This should have been the first post. I have had the experience of feeling clueless with regard to my understanding of the perspective, culture and means to relate and connect to indigenous people on many occasions. It started in my own community where the Shuswap nation lived on the edge of town but I knew nothing of them beyond the boundary of the the reserve lands, a place we did not go and were forbidden by our parents to enter. There was a brief reference to First Nation culture in our school teams and games where we divided the school into Nootka, Haida, Nisga and one more that I no longer remember and likely a name that is no longer used. It was as if they did not exist and even though I had very well educated parents who had a number of friends from the First Nation community, I as a child and young adult do not remember any stories or cultural references that were shared and incorporated into my education. I learned greek myths, norse myths, irish myths and even a few chinese myths but none from the First Nations of BC.
In highschool, one boy was from the local reserve and I remember only that he was the lone representative from his community though there must have been many youth his age that could have come to the school. In college, he was given an apartment and well funded for his education and I remember discussions of resentment that his education should be ‘for free’ while the rest of us paid for ours. I did not cross the ‘border’ between he and I and ask questions though and the opportunity to understand or at least inquire was lost.
Despite my utter lack of education and understanding of my own country, I remained very interested in the plight of indigenous in other places and eventually went to work in southern Mexico because I wanted the chance to learn more about the Mayan and the ecological and economic challenges they face. After 4 years of education in a degree that focused on indigenous issues in Latin America, I was ill prepared to deal with the realities of the Mayan and the complexity within each community and region that made the efforts of outsiders bent on improving the situation ridiculous. If anything, much of what we did made it worse and most of this due to a poor understanding of the culture, worldview and actual needs of these communities. Marker’s article (2006) on the limits of multicultural discourse rung true for my own experience, not only in Mexico but for a number of projects I have participated in since upon return to my own home and place in BC. In Hare’s article too, the idea of two-worlds is true and I agree with him that all Canadians would benefit from the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in our education (2011). Had I learned from indigenous knowledge as a child, I believe I would have had a far richer understanding of the Shuswap area and its history, the people who shared the valley with us and this would have greatly improved my own ability to travel, grasp and integrate the understanding of others into my work abroad and greatly increased my capacity as a professional in both the education and the resource management sector.
Marker, M. (2006). After the Makah Whale Hunt: Indigenous Knowledge and Limits to Multicultural Discourse. Urban Education, 41(5), 482-505.
Hare, J. (2011). Learning from Indigenous knowledge in education. In D. Long and O. P. Dickenson (Eds.), Visions of the heart, 3rd Edition (pp. 91-112). Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press.