Braiding Histories Chapter 4

Posted on May 30, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Braiding Histories, Ed890, First Nations, Masters, 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.

braiding histories

Chapter 4:

In this chapter, Susan Dion introduces us to the 3 teachers that participated in her project: Diane Carr, Jenna Marsh, and Chloe Bell. She shares some questions that she considered while analyzing the interactions between the teachers and the Braiding Histories texts.

“How do teachers respond to the alternate positioning of Aboriginal people offered in the Braiding Histories Stories?

In what ways do teachers draw on the stories to reinforce the humanity of Aboriginal people?

In their efforts to make sense of the stories, what discursive practices do teachers rely on?

How do they assist students in renegotiating their concept of Aboriginal people, or is it the students who help the teachers?

What are the constraints teachers operate within, and how do they resist those constraints?

What do the teachers emphasize in the stories, and what do they overlook” (Dion, 2009, p. 79)?

Dion looks at the relationships of power within the Braiding Histories Stories context. She evaluates where power was working in the context of the History and English classes. She found connections between knowledge and power in the systems of reasoning within schools. Dion found that the teachers were most concerned with their “responsibilities” as teachers rather than really digging into what the stories could have to offer. “In significant ways, the Braiding Histories Stories challenge teachers understanding of what is expected of them as history teachers” (Dion, 2009, p. 83). She noticed the the teachers didn’t always take up the stories in the ways that Dion had created them to be taken up.


“Ivory Tower” Photo Credit: Billie Grace Ward via Flickr

I really liked Dion’s critical questioning.  I think it probably drove her analysis of the project. If she didn’t have these specific questions, she might just judge the teachers on their lessons and wonder what went wrong, or why this teacher did a over b.  With her specific questions, she is able to pinpoint what exactly she is looking for. I could feel Dion’s tension as she was having conversations with the teachers.  You could tell her expectations for the project did not match the outcomes she was seeing in the classroom.  This would be a hard, frustrating journey as the project designer/developer. Especially when you have an exact idea of what you want.  Dion did a great job at reflecting on her tensions and thinking critically about the pedagogy that was supporting the teacher’s experience throughout this.

In light of my own project, Dion has given me a lot to think about.  First of all, she has shown me that critical questioning is vital to the evaluation of a project. If I don’t go into my project with clear goals and ways of evaluating its success, I may be lost when it comes time to look at how this project is working/not working.  I think that her questions are a great jumping off point for my own project since my project is also going to be looking at re-telling Aboriginal stories.

Her critical reflection on the teacher’s responsibilities within the classroom opened my eyes to see how easy it is for teachers to fall into the “one size fits all” model.  Any time a new resource is created and shared, it is tempting for teachers to think that this resource is the sole answer to their problems, and as soon as they “cover it” they can move on.  This is a very Eurocentric and linear way to look at learning.  Dion tried to develop the Braiding Histories Stories with a holistic, cyclical learning model in mind.  The Braiding Histories Stories didn’t have a specific place to start and end; it was a lot more open ended than that. It makes me wonder how my questions within the Treaty 4 project can encourage holistic thinking. I shouldn’t be thinking about getting people from a to b.  I want them to enter the Treaty 4 story/experience in the midst of their own treaty ed journey and take away what they can while giving themselves wholly to the experience.  While I meet with the elders, advocates, and allies of this project, I will be asking their advice on how to tell the Treaty 4 story in this way.  I want to honour the Indigenous ways of knowing in all aspects of this project.

ways of knowing circle

Indigenous artwork by Lucy Simpson, Gaawaa Miyay Designs

In my next post, I look at chapter 5 which talks about the teaching and learning involved within Shanawdithit’s Story.


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[…] my next post, I will be looking at Chapter 4. In this chapter, Dion considers questions around power, knowledge […]

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