People for Education is partnering with leading Ontario researchers to highlight emerging research. Find out more.
Meet Dr. Susan Dion
Our featured researcher
Dr. Susan Dion is a First Nations (Lenape-Potawatomi) researcher and teacher-educator at York University in Toronto. Her teaching and research focus on understanding the representation of Aboriginal people and the relationship between First Nations and non-First Nations people in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
Do you have a question for Professor Dion?
Professor Dion is happy to answer your questions about:
- Aboriginal education for all Ontario students, or
- Decolonizing schools
We will post all your questions and Susan Dion’s answers here on our website. Simply use the form at the top right of this page.
Read the latest Q & A with Professor Dion
- My questions are regarding schools on Reserves…
- Do you know how the Ministry of Education approaches curriculum development for Aboriginal studies? How do you think we are doing in Ontario curriculum?
- A while ago I wrote an article on the First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan…
- In your opinion, do you see the Arts and a viable hook to engage Aboriginal students in their academic learning, and if so, how?
Learn more about Professor Susan Dion
As a child in school in small-town Ontario, Susan Dion knew she was First Nations, but she didn’t know what it meant. She found it hard to make sense of that identity when she looked at her own family and what she was being taught in school, which was only about the Indians of the past. Click here to watch Susan’s digital story.
Now, as a researcher, she is working to affect how Aboriginal content is taught in Ontario schools so that all Canadians have an understanding of our history. She argues that improving the experiences and outcomes for Aboriginal children in school requires us to address a “knowledge gap” on the part of most teachers and the education system in general about First Nations, Metis and Inuit cultures. This is particularly important because most Aboriginal children attend publicly funded schools in Ontario boards.
Too often Aboriginal education in schools has been treated as a lightweight part of the curriculum—sugarcube igloos and dreamcatchers. Working as a teacher-educator and a researcher, Dion helps educators develop understanding—of their own history and its relationship to Aboriginal experiences in Canada—to overcome what can often be a reluctance to engage with material that challenges the myth of Canada the good.
She is the author of two leading reports on Aboriginal Education in Ontario’s public schools, Decolonizing Our Schools (for the Toronto District School Board’s Aboriginal Education Centre) and Our Place in the Circle, looking at Metis and Aboriginal content in Ontario Faculties of Education, for the Metis Nation of Ontario. She is also involved in events for the broader community, like this summer’s InVisibility: Indigenous in the City exhibition and the People for Education Conference.
Dr. Dion observes that there is a great deal of positive work going on to improve Aboriginal Education: “There has been incredible change in recent years,” says Dr. Dion. Now, when she and her colleagues and allies talk about Aboriginal education, “people are listening.” And slowly, more students are having expanded opportunities to learn their languages, talk to elders, have access to traditional teachings and to understand how and why so many people have been denied access to Indigenous knowledge. Increasingly, educators are realizing that all students in Ontario schools need to learn from Aboriginal people’s experiences and perspectives.