The Parks Canada website offers visitors information about traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) and helps explain some fundamental differences between Western and Aboriginal worldviews relating to nature and history. As an example they cite Dene oral histories that track the migration of peoples resulting from volcanic eruptions. Using “western” scientific techniques these stories have been scientifically “proven”.
Parks Canada -Aboriginal vs. Western World Views
The site links to a number of a articles in Northern Perspectives ( a publication of the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee) that further clarifies notions of traditional knowledge in contrast to western science.
An interesting comment in Martha Johnson’s article on Dene traditional knowledge mentions that western science is rooted in quantitative analysis while aboriginal peoples value qualitative information.
Scollon’s Axehandle Academy Proposal was quite intriguing. Traditional western educational systems may work for some but how well do they serve those who live in remote areas? In addition, it is important yet logistically difficult to bring useful education to remote areas.
The University of the Arctic ( UArctic) uses Thematic Networks and e-Learning to provide focused learning opportunities through co-operative arrangements with universities, colleges and other agencies serving northern areas.
Thematic-based learning, in combination with knowledge sharing seems more empowering and useful than traditional distance education models that simply convey information that is likely difficult to meaningully “transfer” into regional environments.
Module 4’s theme of ecological knowledge centres around oral traditions and the importance of storytelling. We are also asked to consider the ecology of the natural world apart from the western scientific model.
The Debajehmujig (Debaj) Theatre Group’s (Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island) production Global Savages touched on several different themes from this course : stereotypes, globalization, and ecology … all through storytelling.
I watched this performance under the evening sky within the ruins of the St. Johns’s School for Boys. A place where residents were prevented from speaking their language and learning about their culture not so long ago.
The group told an alternative history of mankind dating back 18,000 years. The story of Turtle Island was quite localized (another theme) and rich with ecological references to nature and animals. The performance is aimed at helping others understand alternative perspectives, de-myth stereotypes and promote the need to care for our planet.
Global Savage is just one of many productions that the Debaj group has performed over the past 27 years. The newest is called Elders Gone AWOL!
Roots and Shoots
Module 4 has prompted us to consider Traditional Educational Knowledge (TEK). According to the Roots and Shoots website TEK is “knowledge that have been passed down for generations. TEK involves the knowledge of one’s own environment that is gained through experiences, actions and interactions.”
Associated with the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, Roots and Shoots is funded by the Dept. of Indian and Northern Affairs.
The goal of the program is to:
- Support youth in taking action on issues affecting people, animals and the environment.
- Mobilize youth to become more connected to their land, people and cultural identity.
- Empower First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth to make change in their communities.
One of the initiatives provides support for story telling initiatives (Wisdom Keepers and Storytellers Narrative Initiative) which encourages youth to become “messengers of the culture, spirituality and the environment of your community”. Some examples are the stories can be found at the Stories at Work section on the site.
Great Circle Trail
“It remains to be seen whether the dominant societies will begin to have more enthusiasm for integrating Indigenous values and ways of knowing into their own social structuring as forces of globalization make Indigenous reality more accessible”.
This is the last sentence in our course materials and comes across more as a challenge than a question.
Surely technology and increased ability to share information will help the cause but there is also something very important about physical presence as well.
Visitors to Manitoulin Island (by ferry or bridge) are greeted by signs encouraging them to experience the Great Circle Trail. More than a tourist organization, they promote cultural experiences. This year they offer visitors Aboriginal Camps for Kids.
Thinking back to the challenge above it seems this is possible, especially when children are involved.
“Reel Youth is a not-for-profit, media empowerment program supporting youth, adults, organizations and businesses to create and distribute engaging films about the issues they care about most.”
While ReelYouth is not just for First Nations use, the service has been used to showcase films created by First Nations youth.
The video below is described as “a metaphorical view of the effects of residential schools.
In the conclusion to Module 3 we are asked to consider holistic education ” beyond Indigenous communities ….. Indigenous education is not simply for Indigenous peoples”.
When viewing the challenges and concerns faced by the youths profiled in the module’s film’s it became apparent that these are challenges we all ought to be concerned with.
The Holistic Education Network of Tasmania stresses the notion that “every person and every student” can benefit from holistic education.
Holistic Education Network
This site provides information about holistic education principles and links to educational models.
Throughout Module 3, we’ve been asked approach indigenous research cautiously, and warned of how traditional academic research techniques might not work.
During searches “research tips for First Nations studies”, I discovered that Simon Fraser University offers an entire certificate program on First Nations Research Studies.
Certificate in First Nations Studies Research
“The certificate is well suited for aboriginal individuals who wish to gain an understanding of native issues and social research skills which can be put to use in their communities and nations. The certificate is also open to non-aboriginal students.”
There seems to be a program for just about anything these days.
Image Source: National Film Board
There appear to be numerous blogs about decolonization, many which are directed towards a lack of empathy and understanding by the offspring of these colonial settlers. After viewing several, it seemed like a lot of them offered little in the way of promoting healing.
The need for a sense of decolonization might be a difficult concept to grasp without an understanding of colonialism.
Teachers have the ability to share perspectives that promote views in more critical and thoughtful ways. The National Film Board’s web site has catalogued a number of films which offer students with different perfectives on the effects of colonization.
National Film Board Teacher Resources for Colonialism and Racism
Source : MythPerceptions
“Mythperceptions is an initiative of the Indigenous Work Program of Mennonite Central Committee Canada.
The goal of Mythperceptions is to dismantle stereotypes, myths and misconceptions that people from the dominant culture tend to believe about Indigenous peoples living within the borders of what is now North America. Mythperceptions attempts to change views in a way that is engaging, yet gives opportunities to dig deeply into some of the issues facing Indigenous peoples”.
It is interesting to note that the project is sponsored by the Mennonite Church’s international ministry. Portions of the gallery style site highlight issues related to residential schools. While many placed blame on the original “churches” that operated residential schools, numerous other churches are now providing supports for past injustices.
A separate link provides more information about this ministry including other international efforts.
Mennonite Central Committee