For the second time in just over two weeks, an outdated homework assignment has come back to haunt a Saskatchewan school.
First, it was a word search containing long-discarded terms for Indigenous people handed out at a Moose Jaw school around Thanksgiving.
Now, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools is responding after an outdated crossword puzzle was assigned as homework and subsequently ended up widely criticized on Facebook over its use of terms like Indian and Eskimo.
The handout included suggestions that Indigenous people still live in igloos and wear “headbands with feathers in them.” The crossword was also accompanied by a cartoon depicting an Inuit person fishing.
Jarvis Swidrovich posted a photo of the crossword to Facebook after it was sent home with his niece. As a man of Indigenous heritage himself, he said he found the assignment disappointing.
“It makes me even think about our Indigenous students who might receive assignments like that — even if it’s just a crossword — about what image that paints in their own minds of who they are,” he said.
He stressed that he has always been impressed with his niece’s school and teachers.
“I know that the Catholic school system and our public school system do work very hard toward reconciliation and I really applaud their efforts. But this is just an example that some things can slip through the cracks,” he said.
Greg Chatlain, director of education with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, said the crossword was likely several decades old.
“It’s really unfortunate to stay the least that some of these outdated materials are still in cabinets around the schools,” he said.
Chatlain added that the issue has been addressed with the teacher who handed out the assignment.
“She feels absolutely awful about it. Very apologetic for the lapse in judgement,” he said.
Chatlain said a note would be going out to parents, along with a directive to principals to check for, and get rid of, any older teaching materials that might still be found in cupboards or file cabinets.
— with files from 650 CKOM’s Céline Grimard and Daniella Ponticelli