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.
While in the process of researching for my study, I stumbled across a website (www.vcircle.com) which acts as a portal for Aboriginal cultural information. The site includes access to important cultural and historical information, Aboriginal beliefs, Native clothing and food and other areas of pertinent information. What I believe is exciting about this site is it allows for Aboriginal youth to connect and learn about their heritage and cultural background. As an example, using the site as a portal I was able to come across another site which catalogued the use of Native imagery for sports teams and sports team mascots. In addition, the site featured film footage of how Hollywood depicted Native Americans and comic book covers. This site can be found here: www.aistm.org/1indexpage.htm
Say Magazine is a national magazine (can be accessed online as well) which caters to Aboriginal youth. The magazine features stories and issues that are important to Aboriginal youth. As well, each issue includes regional content. The magazine claims that Aboriginal youth are the largest growing demographic in North America with the population projected to climb to over 1.6 million by this year. Some of the themes that the magazine covers include hot topics, entertainment, sports, careers, entrepreneurship, technology, lifestyles, role models/profiles, fashion, and health. While anyone can access the magazine online, the print version is more comprehensive and can be found at Chapters-Indigo. The magazine is another example of the Aboriginal community using ICT to give their community a voice.
The site can be found at: www.saymag.com/canada/
The Sunchild E-Learning community was created in 2000 by members of the Sunchild First Nation in response to the lack of education within their community and a belief that alternative methods for learning were needed for their youth. To overcome these unique challenges and tackle the lower than average high school completion, an E-Learning program was initiated. The Sunchild E-Learning community provides a range of courses from grade 7 to grade 12 including adult learning courses. Overall the program has been a success with over 80% of the students enrolled graduating and many continuing on to post-secondary institutions. Nickerson (2005) believes that the program’s success can be attributed to the implementation of focusing on the specific learning requirements of the Aboriginal youth including, “sense of time and relationships, and personal and family factors which might interrupt the learning process” (p. 7). In addition the courses do not require the need for high-speed internet taking into consideration the lack of internet access in many of Canada’s Aboriginal communities. Nickerson (2005) also points out that E-Learning allows for Aboriginal children to remain in their communities (unlike residential schools) to participate in cultural activities and strengthening family bonds.
The site can be found at: www.sccyber.net
The Aboriginal Youth Network is an online community that connects and
encourages Aboriginal Youth across Canada to engage in discussion.
The site provides Native youth an online space to participate in a
dialogue regarding all things relevant to their lives including,
education, opportunities for employment and health. In addition, many
important cultural events are posted and a forum is provided where
Native youth can communicate with one another by posting online
questions, remarks or responses to one another. This website is a
great example of how ICT is being used and engaging Aboriginal youth
in important issues in their community.
The site can be found at: www.ayn.ca
The Crossing Boundaries Aboriginal Voice is a project with a goal to
construct understanding about Aboriginal eGovernment and to provide
recommendations for policy-decision making for forthcoming
advancements of Native eGovernment. One of the issues discussed in
forums across the country is how information and communications
technologies (ICT) could be used in Aboriginal communities and their
governments. Many community members have expressed opportunities for
using ICT as a tool for language revitalization and in reinforcing
Aboriginal identity. However, community members have also expressed
concern regarding ICT and the protection of Aboriginal knowledge, how
it will be used and who will have access to it. Some of the questions
outlined in the Aboriginal Culture in the Digital Age paper include:
Is ICT the potent enabler for the promotion, renewal and enrichment of
Aboriginal cultures as many claim? (i.e. Does ICT offer new
possibilities for the preservation and teaching of Aboriginal
Within the context of increasing numbers of Aboriginal peoples living away
from traditional communities in large urban melting pots, can
technology help safeguard the right of Aboriginal children and young
people to learn their culture and speak their Indigenous languages?
What types of cultural risks does the new technology present for
Is appropriation and distortion of traditional Aboriginal knowledge one
of them, and if so, what can be done to mitigate the risks of
inappropriate access and use of this knowledge?
In addition, Aboriginal people today are facing a myriad of challenges
concerning culture and identity. This paper also focuses on those
cultural challenges and examines how ICT applications that can assist
in revitalizing culture and community renewal and the impacts it may
have on the community. In addition, the paper discusses how the
younger generation may be able to assist their elders in using ICT
and encourage generational interaction.
The document can be found here:
Another article written by Nickerson and Kaufman which shares many of the
same themes can be found here:
I came across James Clifford on another site while researching my paper. He’s a professor of consciousness at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and he writes extensively on indigenous issues, particularly on topics like the indigenous diaspora (as far as I can tell, he invented the term). This is a relevant issue for me as I am writing about urban indigeneity. I think Clifford has interesting things to say about the modern indigenous experience that usually challenge western mythologies.
His site includes many of his publications for download. Two that I have come across before are “Varieties of Indigenous Experience: Diasporas, Homelands, Sovereignties” and “Indigenous Articulations” but some of his other work, which has an anthropological and ecological perspective, looks interesting as well.