Braiding Histories Chapter 6

Posted on June 3, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Braiding Histories, cultural, Ed890, educational, First Nations, Masters, 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 6:

Dion gets personal in chapter 6 when she takes up her own mother, Audrey’s story.  It was clear she had dual commitments when re-telling this story as she wanted to honour her mother, explore her own position as an Aboriginal person, and unpack what forced assimilation looks like in Canada.  It became extra personal for the authors, Susan and Michael because the retelling was “interwoven with a lifetime of experiences” (Dion, 2009, p. 138).

As the teachers began to take up Audrey’s story in the classroom, Dion noticed that the teachers relied “on a version of the golden rule, they attended to Audrey’s suffering.  Knowing that students would not like to be treated as Audrey was, they used her narrative to show students how to be ‘good’ and ‘moral’ citizens” (Dion, 2009, p.139). Just like with Shanawdithit’s story, the teachers tried to personalize the story for the students by having them connect with their own personalized versions of suffering. They believed that for the students to truly connect with Audrey’s story, they needed to “generate sympathy for Audrey” (Dion, 2009, p. 143).

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“The Golden Rule” Photo Credit: Burkazoid via Flickr.com

I read this chapter and felt so many connections with the teachers Diane and Jenna.  I too want my students to connect personally with every lesson I teach.  I believe that a personal connection can be what moves a mediocre lesson from good to great.  I also try to instil moral values and help my students become better people.  The problem I am learning, is not with these ideals; the problem becomes when I am using these ideals as a cultural mirage to mask the real racial systemic problems that are in our face daily.   If I am too afraid to take up tensions and have conversations around tough topics, I am actually doing my students a disservice.

This tension is fresh as I just had a short conversation with a friend this morning around Regina’s Mosaic Multicultural celebration.  In the last year, I have read many critiques around the use of multiculturalism as a teaching tool.  Before starting my Masters work, I would have completely agreed with celebrations like this, and I even brought mini versions of this into my own classroom.  The problem is that when we idolize multiculturalism, we create a sense of pride in our “Canadian mosaic.”  We start thinking that we are doing ok with the whole race thing, and we aren’t racist after all.  Like Dion suggests, we don’t start to question our colonial responsibilities, but rather, we celebrate the diversity we see today.  This causes a removed sense of sympathy for First Nations people, either past or present, and we end up with well meaning teachers who take stories of strong, resilient Aboriginal people and turn them into pity parties.  I’m not saying that there isn’t value in Mosaic’s multicultural celebration, I just think we really need to question what outcomes we have for celebrations like this, and if they are moving us to action in fighting systematic oppression.

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Photo Credit via Tourism Regina

As I approach my Treaty 4 Reconciliation project, I want to make sure that I am not approaching it with a multicultural type attitude, but one of reconciliation and progress.  The whole idea for this project came out of the TRC’s Calls to Action for education. The 62nd and 63rd call to action says:

62. We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to:

  1. Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students. 
  1. We call upon the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including:i. Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.

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“TRC” Photo Credit via The Media Project

This Treaty 4 project is happening because of both of these TRC statements. I want it to be a resource that teachers can use as part of the curriculum when teaching about Treaties. Dion suggests that “it was through the process of colonization and the assimilationist policies of the Canadian government that Aboriginal people were denied access to knowledge of their history, language, and culture. Students in Canada have been denied knowledge  of the history of the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada” (Dion, 2009, p. 153). If our government took the TRC’s call to action seriously, it could mean that legislation and new policies are a way to mend the relationship between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people.  It also means that new policies would allow everyone access to knowledge of Aboriginal history, language and culture. I would love for this project to be a part of a curriculum that’s goal is to see reconciliation, not merely multiculturalism. I am trying to develop this GPS game/experience so that it can be used with students young and old. I am in no way the first one to get this ball rolling.  This ball has been rolling for a long time.  Fortunately, I am just now in a position to hear about it, and lend a hand in seeing it progress.  We can’t wait for the government to act first. Let’s keep developing and creating resources that can be used in a future curriculum that gives this knowledge the voice it needs.

My next and last post on Braiding Histories is on Chapter 7. It discusses Dion’s reflections on the experience as a whole and her current work with teachers on these subject matters.

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2 Responses to “Braiding Histories Chapter 6”

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[…] next post is on Chapter 6 of Braiding Histories which discusses the teachers taking up Dion’s […]

[…] What I really liked about Dion’s reflection is that she didn’t just look at what went wrong with the experience and give up.  She critically looks at the pedagogy surrounding and supporting what happened and she challenges how she and the teachers could have done better. Since her project, she has realized that her “intention is to construct a teaching practice that enables students to ‘call into question existing truths and imposed limits on what they know, while simultaneously envisioning new possibilities for both themselves’ and their ways of teaching… This practice calls on the students not to live in the past but in relation with the past, acknowledging the claim that the past has on the present” (Dion, 2009, p. 180). I love that Dion is not concerned with students learning about historical or cultural events. She really wants to cultivate a recognition of difference and what implications those differences might have. If we are not digging deeper, we end up with mere multicultural education, which is what I spoke about in my last post. […]


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