Braiding Histories Chapter 2

Posted on May 28, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Braiding Histories, cultural, Ed890, First Nations, Masters, Privilege, Race, reflection |

Background: Braiding Histories is a phenomenal book about how an Aboriginal teacher/daughter/mother/citizen went on a journey of taking up what it means to re-tell Aboriginal stories from the past and present.  Her goal was to see her Braiding History stories used as a resource for teachers in the classroom. This book is about her journey creating and using the Braiding History stories.

Chapter 2: 

Susan Dion explains her journey in wanting to write the Braiding Histories stories.  She talks about how her brother and her went to the “First Nations Hall of Fame” exhibit at the Woodland Cultural Centre near Branford, Ontario.

first nations hall of fame

Gallery via Woodland Cultural Centre

“Inspired by the exhibit, Michael and I began compiling a list of individuals we wanted to write about” (Dion, 2009, p. 15). Throughout chapter 2, Dion describes the value of storytelling and the relationship between storyteller/listener. She learned that to truly honour the First Nations ways of storytelling, Michael and her must include themselves in the stories.  “The stories were our representations, our truth, and our honesty – so how could they reflect our understanding that we were writing what we knew” (Dion, 2009, p.20)?

Dion then goes on to share with her readers all three of the Braiding Histories stories and her reflections on them.  Michael and her chose three individuals: Audrey (their own mother), Shanawdithit (the last known survivor of Newfoundland’s Beothuk tribe), and Mistahimaskwa /Big Bear (a Plains Cree leader). They tell the individual’s narratives from a first person point of view; infusing their own expressions and emotions into the stories.


“Shanawdithit” Photo credit via Library and Archives Canada

Big Bear

“Mistahimaskwa/Big Bear” Photo Credit via Public Archives of Canada


I have a confession to make; it wasn’t until Dion referred to Audrey as her and Michael’s mother that it occurred to me that the author, Susan Dion was Aboriginal herself. In my Eurocentric, colonial, White centred view, I had just assumed the author of this novel was white!  I am embarrased by my racist assumptions, but I also know they are rooted in a white privilege that I have been learning to disrupt over the past year.

I was moved by Dion’s Braiding History re-tellings, and I think she did an excellent job at finding a balance between showing the strength and resilience of the individuals and openly sharing the hard truths of oppression and systematic racism.

What I can take out of chapter 2 into my own Treaty 4 Reconciliation project is the value of story telling.  One of the main reasons I chose to re-tell the Treaty 4 story through a GPS/multimedia enabled app was because I found that the printed accounts of Treaty 4 I have read are long, drawn out, and full of too much information and text. The power of story is that it is engaging and still passes on information, but through a emotive connection to the story itself. I will be taking many clues from Dion in how she went about re-telling these Aboriginal stories, while trying to acknowledge my entrance into these stories as a White settler. It is not about knowledge accumulation for me, but rather a humble learning opportunity from First Nations people who have been telling this story long before I became interested.

treaty 4 flag

Treaty 4 Flag via Treaty

“As a form of remembrance storytelling, our (re)telling practice draws on a discursive tradition in which history is something more than a chronology of events. In our approach, the study of history is concerned with understanding who we are, our relationships with others, and the kind of world we want to create. I describe our stories as (re)tellings to signal that I am telling again – but telling differently – stories that have been narrated before… I want to convey to others, to elicit in others, the desire to listen and (re)member, to listen and acknowledge that which has happened” (Dion, 2009, 46-47).

braiding histories

In my next post, I will engage with Chapter 3’s pedagogical considerations around the difficulties when re-telling these types of stories/narratives.

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[…] my next post, I will outline Chapter 2 as it goes deeper into the actual Braiding History stories and Susan and […]

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