Reconstruct, Reclaim, Restore & Renew – Decolonization and the Indigenous Learner

Entry #1:  As I began to grapple with the notion of decolonization and what that means to me and to my learners, I came across this Powerpoint by Dr. Marie Battiste of the University of Saskatchewan.  She outlines a number of recommendations for instructors on how to gain better perspective on decolonization.  Specifically, she recommends accepting diversity as the norm; while recognizing the uniqueness of the aboriginal learning process in gaining outcomes from place.  She asserts that relational work with Elders and community is of utmost importance.  She asks of instructors to approach learners by sharing your own stories, not judging or nullifying another’s story.

A quote I found of particular interest was from Ningwakwe George, “We have the emotional drop-out from the institutions before the physical drop-out; we need to dismantle fears if we are to engage spirit; fulfill their needs, not ours, but our learners’ needs.”  This is reminiscent of the video we watched of Dr. Lee Brown in Module 1 about teaching for the well-being of the whole learner.  It also leads me to critically reflect on my practice – am I doing enough to engage learner spirit?

Another striking quote was from R. v. Côté, ([1996] 3 S.C.R. 139), “Where there is an Aboriginal right, there is a corresponding right to teach that right.”  Perhaps the right to teach is more essential to recognize and acknowledge the crimes of trauma and oppression that have occurred.

Entry #2:   My second episode of “googling” led me to the article:  “Decolonizing Diaspora:  Whose Traditional Land are We On?” by Celia Haig-Brown of York University.   From the article, I gather that she is a University Professor within the Faculty of Education.  She poses opportunities for deeper understanding and reflection as she works towards decolonization of our country and our lives.

She begins by posing the question to her class, “Whose traditional land are you on?”   In this way, she acknowledges the rich history of this land and Aboriginal people.  She delves deep into the colonization experience the complex histories with schools.  She affirms that these students become better prepared to cope with the complexities of a diverse classroom.

She speaks of using “decolonizing autobiographies” in her classroom in which she asks her students to consider their relationship with the land and the original people who lived on it.  She tells her own narrative as a “first step in the long journey of possibility for decolonizing” (p. 11).  I personally feel that I could also share my narrative and connect my history with the land and the original people who lived there.  This would begin the dialogue with my learners about their stories and their connections.

Entry #3:  Further along on my cyber-journey and contending with the issues around decolonization and education, I came across this document about a project in the Toronto District School Board.   In the Executive Summary (p. v), they succinctly summarize the problem, “institutions of formal schooling…are failing to provide Aboriginal students with the educational environment and experiences they require to achieve success.”

What was most striking to me were the student profiles on pages 31 – 33, in which the learners shared their stories and their experiences with schooling, before and after.  Their themes ring true as those presented to us in the class materials:   learners need to feel a connection with place and identity; they need to be approached holistically, they need to trust their surroundings, and they need to be nurtured to develop confidence in their abilities and sense of worthiness.

Entry #4:   As I was having a rather animated discussion with a coworker regarding the concept of decolonization and aboriginal rights, I was reminded of that Innu community that had been featured in the news whose young people were addicted to sniffing gas.  I decided to revisit the story and found it here:

When I first heard this newscast, I didn’t ask the important question, “why?”  I just focused on the tragedy of the lost souls.  If you read further down the page, the Innu speak of being “severely demoralized” by colonization and now turn to drink and self-destruction.  They feel “powerless” to prevent the destruction of the land and their culture.

Following this “walk down memory lane”, I decided to bring this story up to date if I could.   I found that a money settlement had been reached, but it seems that the money is not reaching those who really need it.  The news article tells of a band official that had resigned due to corruption within the band council.  It seems, as well, that the chief has been accused of misappropriating funds. No happy ending here, at least not for a while longer.

Entry #5:  What gives?  A coworker sent me this link for a quiz in honour of Remembrance Day and testing our recall of Canadian history.  (By the way, take note of the spelling of the word remembrance in the link 🙂 )

As I proceeded through the 20 questions, I was shocked to note that there weren’t any referring to indigenous peoples and their role in the history of Canada, not to mention their service to Canada in the military, although a monument has been erected in their honour.  The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson was quoted to have said, “The thousands of miles that aboriginal soldiers travelled over the course of more than two centuries to help defend this country make up a thousand memories, so many of which have been ignored or lost.  Yet these are the details of our history which we must remember, which we must commemorate.”



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