What an amazing experience it was to facilitate our own learning! I learned not just about the topic at hand but about myself as well. As a group, we chose to focus on traditional healings and the trauma that causes need for healing. I sometimes feel disconnected from learning but discovering new insights around these ideas directly related to my life and I think that it can relate to any life. We all face trauma, we all form ways of healing and coping.
Being in my final semester of the Education program, I have been exposed to various Residential school discussions and learnings. Each time, it is just as painful to try and swallow the heart breaking events that took place in these facilities. It makes me sick to my stomach to try and think about what took place in these ‘so called schools’. When I think about the word school, I get reminded of happy memories and the feelings of trust and comfort are brought about. I think about friendships made with both peers and educators. I think about playing at recess and the countless lessons I was learning everyday about myself and the world around me. I think about all of the special activities that I got to take part in and the endless amounts of treats and gifts that were given out by teachers. My dream of becoming an educator formed when I was just a little kid because of how excited I was to come to school and spend the day with teachers that I loved, trusted and believed in me. I wanted so badly to be able to give this amazing gift to other people and be able to make a difference in their lives like my teachers did for me. I would not be the caring, supportive, generous and lively person that I am today without these experiences that I had growing up in school. I cannot even begin to imagine or put myself in the shoes of all the people who had to face to cruelty of Residential schools. Even for those who did not get abused or raped, getting your culture ripped away from you is cruel enough. That is a kind of trauma that will follow somebody for the rest of their life, and hearing the narratives, it certainly has. My heart absolutely broke into many pieces when we came across the personal narrative of Edmund Metatawabin and the many others looked at for this presentation. I feel grateful more than ever to be able to have the power that I do as an educator to de-root and hopefully erase the negative stereotypes that Indigenous peoples (or any minority cultures) have to face everyday.
Here are some other narratives:
- Residential School Survivor Stories
- Aboriginal Arts & Stories: 2006 Writing Winner
We had countless conversations about cultural appropriation while setting up our presentation and this is something that I am always trying to be aware of and something that tends to hold me back in the classroom. I never want to offend anybody or do something that is inappropriate in terms of culture integration. I am a bit of a perfectionist and have a strong need for things to go perfect and I have been slowly letting go of this in my education journey because there will never be anything perfect in a classroom or a lesson that will go perfectly without flaws or re-consideration. I am beginning to fall in love with this idea because it allows me to be the life long learner that I always dream of being. As I have said before, I loved going to school and learning about the world around me. I am starting to become okay with the fact that even if I do make a mistake in terms of culture appropriation, that I can address the mistake made and learn and grow from it. I never claim to know everything, and I know that there is a lot of learning that I still need to be continually taking part in.
After our presentation, the dreaded conversation took place that we might have crossed the lines of culture appropriation. This dreaded fear is something that is experienced by many in the classroom and holds back a lot of the essential learning that needs to take place around Indigenous, or any other cultural topics. I have been learning to embrace the fact that it is okay to make mistakes and that you just need to address it and learn from it. I honestly feel like students get comfort when their teachers slip up or forget something because it shows them that we are all human and cannot be perfect.
Please go check out the book Taking Back Our Spirits by Jo-Ann Episkenew if possible! It offered many insights about different myths that we might be carrying with us into the classroom (personal myths, collective myths and the myth of the dominion of Canada) and highlights the importance of storytelling in order to heal. Storytelling validates the experiences of people affected by trauma and allows them a way to provide a foundation for understanding. Storytelling also encourages others who have suffered trauma to work through their associated trauma in a safe manner. This book has some amazing quotes such as:
- “to cure the settler from the pathology of colonialism, Indigenous people must make public the alternative collective myth that comprises our truths, and to heal the wounds that colonialism has inflicted on the Indigenous, we must hear our truths in the national collective myth. Without truth there can be no reconciliation” (p. 73).
- “Indigenous autobiography goes beyond catharsis. It is an act of imagination that inspires social regeneration by providing eyewitness testimony to historical injustices” (p. 75).
- “Another factor that has contributed to postcolonial trauma for Indigenous people is our exclusion from the authorized story of the creation of the Canadian nation-state”
Here is the link to our seminar facilitation: