Saskatchewan teacher mistakenly hands out offensive Thanksgiving puzzle

By The Canadian Press
October 11, 2017 - 9:45am

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — A school division in southern Saskatchewan is apologizing after a handout with offensive words was mistakenly given to students.

A Thanksgiving work package supplied last week to a Grade 3 class in Moose Jaw had a word search puzzle in the shape of a teepee. It contained "squaw" and "papoose," derogatory terms for Indigenous women and children.

Prairie South Schools said in a statement that the teacher gave the material to students who had completed other work before the long weekend.

The teacher had not carefully previewed the handout and was horrified to learn of its content Tuesday after a news reporter called the school division to ask about the puzzle.

"I feel very badly that this has happened and offer my sincere apologies," said Tony Baldwin, director of education for Prairie South. 

"As a Treaty 4 person, I know the importance of accurate information for students."

A photo of the puzzle was posted on Twitter by a Vancouver woman who said the Thanksgiving booklet was given to her cousin's child at the elementary school in Moose Jaw.

Written at the top of the puzzle: "History tells us that the Indians played a very important part in the first Thanksgiving dinner."

Chief Bobby Cameron with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan said the words in the puzzle are blatantly racist and wonders if other students were unwittingly given the handout in previous years.

"How are young students supposed to understand or learn the terms reconciliation and acceptance when you have an educator throwing this kind of hated material out to students?" he said.

"In this day and age? Holy crow."

Cameron suggested the teacher should be reprimanded or suspended.

Baldwin described the teacher as a good employee who made a serious mistake and said the division will work to make sure nothing like this happens again.

He also said he was bewildered that copies of the handout were in the school in the first place, as they are more than 20 years old.

"I can't explain how they came to be in the school. They certainly should have been purged many years ago," Baldwin said.

He said the handouts have since been destroyed.

— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton

The Canadian Press

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Wed, 11 Oct 2017 18:00:25 -0400

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