Author Archives: Glenn Allen

Media Stereotyping (Allen Module 2 #4)

Image Source : Media Awareness Network

The Impact of Stereotyping on Young People

This is a link to an article published on the Medial Awareness Network website. While the site is  not dedicated to indigenous issues, the featured article reports on how media stereotypes can impact an aboriginal youth’s self-image.

An interesting point was made regarding association with gang activity and how media perpetuates the notion to the extent that youth tend to over exaggerate gang activity base on media messaging that re-enforce the stereotype.

The site may contain useful resources for teachers. Some examples are Deconstructing On-Line Hate and Exploring Media and Race.

Stereotypes and the weasel spirit (Allen Module 2 #3)

Native American wannabes: Beware the Weasel Spirit

This is a link to a lighter web-based news journal with no academic credibility, however, I can tie it to Module 2 reading Cyberspace Smoke Signals.  It just highlights the absurdity to which wannabes have attached themselves to indigenous cultures and, in an not so funny way, how it has been so destructive to some groups ( Lakota).

The image below  is a still from a popular children’s movie called Imagine That. The character, Johnny Whitefeather (claiming to be 1/32 native) portrays an abomination of pan-Indian stereotypes .

Source : IMDB Johnny Whitefeather

Shingwauk Project (Allen Module 2 #2)

Image Source : Shingwauk Project

The Shingwauk Project offers former residential school students with information to assist with claims and also serves as a vehicle to foster “healing and rebuilding”. In addition to providing services to “clientele”, the project aims to educate the public on “the trials of residential school survivors”.

This seems to be an example of a project that provides services within and external to the community( including links to archives that are password protected).

Shingwauk (now part of the Algoma University Campus), was one of three large residential schools along the north shore of Lake Huron. The other two were located in Spanish and Wikweminkong.

It was interesting to read the project’s Text and  Image Policy. While it maintains that the images remain the property of the residential school survivors  who have shared them, educational use is permitted as long as credit is given.  The policy also warns of third-party use for commercial purposes, a subject that has come up in our readings and seems to be a valid a concern when sharing cultural property especially if used by “wannabes” who may distort, confuse, or misrepresent information.

Shingwauk is hosting a national Residential School Gathering on July 1-3, 2011.

Weengushk Film Institute (Allen Module 2 #1)

The Weengushk Film Institute, located on Manitoulin Island, (ON) has the following vision statement:

Our vision enables the engagement and cultural advancement of underserved communities in Canada and abroad, particularly Aboriginal Youth and students of culturally diverse origins.  We strive to create an environment of understanding and respect for traditions, culture, stories and societal changes of a specific group.

In addition to the cultural aims, it is also an educational institute where students learn many aspects of film and media including, production, and editing using the computer technology.

Promoting the institute has been a challenge. There has been some turnover with Executive Directors . A new posting has recently been released. It is interesting to note  in the qualifications section the following statement.  “Experience working within the Aboriginal culture and community coupled with an understanding of the film and television industry will be an asset” . Management, organization, fundraising, and other “ business” skills are strongly emphasized.

I’m not sure if this is a reflection of some of the challenges involved in sustaining these ventures. There seems to be an inherent challenge in producing works that are viable vs. those that convey focused cultural  messages to the intended (local) audience.

From a review of the web-site it appears that a more pan-cultural approach is taken in order to highlight important issues that affect indigenous group both nationally and internationally.

The following is a trailer for a Weengushk produced film.


Indiginous Commodification (Allen Module 1 #3)

Olympic Mascots

Readings in Module 1 warned us of the possible negative effects that the Internet might have relating to the commoditization and commercial exploitation of indigenous artifacts, values, and imagery. I did some searches on the “indigenous commoditization” and found an interesting article about the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and our attempts to promote “Canadian” culture and soften history.

The author (Adam Gaudry) questions our own human rights record in relation to how certain land acquisitions for the venues took place and then writes of the exploitation and commercialization of mascots and softening of folklore related to them in order “westernize” historical events.

Visit the On-line article

It seems the Olympics are a good example of how  organizations can trade mark and restrict the use of imagery, slogans and even words. Didn’t Donald Trump even try to trade mark the phrase “your fired”?

Aboriginal Digital Stories for Non-Aboriginals

When I first read some of the suggested project topics, I thought my last choice would be residential schools. The topic appears to have reached saturation in the popular media. What could I say or do that has not already been said or done? I’ve since read some newspaper articles that have caused me to reconsider.  It became apparent to me that I was familiar with the topic (on the surface), but knew nothing of the devastating effects. I’m likely not alone. It seems that technology avails the opportunity through digital storytelling to help others like me gain a better understanding of how much this epoch altered the lives and traditions of so many people.

Spanish (ON) Residential School (Image Source:

McLaughlan and Oliver (2000), identified two type of stories: those to be told within the culture and those to be told outside the culture. Since I’m not aboriginal, I can never expect to tell or comprehend a story as they might. What I can do is broaden my understanding and hope to share some perspectives with others like me (I assume there are lots of us). In addition, I might also be able to enhance my teaching abilities to be more inclusive and thoughtful of other cultures.

What I will look for in my project are opportunities, using digital media, to tell important stories about residential schooling to non-aboriginals by emphasizing  metaphors, imagery, values, and concepts that are not too foreign to us. Perhaps then we can come to terms ourselves with the plight and predicament of those who endured so much loss.

My inquiry will be focused on First Nations communities living on Manitoulin Island and the North Shore of Lake Huron.


McLoughan, c. & Oliver, R. (2000). Designing learning environments for cultural exclusivity. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 16(1), 58-72.

What’s it like to be immersed in a different value system and lose your identity? (Allen Module 1 #2)

Dr. Lee Brown’s video in Module 1 made me wonder what it would be like to have my culture suppressed. With no context of my own what better way to relate than hear a story from a fellow privileged white male (albeit a much smarter, articulate and famous one!)

Last week I was at an ET conference for community college teachers in Sarnia ON. Anthropologist Dr. Michael Wesch was a keynote speaker. He did a presentation on digital technology and global society.

He explained how he stayed in isolated communities in Papua New Guinea for 2 years. According to Dr. Wesch, he lost his entire identify while there. While immensely popular with hundreds of thousands of Web 2.0 followers, he had no reputation or following with the people he encountered. Unable to communicate, and with few “survivor skills”, he had little currency with these people. Vicariously, I can see how “different” his environment was and possibly what it might be like for others to be landed in learning environments unnatural to them.


While his presentation recording is not available, I was able to find a video that gives a pretty good summary of his presentation. The video is a quite long, however, even if you can watch the first 5 minutes it will be worth it.

Visit Dr. Wesch’s University of Kansas web site for more information about his work.

Aiming for Culturally Neutral ET (Allen Module 1 #1)

In Module 1, we were asked to consider whether or not technology is culturally neutral. My observations at this early stage suggest it is not. That’s not to say it cannot get there eventually or at least get closer.

Educational technology can get closer by embracing forms of inclusivity and including cultural variables. An article in the Australian Journal of Educational Technology (McLoughan & Oliver, 2000), provides design suggestions that include emphasis on flexibility and authenticity as well as variances for individualized learning goals and assessment tools.

On a more practical level, the Government of Queensland Dept. of Education Productive Pedagogies website provides a Classroom Reflection Manual with several concrete examples to ensure “recognition and value of differences” in learning activities.

The site identifies 5 important considerations that help teachers recognize and value difference.

  • Cultural Knowledge
  • Inclusivity
  • Narrative
  • Group Identity
  • Active Citizenship

Suggestions include having students decide what conceptualizations are most relevant to them in the context of their identity and surroundings. One example provided involves having students select and choose appropriate clip-art representations for a class Mother’s Day project. While this site is aimed at elementary educators, it appears to have application in secondary, post secondary, and informal adult learning environments.