsibility for promoting truthful and inclusive perceptions of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada and, in recognizing the subtle strategies of cultivating ignorance, examine how geography as it is currently taught in schools might exclude Aboriginal People and understanding.

Keywords: Aboriginal People; Ontario; autochtones; epistemology; ignorance; secondary education; éducation secondaire; épistemologie

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Geography Department, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6 ( ), Email: 2: Aboriginal Teacher Education Program, Faculty of Education, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6 ( ), Email: 3: Geography Department, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L3N6 ( ), Email:

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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