Braiding Histories Chapter 7

Posted on June 4, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Braiding Histories, cultural, Ed890, educational, First Nations, Masters, Race |

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.

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Chapter 7:

Chapter 7 is Susan Dion’s reflection on her whole Braiding Histories project. Though her goal was to equip teachers to investigate and learn from the lived experiences of Aboriginal people, she found that the project drew “attention to the structures of teaching and how those structures work on and through teachers, enabling an approach that, rather than disrupting, supports the reproduction of dominant ways of knowing” (Dion, 2009, p. 177). It was clear that the project did not go exactly the way she had hoped.  She found that the teachers who were using the stories still found ways to reproduce a Eurocentric outlook on Aboriginal stories. As she reflects on these outcomes, Dion suggests that before teachers use these stories in the future, it may be necessary for them to engage in “a more specific investigation of their relationship with Aboriginal people” (Dion, 2009, p. 179). She really encourages teachers to know their own history, understand where they are coming from, and what cultural traditions/mindsets they inherited.

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.

Chapter 7 is the final chapter of Braiding Histories and I am so glad I read this novel before entering into the practical next steps of my Treaty 4 Reconciliation Project.  There are many things that I learned from the two teachers, Diane and Jenna, and I am so glad that Dion was able to unpack the negatives and positives of what COULD happen with a project like this.  I feel like my Treaty 4 project is very similar to Dion’s Braiding Histories project in that we are both are using re-telling as our main teaching method. To summarize, these are the things I have learned from Dion about what TO DO, and NOT TO DO with my own project.

  1. Storytelling is so important. The power of story transcends time in its ability to re-tell history from a first person point of view. It allows listeners to dive into the reality of the characters. I don’t want this project to be cheesy, so I want to use real storytellers, elders, and even actors to help re-tell the story of Treaty 4.
  2. I don’t want to develop a “discourse of sympathy.” I want to find a balance between sharing the harsh realities Aboriginal people faced around the signing of Treaty 4, but also the resilience, power and strength of these men and women throughout this time.
  3. Questioning is so important! Not only do I want to question participants throughout the project to help them disrupt their own colonial ways of understanding, but I need to begin with questions of what I am looking for with this project. How will I evaluate its success?
  4. I want this project to be more than a multicultural resource for teachers and students. If it is just another way to re-tell a “colonial success story,” I might as well stop now. I am striving to have this project be more than an artifactual Treaty Ed lesson.

I look forward to moving on to some other readings that can help me grow my knowledge base around these matters. I still feel very incompetent when it comes to knowing how to proceed appropriately. Thanks for following my experience thus far. Stay tuned for more ramblings of a teacher on this journey of anti-oppressive education! 🙂

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“Journey” Photo credit Kasia via Flickr.com

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