Moving Horizons: Exploring The Role of Stories

Posted on June 21, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Ed890, First Nations, Masters |

This article was about the process of decolonizing White teachers/subjects through story. Teresa Strong-Wilson speaks about how colonization often occurs through stories, and how we need to work at fighting against and resisting colonial generalizations that sweep through education. Strong-Wilson implies that decolonization shouldn’t happen at the expense of the Indigenous people, but that “White” subjects should be taking responsibility for the process as well.

“Decolonization is about changing lives and, in connection with research, conducting studies in different ways that directly benefit Indigenous peoples, instead of once again subjecting them to a research process that has ‘extracted and claimed ownership’ of Indigenous ways of knowing only to reject the people responsible for those ways of knowing” (Strong-Wilson, 2007, p. 117).

Strong-Wilson’s goal is to decolonize the “white” subject. She suggests doing this through the deformation and reformation of identity (Strong-Wilson, 2007, p. 117). She shares her experiences working with teachers on this decolonizing journey. She talks about which types of literature they read growing up that influenced their beliefs and attitudes towards First Nations people.

I really appreciated Strong-Wilson’s ideas on decolonizing teaching/education specifically. I know that my own decolonizing journey has not only affected my personal learning, but what and how I teach in the classroom. Strong-Wilson says, “A decolonizing education for white teachers involves “bringing forward” the storied history presently subsumed within their teaching but in relation to post colonial-stories for the purpose of provoking a different story that can open and shift their horizon” (Strong-Wilson, 2007, p. 119). I was really challenged on how I am resisting colonial stories.  Strong-Wilson asserts that it is not just about using Indigenous stories or stories that have minority characters in them.  She points out that too often, the stories that have a racial minority main character end up having a storyline ABOUT their racial difference and/or overcoming their differences to be successful.  The “Other” is still illuminated and examined as “Other.” Strong-Wilson actually suggests a balanced approach of not only using post-colonial literature but challenging and resisting colonial literature. Without a critical examination of colonial literature that is commonplace in our society, one cannot move forward with decolonization.

This article challenges me when I look critically at my own Treaty 4 project. Within the re-telling of Treaty 4, the First Nation’s subjects will be the focus. They will be the focus because of their position as “Other.” I specifically said I wanted to help tell the story of Treaty 4 from a First Nations point of view. I feel like I am doing exactly what Strong-Wilson pointed out around stories with minority characters. It is making me question if I need to add a larger element of resistance to the colonial style literature around the signing of Treaty 4.  Perhaps re-telling the story of Treaty 4 from both points of view, (White/Aboriginal) with thoughtful critical questions would suffice? I feel like I am struggling to find a balance between my desire to re-tell the history of Treaty 4 from a FN point of view and my desire to help White settlers disrupt their own historical understanding of Saskatchewan’s history. Can I do both well? I will be looking towards my First Nation’s elders and allies for advice on this one.

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