Good Reads!

For my ELIB 216 class, I created a list of 40 FNMI books that are focused on younger years literature. They are all annotated and include a reflection of reading strategies for 5 of them. This is something that I am including in my own personal Treaty kit and will reference back to when wanting to select an appropriate FNMI book for a read aloud or when building my #classroomlibrary.

ELIB- Reading Log

Growing as an Educator

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

http://wherearethechildren.ca/en/stories/

  • Aboriginal Arts & Stories: 2006 Writing Winner

http://www.our-story.ca/winners/writing/285:residential-school-nightmares

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.

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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:

 

Settler or Canadian?

I hold these two identities in which are settler and Canadian. Which one do I identify with? This is the question that I am faced with today and have started to unpack.

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Canadian is at the forefront of who I am, it is the basis for my identity and who I have shaped into as an individual. I am ever so proud to state that I am apart of Canada. I grew up here and Canada is in my blood. Canadians are nice, polite welcome people right? This is always what we hear and embrace. I love eating poutine and taking part in snow activities. I become overwhelmed with emotions when singing the national anthem is schools everyday. I am surrounded by Canadian culture and feel pride when seeing Canadian flags on cars, patios, motor homes etc. Canada day brings the most joy to my life when I  look around and see everyone embracing our cultural traditions and celebrations.

At least this is how I used to feel..

Feelings of shame and guilt overcome me when looking back on these thoughts that used to consume me. I have came to the realisation that this is a very colonial way of thinking and that I do not want to be bringing these colonial ways of thinking into a classroom with me. When I step back and think about Canada, I see that things are not always equal and respect is not always upheld. Sure, we claim to be multicultural, but what about all those ‘buts’ that come with immigration into Canada. ‘You are allowed to embrace your cultural beliefs but you must …’ This reality does not embrace the polite, welcoming and nice attitude that I was convinced Canadians held. This attitude of mine came from the education – or lack there of – that I had throughout school. I received little education on Indigenous peoples and their culture. I especially lacked knowledge about colonisation from an Indigenous view, which widely affected my perspectives on what it means to be a Treaty person. The lack of education that I had received greatly affected my worldview and the principles that I had for myself.

I included the above black and white picture for a purposeful reason. This is what the term ‘settler’ symbols for me. When I look at this picture, I don’t feel connected to it an it remind me of something that happened a long time ago. The term settler almost makes me feel this way and brings feelings that disturb my ‘comfort’ zone. This makes me feel very uncomfortable because I am not a settler, I did not do those unspeakable things. My white privilege never made me think of a connection between settler and Canadian before but not that I am immersed into such rich classes and conversation, I am beginning to think can you really be a Canadian without being a settler?  I am no longer as proud to be Canadian because without all of the ‘settling’ that happened, there would not be a Canada to be proud of. I think that it is crucial as part of my Treaty walk that I am uncomfortable with the term settler and I do not think that this makes me any less of an educator. If I become truly comfortable and confident in an area, then I have stopped my learning process and this is something that I always want to be continuing and embracing. I am a lifelong learner and wish to create many other lifelong learners along my journey.

The power of education is truly incredible. I am on an amazing journey of uneducating myself of the misinterpreted way that I received my knowledge and gaining a deeper meaning of what it is to be a Treaty person and how to embrace this in my classroom so that my students do not grow up with the colonial ideologies that I unfortunately did.

Blanket Exercise

This exercise had a lot of ‘aha’ moments for me and cut deep into my emotions. The terms that we discussed beforehand helped me out and I think that is very useful to include when facilitating this kind of an exercise into the classroom. The terms that we talked about included:

-sovereign nation: protection of individual rights

-treaties: binding agreements

-equality: everyone getting the same

-equity: everybody gets what they need in order for success

-Indigenous peoples:all encompassing term for Aboriginal peoples

-Aboriginal peoples: First Nations. Metis and Inuit (blanket term)

-Assimilation: process of a person or group’s culture that come to resemble that of another group

-Enfranchisement: admit to citizenship (lost Indian Status)

This helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the terms when they came into conversation during the blanket exercise. If I was not aware of these terms or had not heard them used before, this exercise would not have had as much meaning for me or I might have gotten lost. I really enjoyed that we started this exercise off by sitting in a circle, i felt connected to everyone and I could see everybody’s faces and emotions. Seeing other people in a vulnerable state made me more comfortable to allow myself to become vulnerable and open during this exercise. Being able to open up and pull myself out of the ‘white settler’ world that sometimes surrounds me made me come to many realisations. I feel like I was only able to scratch the surface during this exercise and that if I was able to participate various other times, I would see a new light each time. O10599724_10154112854565715_4307970356748433262_nnce we stood together on the sheets, I felt this anticipation hanging over my head the whole time, I knew at some point I would be kicked off. When the cards were getting handed out, I knew those people were at some point getting kicked off too. This being ‘kicked off’ didn’t just signify that you were ‘out’ of the exercise, this signified a much larger picture
and it had a huge impact for me. Watching these countless people erased from the land was truly devastating and put this into a great deal of perspective for me. Hearing all of the personal stories teared at my heart strings. It wasn’t just something that I was hearing about, they are real life, these things actually happened to people. I got passed 2 scrolls to read during this blanket exercise and I was honestly scared to read what it said. I was worried that I would start crying and disrupt the exercise. I was hit the hardest when comparing the land size from the beginning of the exercise to the end and how much had been taken away. Hearing my classmates share their thoughts and feelings was beautiful and I also appreciate having my worldview opened up and expand. I left this class with feelings of hope and blessing because we, as educators have the power to stand up and make a difference. Saying sorry is not enough. Actions speak louder than words. Recognising that there have been huge faults made is the first step in my Treaty walk and to get a deeper understanding of what wrongs have all been made before I can figure out how to address these in my classroom and take action.

This is a great resource to use in the classroom for blanket exercises!

What is the Blanket Exercise? 

miyo-wîcêhtowin

January 12th, 2017.

Smudging Experience

I am just going to start this by saying WOW! what an experience. My eyes were opened to so many doors tonight and I love all the new insights I gained from this incredible experience.

I had the opportunity to present Noel Starblanket with the offering of tabaco and cloth to ask that he smudge with us and share his knowledge.There are a few new pieces I gained on my Treaty walk about offering tabaco. The cloth is to be 100% cotton and the person who you are presenting it to might ask for a certain colour (Noel asked for sky blue to honour the spirits in the sky) and that the tabaco should be Virgina Shag. For this offering, we laid the loose tabaco on the cloth but the tabaco can also be enclosed in a cloth pouch. As I was presenting this offering there were many thoughts and questions that I had. I had made sure that I knew a rough outline of what I was going to say but there were many things that I did not think of beforehand because I was relying on my general knowledge of talking to other ‘settler’ people if you could say. As I was about to approach Noel, I was sort of panicking. Am I supposed to look him in the eye or not make eye contact? Do I shake his hand? Do I address him before making the offering? I did not think to ask these questions because of my ‘common’ knowledge about everyday interactions with my peers. I came to another realisation that I am not well educated in the formalities of Indigenous peoples or what they might take offence to or find disrespectful. After I made the offering I was also having a few thoughts such as did I talk to fast? Did I say the right things? Did he expect me to do anything more? I feel comfortable with the fact that I always do not have all of these answers because I am aware that I am coming to terms with my identity as a Treaty person and that I have a lot of learning to do. However, I do not feel comfortable with the assumptions I find myself subconsciously making and the feelings of doubt when faced with anything related to this topic. I am definitely excited to be on this journey and to be able to feel more confident in the classroom with Treaty Ed. and embracing my Treaty ‘identity’. I know that I will be able to make a difference in my students’ lives so that they can grow up being aware of these  things that I did not have the experience with for the most part of my life.

Here are some pictures of the offering I made tonight.

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I had a lot of ‘aha’ moments tonight and connections were continually being made in my mind. Here are some highlights for me from this smudging experience with Andrew and Noel:

  • Noel has a very calming attitude and I felt so welcome and invited in his presence. Even though it was a totally new experience for me, he made me feel appreciated, he was not judgemental or discriminating of anybody or any culture and this is how I want my classroom to feel for all of the people entering it.
  • He shared with us how much he values women and their importance in the culture. He was not ashamed to admit that he believes that women are greater than men and he also shared their roles in the community. Noel gets women to pick his plants so that a part of them touch his medicine and that women are in charge of life. He referred to them as the lodge because they are the fire of life and this was very beautiful
  • he had to unlearn all of the ‘white’ culture so that he could relearn his own because it had been ripped away from him.
  • “the more humble you are, the more powerful you are”

It was incredibly inspiring to hear Noel’s story and it really put my life into perspective for me. This experience is something that I will carry with me throughout my life and reflect on periodically. I realize that there are so many things I take for granted in my life and immersing myself into the ideas of what it was like for Noel and many more individuals being robbed of so much in their lives makes me ten times more grateful for the life that I am able to live.

 

Miskâsowin

January 10th, 2017.

The word Miskâsowin means to find one’s sense of self/center and origin/belonging. This word also would not have meant much to me before learning the meaning but it really does have a lot of impact on my life. I have found myself trying to ‘find myself’ many times throughout my life. Entering high school, I struggled with this a lot and always thought I needed to fit in and do what everyone else was doing. Thinking back on this seems very strange now because I embrace being different and love the idea of having a story that is only mine to share. I grew up in a small town of about 300 people, so entering the city and attending the University of Regina, I definitely had a lot of finding myself to do. Nothing was familiar and everything seemed so daunting and scary, I was not one to leave my comfort zone so this was big soul searcher for me. I embraced this journey again when diving into my educational practices and finding myself as a teacher. I have always had big dreams about what I want my teaching to look like, but actually making this happen inside the classroom is another story. The thing that I love about all of these journeys I’ve had in my life of finding my center and balancing it, is that each time is a totally new experience and I learn different things about myself that I did not know before. I am currently on the journey of finding my center as a Treaty person and today I volunteered to present an Elder with tabaco and cloth at our smudging ceremony in a few days. This is something that I would never normally have the courage to do, but my mind was telling me to go for it and embrace the new experience and I am very glad that I listened.

It is important for me to start thinking about my identity and what this means in relation to my personal journey for a balanced center. “It’s okay. Names are linked to identity and notions of identity are fluid” (Vowel, 2016). This quote made me feel comfortable that I do not have a specific identity yet and that identities are not black and white, they are messy and confusing. Confused is definitely how I feel right now regarding identities. I certainly know what terms are not acceptable to use when discussing Treaty Ed. but exactly what terms to use that are culturally appropriate is a blurry line for me.

Aboriginal- I am now aware that the term Aboriginal refers to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples and is similar to the term Indigenous, however it is generic and overused. When using the term Aboriginal, it is important to refer to people as Aboriginals rather than Aboriginal peoples.

Indigenous- I am now aware that this is an all encompassing term that includes First Nation, Inuit and Metis peoples. This is a good term to use when talking about Indigenous peoples all over the world instead of being country specific.

First Nations- I used to use this term loosely to identify many different peoples but have learnt that it does not include Inuit or Metis peoples because they are not included in the Indian Act. This is a good term for the diverse groups of people that have similar interests and issues both political and cultural.

Inuit- This term replaces ‘Eskimo’ which is a term that should not be used unless referring to the Yupik and Inupiat peoples of Alaska.

Metis- I have learnt that this is a ‘Canadian’ name and that Metis are an indigenous people

Native American- this term is commonly used in the United States and should not be used unless talking about the American Indian Movement.

This was a bit overwhelming to me because I realize that I have been using/have used terms that some people might take offence to and that is never my intention at all! Now to try and identify what my ‘label’ would be.. Do I identify with Canadian? settler? Non-Indigenous? Settler-colonial? I am still not sure on this ‘title’ of mine and this is something that I will be spending some time trying to unpack.

 

Vowel, Chelsea. 2016. Indigenous Writes. Highwater Press, Canada.

 

Miyo-wicehtowin

January 5th, 2017

The word Miyo-wicehtowin would have not meant anything to me before, but now I understand that it means to get along well with others, have good relationships and to expand your circle. This Cree word now has great meaning to my life and this is why:

Relationships are one of the most important things to me and while they may look very different in different areas in my life, I value all of them. My relationships with my friends and family have a lot to do with the person that I am today and the values that I have. I have always had a very open relationship with my parents and they have taught me so much about life and influence some of the goals that I have made for myself. They are continually supporting my dreams and always encourage me to be the best version of myself that I can be. These strong relationships that I formed growing up, first with my parents, friends and then myself are now the platform for my education career. Relationships in the classroom are very important to me so that I can get to know my students on a deeper level than just being their ‘teacher’ but rather their cheerleader and support system. Relationships and getting along well with colleagues is also something that I value because I love collaborating with people and think beautiful ideas happen when various minds come together. I love learning from and with people and seeing different worldviews and points of mind because I am always seeking to broaden my understanding of the world and amazing people that occupy it.

It was great browsing through Sheena’s Treaty Walk blog because it made me feel a lot more comfortable admitting that I do not know a lot about Treaties and this idea of what it means to be a Treaty person. Her posts are real and raw, she compares her Treaty walk to going to a garden and taking the gift from the land to prepare it for her own nourishment and it is beautiful. This really puts forth the importance of going on our own journey to discover who we are so that we can be our best self and share all of our beautiful findings with others.

“A treaty walk is like going to the garden — back in the days when I lived at home and going to the garden meant fighting my way through Dad’s long rows of corn, squash, pumpkin, beans, peas, swiss chard, carrots, beats, and potatoes — and picking something from the earth. A treaty walk is like taking that good gift from the land and preparing it for my own nourishment or to share with others”

http://treatywalks.blogspot.ca/