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Remembering Sandy Abah

From Alison Taylor and Claudia Ruitenberg

Sandy was the Graduate Program Assistant in Educational Studies between 2013 and 2019. When Alison was Graduate Advisor from 2017 to 2019, she worked closely with her. In the same role, Claudia worked closely with her from 2014 to 2017.

She worked at UBC for almost 25 years and was working as the iSchool Program Assistant when she passed away last year. When we learned of her passing, we decided to write this tribute.

Alison Taylor:

I remember Sandy as a warm person who was a fierce advocate for students. She knew most of the graduate students in the department and always put their interests and needs first. She always wanted to take time with them and make time for them, which often put her at odds with bureaucratic university policies. For example, I remember having discussions with her about how long past the admissions deadline to wait for missing pieces of student applications. She always wanted to wait longer. 🙂 I appreciated and greatly respected her care.

It was never just a job for Sandy, and she made my work as Graduate Advisor more meaningful because of that. Like many of the staff who keep universities running, she did her work diligently and without any fanfare. But we noticed. When she was leaving the department she said, “I love working with you and the faculty and students.” She also said, “I am a teacher and student advocate,” which is exactly how I think of her.

I developed a strong working relationship with her and want to share a few of her messages because I think they speak to the kind of person she was.

On April 5, 2018, at the opening of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, her email to me was simple: “Shall we all go?”

On April 6, 2018, she sent me a link to an article called, “Hunger and homelessness are widespread among college students, study finds.” In addition to its relevance to my work as Grad Advisor, she knew I was researching working students.

After she left EDST, I heard from her periodically on email. Initially, she was in touch because she’d received a few emails from graduate students in EDST and wanted to make sure I responded to them. In April, 2019 she said about her new workplace, “Would you believe we don’t have a coffee maker here??? How would you survive? LOL.”

When I had my first doctoral oral as supervisor at UBC, she wrote to ask how it went. For a month or two, she continued to answer my questions as Graduate Advisor, because admittedly, I was lost without her. Later, she wrote whenever she had something to share, like a healthy juice recipe, a news article, a holiday greeting, or cartoons. She sent me many cartoons, and particularly liked “Peanuts”! I became teary-eyed as I read over our email exchanges.

Claudia Ruitenberg:

I very much enjoyed working with Sandy. As Alison describes, she cared deeply about students and would go above and beyond to try and help them if they came to her in a panic about having missed a deadline. Sandy saw her workday as being done when the important stuff on her to-do list was done, not when the clock said so. Several EDST graduates mention Sandy by name in the acknowledgements of their thesis or dissertation.

Sandy completed a UBC Bachelor of Arts with a major in Religious Studies in 2014, while working in our department. She would tell me about courses she was taking or a final paper that was a struggle. I believe that her own studies at UBC made her even more empathetic with the students in our department. When I suggested we celebrate her graduation during the EDST graduation reception, she did not want to advertise her own achievement. She definitely believed others’ achievements were worth celebrating, however, and there was never a shortage of food if Sandy had ordered the catering for the graduation reception!

Sandy liked her office cozy and personalized. I remember her in her oversized sweater with an extra scarf wrapped around her neck, a blanket on her chair, and multiple coffee mugs on her desk. I think this made students feel more comfortable going to see her to ask a question. She was not a functionary, but a mensch.



We both feel that Sandy contributed to humanizing EDST and wanted to share these reflections.


 You are welcome to add your memories of Sandy by clicking on the + sign in the bottom righthand corner below.

 

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Letters and Journals of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin: Insights into Colonial Governance Across Continents

This is the third and final post in the series from the course “Topics in the History of Education: Histories Confronting White Supremacy,” led by Professor Mona Gleason.

This course delves into colonialization, racism, and systemic oppression, exploring how historical understanding shapes our world today. In this series, students collaborated to craft blog posts where they explore themes related to course topics and share their insights with the larger EDST audience.


Co-authored by Ruchika Bathla, Marc-André Fortin, and Phoebe Lee, this blog post looks at James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin’s impact on political institutions in Canada, China, and India. The authors analyze Elgin’s writings, revealing British colonialist and supremacist views and examine his role in shaping Canadian, Chinese, and Indian histories.


Letters and Journals of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin: Insights into Colonial Governance Across Continents

Preamble: We form a triad of students whose origins are respectively from Québec, Hong Kong, and India. We read the “Letters and Journals of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin” with an interest in studying how this man influenced the forming of political institutions in our respective countries. We also reviewed remarks and opinions left in his letters and journals, exposing British colonialist and supremacists’ views during this imperialist period of the United Kingdom.


Elgin

Figure 1: Lord Elgin (source).

Introduction: James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin (1811-1863) was appointed Governor General of Canada from 1847 to 1854. He was educated in Eton and Oxford, among a ruling elite of noblemen and future politicians who would play decisive roles and truly shape the British empire.

The selection of British administrators and diplomats from among the aristocratic elite was made deliberately to ensure that the expansion of the empire remained under the leadership and governance of individuals who shared a common vision of colonialism, British maritime supremacy, and military administration.

Lord Elgin’s first appointment overseas was as Governor General of Jamaica (1841-1846), followed by Governor General of Canada (1847-1856), then High Commissioner and Plenipotentiary in China and the Far East to assist in the process of opening China and Japan to Western trade (1857-1859). Finally, he was Viceroy of India (1862-1863).

This diversity of geographical locations, national contexts, missions, actions, and functions, at a key moment in the expansion and consolidation of the British empire and in a century of European colonial hegemony, makes the study of Lord Elgin’s letters and journals of high relevance to historians interested in analysing the ontologies and epistemologies of colonial white supremacy.

Figure 2: Title page Letters and journals of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin (1842 – 1863)

Elgin left an impressive number of letters and journals of his successive appointments. Many of these documents were published 9 years after his death in 1872 and still represent one of the most important accounts of British government administration in the colonies during the early Victorian period (1840-1860), making them pivotal not only in the history of Canada, but also of China, and India.

In his first appointment to Jamaica (1841-1846), a colony struggling to contend with the end of slavery, Elgin contemplated the possibility to develop a schooling system for Black Jamaicans. Through his own education, he carried incommensurable faith in the capacity of British institutions to adapt in various and heterogeneous conditions. At that period, a population of white landowners were ignored by their former slaves, and the sugar industry was hopelessly in search to hire workers. The exports of the island had dwindled to one-third of their former amount.

To restore the economic prosperity of the island, Lord Elgin proposed a re-education project, with a very specific conception of education in mind. He proposed increasing agricultural production on the island through the development of a vocational educational program for mechanical technologies, to be deployed by the planter’s oligarchy. Elgin tried to convince the planters that education for Black Jamaicans, and in particular for this specific objective, was necessary:

he (Elgin) lost no opportunity of impressing on the landowning class that, if they wished to secure a constant supply of labour, they could not do so better than by creating in the labouring class the wants which belong to educated beings” (Elgin, 1872, p. 17).

Of course, in this post-slavery situation, Black people neither trusted the British rulers nor the planter’s oligarchy. Convincing and motivating former slaves to come back as workers for the class who formerly owned them as slaves proved challenging, if not impossible.

Interestingly, Lord Elgin’s writings reflect a difficulty to conceptualize and accept this absence of trust for institutions. This apparent lack of “obedience” was perceived as a threat to further economic development of the colony. Black individuals were considered bodies that need to be put back—with low wages—to their former sugar cane fields.

Figure 3: Craighton estate, Blue Mountains, Jamaica. Residence of Lord Elgin 1841-1846) (Source)

In his reflections Elgin never considers self-governance, sovereignty, or independence for the people of Jamaica. Haiti, the first Black republic to declare independence through a revolution, was declared a pariah among the leading European countries. To access international recognition, in 1825 the country was forced to pay France the equivalent of 560 million dollars in today’s value, thus creating the first case of neocolonization through indebtment (Porter et al., 2022).

Governor General of British North America (Canada: 1847-1856)

Immediately after his return from Jamaica, Lord Elgin was appointed to Canada. His impact and legacy on Canadian affairs included the development of responsible government that included French Canadians while excluding Indigenous peoples.

Lord Elgin’s Legacy on British-Chinese Diplomatic Relations

At least 120 pages of Elgin’s Letters and Journals describe the events which led to the Second Opium War (SOW). The First Opium War (1839-1842) ensued as China enforced a ban on opium trade, triggering conflict with Britain, whose government supported merchants’ demands for compensation and equal trade rights. Britain’s superior military technology led to victory in August 1842, resulting in the Treaty of Nanjing, which forced China to expand foreign trade, offer compensation, and cede Hong Kong to Britain. Subsequently, in October 1856, Governor Ye Mingchen’s seizure of a Hong Kong-registered ship escalated into a diplomatic crisis, prompting Elgin’s appointment as High Commissioner to negotiate a free trade agreement with China.

In his writing Lord Elgin reveals a tormented soul; he is torn between his duties as an official representative to the Queen, and his moral opinions about the goals and nature of his intervention in the East. His evident aversion of the opium trade is counterbalanced by his prejudice about what he perceives as a lack of moral courage by the Chinese elites to fight against this scourge so strongly developed and maintained by the European traders.

Elgin’s presence in China was to negotiate the best trade deal for Britain, which meant the best way for Britain to continue to exert its foreign power, to sell more opium, and to plunder Chinese resources. After a few weeks in Hong Kong preparing for the Canton siege, Elgin expresses these thoughts:

“It is clear that there will be no peace till the two parties fight it out. The Chinese do not want to fight, but they will not accept the position relatively to the strangers under which alone strangers will consent to live with them, till the strength of the two parties has been tested by fighting. The English do want to fight.”

Elgin, adhering to Victorian liberalism, advocated for free trade to maintain international peace, although this conflicted with his actions as a colonial administrator. Advancing on Canton on a warship, Lord Elgin expressed his sadness to Commodore Elliot: “I never felt so ashamed of myself in my life (…) The people seemed very poor and miserable, suffering, I fear, from this horrid war” (Elgin, 1872, p. 212-213).

Despite his reluctance, he accepted the necessity of the Second Opium War to protect British interests in free trade, revealing the disparity between his well-meaning policies in Canada and his approach to Chinese affairs. Elgin believed that free trade and Victorian liberalism would promote peace, yet this peace would always disregard the inherent power imbalance between Britain and China. The challenge of communication between the English and Chinese highlighted the complexities of imperial governance, reflecting white supremacy justified under the guise of public good through Victorian liberalism.

Hence Lord Elgin went to war to protect British interests, including Hong Kong, but interests that deliberately excluded mainland China and the Chinese public:

“to England the war is throughout an industry, a way to wealth, the most thriving business, the most profitable investment of the time. By conquest she made for herself an Empire and the Empire made her rich” (Tong, 2007, p.47).

As a colonial administrator, Elgin’s role was to “break down the barriers behind which these ancient nations sought to conceal from the world without their mysteries” (Tong, 2007, p. 45). War, for Elgin, was meant to secure trade for a white power, and to extract the mysterious Chinese knowledge for the British public to enjoy.

Figure 4: Destruction of the summer Palace in Beijing (1860) as a result of the Second Opium War (SOW) led by Lord Elgin.

Figure 4: Destruction of the summer Palace in Beijing (1860) as a result of the Second Opium War (SOW) led by Lord Elgin.

Elgin’s interventions in China were meant to exclude the Chinese public, to the benefit of a British public situated continents away geographically, a vision operationalised by the colonial instrument that was Hong Kong. One can argue that this narrow view of public good had an important influence in the British administration of Hong Kong affairs until 1997.

The SOW culminated by the looting and destruction of the Summer Palace, conducted through a French-British coalition led by Lord Elgin. To this day, this destruction of the most beautiful of the Chinese palaces, remains a fundamental trauma in the Chinese psyche and a topic of tense discussions between Britain and China for the repatriation of several precious artifacts (Bowlby, 2017; Jin, 2020).

Lord Elgin’s Legacy on Consolidating the British Raj in India.

Lord Elgin played a significant role in the consolidation of British rule in India during the transition from the British East India Company to direct imperial control by the Crown. He was appointed as second Viceroy of India in 1862. Elgin’s tenure of twenty months as Viceroy of India exemplifies the complex interaction between colonial governance and racial dynamics. In private correspondence, Elgin expressed disdain and contempt toward Indian and Chinese populations, illustrating a paternalistic view of the colonial administration’s role in uplifting “inferior races” to Western standards (Elgin, 1872, p.199).

Unlike in Canada, where he exercised significant power, in India Elgin advocated for a local government and inclusion of native Indian rulers in legislative councils to prevent rebellion, while employing a strategy of “riding them with a loose rein” to maintain control (Elgin, 1872, p. 422). Elgin attempted to bolster British prestige through grand ceremonial diplomacy like through grand durbars, large public ceremonies dating back to Mughal traditions. During these ceremonies, the supreme ruler (the King or Queen of England, Emperor or Empress of India), symbolically “absorbed” the power of other chiefs by granting them honours and presents.

Demonstrating a pragmatic and calculated approach to colonial rule, Lord Elgin blended strategic diplomacy and exploitative practices. However, his career in India was abruptly cut short when he unexpectedly passed away after only twenty months in office. Spending the summer of 1863 in Shimla, he succumbed to heart disease while on tour in upper India at Dharamshala. His body was buried in an Anglican graveyard of this hill town, adjacent to a neogothic church and surrounded by evergreens, an environment strangely reminiscent of Canada.

Figure 5: a) Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India; b) Church of St-John in the Wilderness; c) Grave memorial of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, Viceroy of India (1862–1863) at the church.

Figure 5: a) Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India; b) Church of St-John in the Wilderness; c) Grave memorial of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, Viceroy of India (1862–1863) at the church.


References:

  • Bowlby, C. (2017). The palace of shame that makes China angry. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30810596
  • Cazzola, M. (2021). British Imperial Administration and the “Thin Crust of Order”: Society, Constitution, and Diplomacy in the Political Thought of Lord Elgin. Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi. An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science, LV(1), 281-302.
  • Elgin, J. B. (1872). Letters and Journals of James, Eighth Earl of Elgin: Governor of Jamaica, Governor-General of Canada, Envoy to China, Viceroy of India. John Murray.
  • Foucault, M., Senellart, M., & Collège de France. (2008). The birth of biopolitics : lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-79. Palgrave Macmillan. Table of contents only http://www.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip0814/2008011805.html
  • Friedman, M. (1955). The Role of Government in Education,. In R. A. Solo (Ed.), From Economics and the Public Interest. Rutgers University Press.
  • Jin, V. (2020). A tale of two Elgins. Classical Inquiries Dialogues. https://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/a-tale-of-two-elgins/
  • Justice, B. (2023). Schooling as a White Good. History of Education Quarterly, 63(2), 154-178. https://doi:10.1017/heq.2023.7
  • Larner, W. (2000). Neo-liberalism: Policy, Ideology, Governmentality. Studies in Political Economy, 63(1), 5-25. https://doi.org/10.1080/19187033.2000.11675231
  • Lowe, L. (2015). The intimacies of four continents. Duke University Press.
  • Morison, J. L. (1924). Lord Elgin in India, 1862-63. The Cambridge Historical Journal, 1(2), 178-196.
  • Porter, C., Méheut, C., Apuzzo, M., & Gebrekidan, S. (2022). THE RANSOM: The Root of Haiti’s Misery: Reparations to Enslavers. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/20/world/americas/haiti-history-colonized-france.html
  • Tong, Q. S. (2007). Traveling Imperialism: Lord Elgin’s Missions to China and the Limits of Victorian Liberalism. In D. Kerr & J. Keuhn (Eds.), A Century of Travels in China: Critical Essays on Travel Writing from the 1840s to the 1940s. (pp. 39-51). Hong Kong University Press.
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Challenging Tropes in Canadian History Education: Lidia Jendzjowsky and Serena Pattar

This is the second post in a new series from the course “Topics in the History of Education: Histories Confronting White Supremacy,” led by Professor Mona Gleason.

This course delves into colonialization, racism, and systemic oppression, exploring how historical understanding shapes our world today. In this series, students collaborated to craft blog posts where they explore themes related to course topics and share their insights with the larger EDST audience.


Co-authored by Lidia Jendzjowsky (LJ) and Serena Pattar (SP), this post explores how pervasive tropes in social studies textbooks shape the teaching of Canadian history. They discuss how these tropes perpetuate white supremacy and colonialist narratives, while also highlighting recent curriculum shifts towards more inclusive perspectives, encouraging critical thinking, and addressing the impact of colonization on Indigenous and marginalized communities.


Canadian Tropes that Misguide us in the Teaching Of Canadian History...

There is much to be gained from examining the role of pervasive tropes in how Canadian history is taught, conceptualized, and represented in popular media and official social studies textbooks.

The idea of “tropes,” especially in social studies textbooks, has been used and circulated in Canadian history– specifically in the images and stories of “the settling of the west.” In the context of the teaching of history throughout the twentieth century in the K-12 system, clichés and stereotypes have been prevalent in the representation of Indigenous peoples and cultures in Canada. Not only were Indigenous peoples described in a certain way, their perspectives (and others) were silenced by the re-telling of events through the eyes of the settlers.

The (re-)presentation of tropes as a way of teaching history has also included key Canadian tropes. In western Canada, images of “settling the west,” “empty landscape,” and “developing the land” were key tropes. These tropes evoked images of a land that did not have any people or communities already living on it and that it was not until the arrival of the settlers that “wilderness” was “civilized.”

This description of early Canadian history, consciously or unconsciously, included the message that the Indigenous peoples were non-existent and did not have to be considered a part of Canada’s early history.

In the last thirty years of teaching of history, for example, we remember Heritage Minutes, which were vignettes on television that celebrated aspects of Canadian culture. I (LJ) certainly remember these short films as a way of learning about Canadian history as static moments frozen in time.

But Heritage Moments only celebrated Canadian history in a positive light that should be celebrated. They did not open up discussion or attempt to unpack the difficult events that are also part of Canadian history.

However, recent shifts in how history is presented in social studies curriculums and textbooks can counter these pervasive tropes. In my (LJ) opinion, this shift can be attributed, in part, to the advancement of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission focusing on Residential Schools at the forefront. There is a distinct trope of a “frozen-in-time” Indigenous peoples. This trope highlights the need for a political and social shift that attempts to address and understand a wider range of events and people that make up Canadian history.

A Practical View of Social Studies Textbooks

Do Social Studies Textbooks Perpetuate White Supremacy?

The inclusion of more diverse perspectives in British Columbia’s Social Studies curriculum is evidence that there is more of a conscientious effort to combat the white supremacist, single-narrative history that has been taught for so long. As is the new “Indigenous Graduation Requirement,” where all students must take an Indigenous-focused course.

As a social studies educator (SP), working with the new curriculum is not always easy when the materials—mainly textbooks—have not been updated to reflect this new mindset. Many textbooks showcase a settler thought process towards Indigenous groups, and often gloss over the systemic laws and barriers placed upon groups by predominantly white-Eurocentric governments. In doing so the rich history of Indigenous and other minority groups is sidelined and perpetuates a continued historical imbalance of whose history is allowed to be shared and whose history “counts.”

However, with updated textbooks, specifically Thinking it Through: A Social Studies Sourcebook by Glen Thielmann et al. (2018), the promise of a more inclusive narrative that centres both marginalized and Indigenous histories is evident. By offering a more inclusive narrative, the Sourcebook actively challenges the foundations of white supremacy in historical education by exposing students to a broader range of perspectives, fostering a nuanced understanding of the past that goes beyond the typical Eurocentric views and voices that have dominated previous textbooks. This approach not only aids in dismantling stereotypes but also cultivates respect and empathy for marginalized and Indigenous groups, diverse cultures, and communities that have shaped Canada’s history.

The textbook emphasizes critical thinking and analysis rather than presenting history as a static and absolute narrative. This shift encourages students to question, evaluate, and interpret historical events and perspectives, while reflecting on power dynamics, oppression, and resistance throughout Canadian history. The use of historical documents—photos, letters, legal documents—are employed to showcase other perspectives and encourage students to look beyond what is on the page and consider Canadian society at that time.

The updated text also addresses the impact of colonization and its enduring consequences, providing a more comprehensive examination of the historical injustices faced by Indigenous peoples, immigrant communities, and other marginalized groups.

It should be mentioned, however, that although the Sourcebook is available, educators may choose not to utilize it. As Jennifer Tupper has warned, educators, too, can become stuck in the “settler imaginary” and “settler historical consciousness” that downplays complicity in the ongoing harms of colonization and instead replay tropes associated with the so-called “true” Canadian history (Tupper, 2018). Teachers may not be ready to face their own complicity in settler colonial history.

When I (SP) was in school, these historical injustices were not acknowledged; as a South Asian Canadian, I did not feel represented in what created the rich tapestry of Canadian history. By acknowledging and exploring the consequences of colonialism, the Sourcebook allows for a more honest and transparent discussion about the legacy of systemic racism and inequality in Canada.


References:

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Exploring Histories Confronting White Supremacy: Aneet Kahlon, Erin Villaronga Mulligan, and Mark McLean

This is the first post in a new series from the course “Topics in the History of Education: Histories Confronting White Supremacy,” led by Professor Mona Gleason.

This course delves into colonialization, racism, and systemic oppression, exploring how historical understanding shapes our world today. In this series, students collaborated to craft blog posts where they explore themes related to course topics and share their insights with the larger EDST audience.

Keep an eye out for more posts in this series!


Co-authored by Aneet Kahlon, Erin Villaronga Mulligan, and Mark McLean, this blog post discusses the complexities of historical narratives surrounding education and white supremacy. Drawing insights from the work of Michael Marker and other course readings, the authors reflect on topics like colonial borders, Indigenous experiences, and educational structures.


In this post, we centered our discussion on the work of Michael Marker, an Arapaho scholar, whose invaluable contributions have not only left an enduring impact on the EDST community but have also significantly influenced scholarship in higher education (Gill et al., 2023).

Within our conversations we weave together our understandings of his work with other readings that we have been offered throughout our course to answer the question:

“What have you learned about the past in relation to education and white supremacy that you didn’t know before?”

ANEET: In other classes, we’ve talked about how borders are arbitrary concepts, but Michael Marker’s (2015) article, “Borders and Borderless Coast Salish: Decolonizing Historiographies of Indigenous Schooling,” made me think about this idea within the context of B.C.

India Pakistan border

It’s new for me to think about how Canadian residential schools and American boarding schools affected a single community differently depending on what side of the border they were on. It reminded me about the partition of India and Pakistan, where connected communities were forced to migrate to a specific side of a border randomly drawn up by a white man. I also think about my research because focusing on B.C. educational policies is a constraint that’s inherently colonizing. Indigenous communities don’t end at the border just because my analysis does.

MARK: I’m thinking about how many times Marker walks up to an idea and then shows that it’s too complex to follow in a short article, and instead notes another author in that space. These threads are worth pulling, and need to be pulled, and that makes the idea more complex.

ANEET: It’s been helpful to complicate ideas in this class!

MARK: When I read Marker’s work, I connected it back to a chapter of Thomas King’s (2012) book The Inconvenient Indian that we read; they both serve as a call to complicate things and acknowledge their complexity. As opposed to a flattened perspective, just on one side of the border. There is a quote in King’s work that says, “North America hates the Legal Indian. Savagely. The Legal Indian was one of those errors in judgment that North America made and has been trying to correct for the past 150 years” (King, 2012, p. 69). Each country wants to have a story to tell about what is going on with Indigenous peoples, Indigenous existence, and epistemologies, but all ignore complexity. In the U.S. it was public schools where Indigenous students experienced more racism, whereas Marker suggests that boarding schools were places where Indigenous students could also connect and define their own identity. This made me think about identity and what King (2012) called the “Dead Indian,” because as a nation, we’re not seeking out these complexities.

ERIN: Having done my undergraduate work at a U.S. institution, I guess I’ve never tried to fully articulate the experience of studying structural racism of public schools and educational inequality in an American context to learning about movements of indigenizing or decolonizing public schools in British Columbia. Because of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, I think many people are so focused on the historical aspect of residential schools, and not as much on the broader racist and colonial structures of modern public schooling systems. This is a complete flip in perspective for me; something that I’m processing as I talk through it now.

MARK: Yeah! Both articles speak to the idea of treating residential schools like they only existed in the past. And Canadians love a chance to forgive ourselves. We’re less concerned with the transition out of residential school systems, and how much racism and damage happened in that situation. Everything didn’t just end when the last residential school closed. Again, it’s just flattening a narrative.

CBC Article: Vehicle torched, lobster pounds storing Mi'kmaw catches trashed during night of unrest in N.S.

When we talked about the Boldt Decision and how the judge decided on fishing rights for Indigenous peoples in America, it reminded me of the CBC article talking about the Mi’kmaq lobster disputes in Nova Scotia. Canadian media didn’t know how to approach what was basically terrorism by white fisherman. So much of this results from an educational system where we’ve been taught this flat story, flat story, flat story. How different would it be if there was an understanding of the complexity of all this, for the Mi’kmaq and for our case, the Coast Salish?

Exploring histories of white supremacy

ERIN: I want to shout out a different article from one of Mona’s classes. It’s “‘The children show unmistakable signs of Indian blood’: Indigenous children attending public schools in British Columbia, 1872-1925” by Sean Carleton (2021). He writes about the history of Indigenous children that attended public schools in British Columbia. It was an interesting read for me not having known a lot about how public schools were established here. The stories of those children and the adults (Indigenous and settler) that facilitated their enrollment in those public schools added another dimension to that normally flat story you’re talking about, Mark. The histories of white supremacy and those fighting against it in the world of education don’t all follow the singular residential school narrative that gets told.

ANEET: Mark, you’ve made a good point! What we learn about through Canadian education systems must fit within the constraints of what Eurocentric values want us to learn. For example, social studies curriculum teaches “Canadian” or “B.C.’s” history. A bordered history. These constraints act as a mechanism of validating those imaginary borders.

MARK: Yeah! I keep thinking, Aneet, about your comment about the border in Punjab, and how people had to swap back and forth across the border. I just googled the Salish Sea because I never think about it as a unit in the same way that we think about the Mediterranean as a unit. It’s so hard to untangle… yeah, it’s just really hard to not see borders.

ERIN: And all our other units of geographical organization. Water borders have always been especially bizarre to me. Because water is water! You just can’t draw a border in water! And that really emphasizes another idea that I think Marker brings us face to face with within this article: about  how settlers conceptualize not only land, but place.

Place-based education is big, especially in early childhood right now, with things like forest schools, but we need to be careful about what type of teaching is still reinscribing very particular understandings of place that don’t align with the original stewards of this land. I don’t know if it’s possible to reach the same understanding. But if we’re taking children out for nature walks and talking about street names and showing them “borders” of parks and such, it’s almost like, what’s the point?

MARK: Totally! This connects well to “Decolonization is not a metaphor” by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang:

“These fantasies can mean the adoption of Indigenous practices and knowledge, but more, refer to those narratives in the settler colonial imagination in which the Native (understanding that he is becoming extinct) hands over his land, his claim to the land, his very Indian-ness to the settler for safe-keeping. This is a fantasy that is invested in a settler futurity and dependent on the foreclosure of an Indigenous futurity.”

Essentially, when settlers adopt watered-down practices of place-based learning, its main purpose is to reinforce a safe settler future.


We went for a walk in Musqueam territory for Pro-D day and they pointed out Iona Beach Regional Park across the river and showed us that it didn’t count as their territory. Musqueam has fishing rights, but they’re hampered by the actions of the logging industry across the river. I imagined these lines across the water and it’s an absurd, imposing, and abstract idea. It’s just a river.

musqueam teaching kit map

I wanted to share this map with you. Musqueam collaborates with the Museum of Anthropology, and they have a map that shows how the delta formed over 10,000 years ago. It made me think… MAN! Richmond didn’t exist 10,000 years ago. Indigenous peoples were here before Richmond existed as a physical land. Not only are these lines arbitrary, they’re also shifting!

References:

Announcing: The Research Day Blog Publication Award

As we prepare for this year’s “Research Day” in EDST…

We’re eager to explore a range of topics in educational research under the theme of “Power Revisited: Practices Against Complacency in Education,” chosen in honor of our department’s 30th anniversary.

Research Day is a wonderful opportunity to bring your research interests and work to others in the department, and to engage in dialogue with EDST colleagues.

Presentations will take on many forms, including:

    • Traditional paper presentations,
    • Ignite presentations (20 slides in 5 minutes),
    • art, film, and performance pieces,
    • Poster presentations.

Additionally, the day will feature roundtable and panel sessions with formats like: panelist presentations, group discussions, book presentations, and informal Scholars’ Café sessions.


One exciting addition to this year’s Research Day is the introduction of the Research Day Blog Publication Award.

Current EDST students who present at Research Day and subsequently transform their presentations into blog posts will be eligible to win 1 of 5 $50 UBC Bookstore gift card prizes. Blog posts are typically 500-1,000 words and follow a public facing writing format. The winners of the awards will be selected by the Blog’s Editorial Board.

We are excited for this collaboration between the EDST Blog and Research Day, and to showcase some of the exciting work by EDST students!

Deadline extend to May 31st

Click here to submit to this award.


The blog has several examples of past Research Day presentations transformed into blog posts, including:

To aid students in the process of transforming their Research Day presentations into blog posts, we’ve created a short template (below).

The template is intended as a resource to help students get started thinking about writing for a blog audience, and distilling the essential pieces of their presentation to include in a blog post.

Download the Template Here

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Submissions due: May 17th. Click below to submit.

Research Day Publication Award, Submission Button

Stay tuned for more details about this award at EDST Research Day.

Students with questions are encouraged to reach out to blog editor, Jessica Lussier (edstblog.editor@ubc.ca), for questions or support.