Module 4

Entry #1:  Friend or Foe?

One night, when researching the topic of residential schools, I came upon this video and my husband and I watched it together.  It’s a long video – but it makes a compelling case for what occurred in residential schools and the tragedy, trauma and enduring suffering inflicted on those who were forced to attend and on their families.  It is obvious that this Reverend, Kevin Annett, did his homework and found valid evidence of the atrocities that have occurred.

Then the video takes an interesting turn…he attests that he was unfairly let go from his post with the United Church.  It certainly is an interesting chain of events…has he been banished by the Church and government or is he an extremist, a swindler and a “wanna-be”?   Is there a grand conspiracy to continue to hide the truth from us?


Entry #2:  In the Classroom

The following link is to a video prepared for Ontario Teachers.   First Nations elders, an Inuit elder and a Métis senator share their stories and by doing so invoke an urgency for teachers to integrate an understanding of Canadian history and the indigenous experiences into their curriculum.   Incorporating this history and knowledge will better engage indigenous learners and will foster an acceptance for what has occurred and the damage that has been done.

I am now far along on this journey, and can feel the necessity of incorporating this knowledge across curricula to pay homage to our indigenous people and their struggles with colonization.  It has been too long that we have ignored the tragedies of the residential schools, the separating of communities from their land, and the effects of marginalization, poverty and incarceration.

To be frank, I will take baby steps towards bringing this material into my classroom.  I want to tread carefully as I can appreciate the sensitivity of this material and the emotions that may be present.  But I will forage on and aim to do my part in abolishing racism and promoting understanding.


Entry #3:  Healing

This journey has taken me all over the web – I actually don’t know what I searched to get to this installment but it was a very interesting post.  Claire Carefoot is a visionary and a pioneer in her approach to help indigenous female prisoners at the Buffalo Sage Healing Centre.  The residents are on their final 6 months of their sentences, and are permitted to live in this centre which is housed in a secret residential Edmonton neighbourhood.   About the healing centre, Carefoot explains, “It’s a very in-depth program that gets into the guts of people, the pain they experienced as children, the alcoholism and the people who have been left behind.  The women for eight weeks sit with an elder and a program facilitator and work on their childhood trauma.  And for many of them, it’s a lot of trauma.”  They offer various other supports such as life skills coaching, parenting classes, and job skills training.

As I read through this post, I wondered if the needs of these prisoners mirror the needs of my learners.  They need much more than the content of our curriculum – they need to heal, to connect with their community, and to deal head on with the addictions and pain that they have.  They need the same supports as these women do – and yet we are trying to teach them content that must seem rather irrelevant to their immediate needs.


Entry #4:  Technology & Awareness

After reviewing Heather MacGregor’s dialogue as a “guest speaker” in our discussion forum, I became quite interested in the Legacy of Hope foundation and went to explore their website.  What I found there were some innovative, ground-breaking programs and approaches towards raising awareness and understanding.  In particular, I was struck by the campaign entitled “1000 conversations”.   The idea was to engage all Canadians in a dialogue about residential schools and the irreversible impact it has had on aboriginal people.   You could host a conversation anywhere – with any group of people (family, friends, coworkers, classrooms, etc.) and an information package & DVD was made available to the host.  Once completed, you were to register your “conversation” online here:   This program ran in 2009-2010.

Isn’t this a unique coupling of using technology to raise awareness in a non-threatening, enlightening way?   These kinds of initiatives can lead to self-reflection and transformation.

Another inventive way the Legacy of Hope assimilates technology and the promotion of their cause is with a hand-help app that downloads their exhibition, “Where are the Children?  Healing the Legacy of Residential Schools”.  This includes interactive, multimedia content that offers commentary, photos, narrative panels, and archived documents.

Very intriguing ways of using technology to raise awareness, foster understanding, and engage Canadians in the history of indigenous peoples.

Entry #5:  TEK & Spiritual Foundations

My last entry was found when considering “traditional ecological knowledge” or TEK.  This article cautions aboriginal scholars to protect TEK.  They are finding that western researchers are using this knowledge to advance their own agendas and taking it out of context from its spiritual origins.  At first, aboriginal people felt encouraged that the dominant culture was acknowledging and respecting the value of TEK, when in fact it is being inappropriately united with the ecological framework of western science.  Furthermore, cultural protocols are being violated.  Although aboriginal people are the holders of the knowledge, they, yet again, have no power over how it is being interpreted or used.

I have to question why aboriginal people aren’t invited to “sit at the decision-making table” rather than being subjected to research and studies about them.  We should be learning from them and respecting their worldview.  This article, unfortunately, paints a bleak picture about the future relations of aboriginal people and dominant society.  It advocates for resistance as a tool to preserve land, culture and tradition.

November 26, 2012   No Comments

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.”


November 5, 2012   No Comments

First Scientists Videos

Whoa…I will end with my 5th weblog post on an optimistic note.

As we embark on strategies to minimize stereotypes and to accommodate the aboriginal learner in the classroom, we want to seek methods that merge two different approaches.

This website presents videos of a collaboration of traditional indigenous knowledge and western science.  There is a vignette regarding two unique ecosystems, agriculture, and natural health.

To me, this represents evidence of change.  It also represents evidence of respect of knowledge and skills among the stakeholders.  It’s a slow beginning…but hopefully the foundation is established for more collaboration and a better relationship among cultures.

October 12, 2012   2 Comments

The effect of stereotyping on young people

Growing up watching and playing “cowboys and indians” must have an effect on aboriginal youth.  The stereotypes that we are learning about most certainly must affect youth profoundly.

The following article identifies some indigenous stereotypes in video games – depicting indigenous as someone to shoot for points, or as a half-breed hero protecting his people.  Furthermore, in the news or on tv indigenous people are often shown in a negative light.

This must contribute to a lack of self-esteem and identity.  According to this article, they often feel “invisible”.

When do aboriginal youth or children see themselves as human beings?   Shouldn’t this become a priority in order to maintain a healthy society?   I can appreciate the efforts of the APTN, but I believe this should become more mainstream.  As I mentioned in a previous post – we need to merge approaches in all sorts of media to challenge stereotypes and biases.

October 12, 2012   No Comments

Reel Injun – the full length movie

Thanks to Camille for mentioning this movie.  I came across a link through CBC’s “the passionate eye” to the full length film.

The film documents the depiction of indigenous people by Hollywood – from silent films to those made today.  Some of the stereotypes shown are as follows:  stoic warrior, noble hero, and free spirit.  It was quite interesting to witness the depictions visually – it sort of solidified the injustice of such a stereotype.  It is encouraging to note that films made recently tend to depict more complete, real, human characters.

I am horrified about the thought that the population assumed that indigenous people would “vanish” and felt the need to romanticize about their way of life.   I am also aghast that in the older movies, “every Indian is a Plains Indian.”  Hopefully, as we become more educated so will our learners and we will begin to exact change on the stereotypes.

You can watch the video here:


October 12, 2012   No Comments

Indigenous Knowledge is Transformative Knowledge

As I venture along this cyber-journey, I am beginning to internalize the need to address our educational system so as not to fail our aboriginal learners.   There is a need to merge aboriginal approaches with Eurocentric ones; in a holistic and inclusive fashion.  Here, Marie Battiste outlines some constructs that are cohesive with both systems:

  • Pragmatic cooperation
  • Strands of connectedness among diverse life forms—ecological, spiritual, human
  • Humans are interdependent with nature and humans are most dependent on nature.
  • Sharing and cooperation are basic precepts for life.
  • Knowledge journey is central, but aided by others, both spiritual and worldly.

Marie Battiste presents an optimistic look at “post-colonialism”.  Not that it implies after colonialism but that it presents an opportunity for reconstruction and transformation.

October 12, 2012   No Comments

Dispelling Stereotypes

This CBC article highlights the results of a report on the “State of Aboriginal Learning in Canada” conducted by the Canadian Council on Learning.

It touches upon the more holistic nature of indigenous ways of knowing, particularly acknowledging the role of informal learning.  It stresses the need for aboriginal learners to connect with their community, culture and Elders.

The report from the CCL further cautions our educational system that conventional measurement approaches are not reflective of the holistic nature of the Aboriginal learner.  The report also indicates that the internet has become an essential tool for aboriginal learners — to connect with others and to promote lifelong learning opportunities (distance ed & skill development).

Here’s a link to the 78-page report:

To me, this brings home the idea that we focus so much on content in our system that we lose the ability to educate the “person”.    We also need to do a better job of recognizing informal learning, and realizing that “one size does not fit all” in learning approaches, preferences and measurement.   Can we offer…more opportunities for place-based learning, for connection with community, and for nurturing relationships?  And…how does the internet present both “problems and promises” to that end?

October 12, 2012   No Comments

Nourishing the Learning Spirit

My vocation was selected for me – it was by good fortune that I found myself instructing for the Adult Basic Education program.   Aboriginal learners make up 50-75% of my classroom, and are therefore deserving of deeper consideration and contemplation.   As I reflect on my practice, I am often troubled by the task of appropriately serving the needs of these learners.  Do the learning activities promote or hinder their sense of culture and identity?

The learners I am in contact with have suffered numerous obstacles throughout their young lives:  abusive relationships, addictions, poverty, oppression, racism, disabilities, illnesses, and lack of self-identity to name a few.   Their “learning spirit”, as defined by Marie Battiste in this video (link provided here), has been diminished and they have forgotten their purpose.

Motivated by that video and the work of the CCL, I have chosen to focus my weblogs and conduct research on ways in which I can nourish, inspire and guide aboriginal learners to reignite their sense of purpose and to build upon their talents using technology.  The research will lead me to a greater understanding of indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, and allow me to explore suitable learning strategies.

September 24, 2012   No Comments

Module 1: Connection to Indigenous Knowledge

#1:  What is “indigenous knowledge”?  How is it different?  In this article, Marie Battiste endeavours to define and characterize indigenous knowledge, and describes it as filling the gaps and balancing Eurocentric education.

Indigenous Knowledge and Pedagogy

#2:  After reading Bowers (2000) and Howe (1998), I became interested in what can be done to educate the indigenous learner without manipulating his/her culture.   This article by Aikenhead compares and contrasts the Aboriginal way of knowing science to the Eurocentric approach.   He ends the paper optimistically, citing that one day all people will combine their knowledge for a betterment of the “whole”.

#3:  Continuing along the same theme, I decided to look more locally.   Based on this literature review, the education system in SK seems to acknowledge the necessity of traditional knowledge but has challenges in its implementation.

#4:  After contemplating the whale hunt of the Makah in Marker (2006), I was struck by the concept of how, without emotion or spirituality, we can nurture the aboriginal learner through the process of healing.  This report from the Canadian Council on Learning speaks to that:

#5:  In an attempt to contextualize the situation in SK, I was curious as to what advances or successes have been made in the inclusion of indigenous knowledge.  Of special note is the conceptual framework depicted on page 13.  It is a visual representation of the medicine wheel superimposed on a white birch tree.   I connect this illustration with the message from Dr. Lee Brown regarding emotional health.

September 23, 2012   No Comments