An examination of the treatment of Aboriginal people in provincially approved textbooks reveals a serious and deep-rooted problem. In response to a 1956 recommendation that textbooks be developed that were relevant to Aboriginal students, Indian Affairs official R. F. Davey commented, “The preparation of school texts is an extremely difficult matter.” It was his opinion that “there are other needs which can be met more easily and should be undertaken first.” In the following years, assessments of public-school textbooks showed that they continued to perpetuate racist stereotypes of Aboriginal people. A 1968 survey pointed out that in some books, the word squaw was being used to describe Aboriginal women, and the word redskins used to describe Aboriginal people.
Students also noted that the curriculum belittled their ancestry. Mary Courchene said, “Their only mandate was to Christianize and civilize; and it’s written in black and white. And every single day we were reminded.” Lorna Cochrane could never forget an illustration in a social studies text. “There was a picture of two Jesuits laying in the snow, they were murdered by these two ‘savages.’ And they had this what we call ‘a blood-curdling look’ on their faces is how I remember that picture.” When the curriculum was not racist, it was bewildering and alienating. Many students could not identify with the content of the classroom materials. For instance, Lillian Elias remembers that “when I looked at Dick and Jane I thought Dick and Jane were in heaven when I saw all the green grass. That’s how much I knew about Dick and Jane.”