President Wells on Why the Annual Meeting Opening Plenary Is a "Don't Miss" Event
President Wells on Why the Annual Meeting Opening Plenary Is a "Don't Miss" Event

March 2019

An excellent introduction to AERA’s 2019 Annual Meeting is the Friday evening Opening Plenary (6:45 p.m.–8:30 p.m., April 5, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, John W. H. Bassett Theater, Room 102). This multimodal session, “Truth and Reconciliation in Education: History, Narratives, and Pedagogy,” focuses on the work of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its 2015 report.

This landmark study, part of a settlement with the Canadian government, details the state-sponsored harm done to Indigenous nations. More specifically, the report examines the role of the government-funded Aboriginal residential schools in family separation and cultural genocide. Until the 1990s, when the last such residential school was closed, Indigenous children were removed from their homes and communities to be “civilized” in these schools.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work of educating the Canadian people about the harsh truth of their history led to efforts to reconcile, including recommendations to implement important educational reforms in Canada. The reforms were related to professional development and guidelines for educators to infuse Indigenous ways of knowing into curricula. Thus, the power of educational institutions to both inflict and heal racial injustices is central to the work of this commission. The very meaning of “Truth and Reconciliation” in the field of education, in the Canadian and other contexts, will be explored in this dynamic plenary session.

The session begins with an opening performance by the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, a National Award–winning Inland Tlingit dance group based out of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The event will focus on reclaiming Indigenous languages and traditional values through the performers’ inherent art forms of singing, drumming, dancing, and storytelling. The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers are committed to participating in cultural and revitalization events in Indigenous communities to support the reclamation of their own ceremonies and ways.

This performance will be followed by a panel of prestigious scholars and educators from Canada and the U.S. Each plenary speaker has played an important role in thinking about the centrality of education as a field and of schools, universities, and museums in reconciling histories of oppression. This panel will, therefore, consider the meaning of truth and reconciliation within the field of education across borders and walls.

Distinguished Panel on Truth and Reconciliation Across Borders

  • Christopher M. Span (Moderator), Professor of Education, University of Illinois; AERA Division F Vice President
  • Elise C. Boddie, Professor of Law, Henry Rutgers Professor and Judge Robert L. Carter Scholar, Rutgers Law School 
  • Leslie T. Fenwick, Dean Emeritus and Professor, Howard University School of Education; Member, Scholarly Advisory Committee, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Tanya Senk, Centrally Assigned Principal at Toronto District School Board, Urban Indigenous Education Centre; Principal, First Nations School of Toronto/Wandering Spirit
  • Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Associate Professor, Department of Native Studies, University of Manitoba
  • Daniel Gilbert Solorzano, Professor of Social Science and  Comparative Education, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
  • Sandy White Hawk, Commissioner for the Maine Wabanaki Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Honorary Witness for the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools
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