Princess Culture and Early Childhood Education: The Issue

Posted on April 7, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, eci814, Masters, Race |

It all started in the last couple months when I decided to go on a Netflix Disney movie spree. I was getting sick of the large amounts of drugs, sex, swearing, and violence in the “regular” adult TV shows and movies, so I wanted to take a break and indulge in


Photo credit: Global Panorama via Flickr

something more ‘innocent.’ Now, hear me when I say that a “spree” for a mom of a six month old is watching bits and pieces of these movies every few days/week. But that said, so far I have watched Tangled, The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, Ella Enchanted, (I watched this thinking it was the musical Enchanted. It wasn’t) Big Hero 6, Enchanted, (the correct one) and I am currently watching Maleficent.  It was during Enchanted (the musical) that I started to really recognize the Whiteness that is infused into the movie.

It was during the above clip that I was awakened to the stereotypical race roles that the movie portrays. First of all, the initial men of colour introduced are assumed to be Caribbean, as they play steel drums and shakers, and they are wearing traditional cultural clothing. (Although to be honest, I’m not even sure it’s accurate Caribbean traditional clothing… but it does have patterns and beading, which in the dominant viewer’s mind fits the role of traditional Caribbean culture, therefore does not get questioned.)  These men are immediately racialized as their purpose in the movie is to represent culture and add an ethnic flavour to the song. The men follow the characters (the two white, heterosexual leads) who walk through the park singing about love. The next obvious men of colour introduced are Mexican men in sombreros playing their guitars on a boat.  Their apparent purpose is to support the two White leads with some added guitar music.  The last noticeable man of colour, (I won’t even get started that there were no obvious women of colour even in the song.) is a black man in a bandana, and a loose jersey.  Since the song is apparently trying to include all different cultures, he most likely represents black culture as a whole;

“Black men are also featured as tough and aggressive. Many videos rely on hip hop style fashions, such as multilayered oversized shirts, sagging jeans… tattoos and bandanas, in order to evoke images of controlled aggressiveness.” (Asamen, Ellis, & Berry, 2008).

The massive amount of cultural appropriation that is happening within this short song is disturbing. According to the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage Project (2015), appropriation “means to take something that belongs to someone else for one’s own use. In the case of heritage, appropriation happens when a cultural element is taken from its cultural context and used in another” (p. 2). The entire song took race and gender stereotypes and expanded on them to the nth degree. This is troubling for me because while I was looking for an innocent escape in children’s movies, I was actually bombarded by hidden racialized and gendered constructions that shape my ways of knowing without me always realizing it.


Photo credit: Barb Watson via Flickr

I think most people are aware that the older Disney movies often promoted racism, sexism, and even domestic violence, but “the newer Disney animations continue to play ‘a substantial role in reaffirming, even constructing, an uneven social hierarchy that privileges the status quo and subjugates marginal populations” (Gutierrez, 2000, p.10). With that in mind, it brought me to question how the dominant discourses of media culture influence early childhood education. In what ways is the ‘princess culture’ of today affecting our children’s ways of knowing and being? If it took me, an adult finishing her graduate degree focusing on anti-oppressive education four consecutive Disney movies to really notice the hegemonic practices that were being showcased, how long, if ever, does it take children to question the message they are receiving? In what ways do schools perpetuate princess/superhero culture and preserve the dominant discourse?

My next post: Princess Culture and Early Childhood Education: Over-representation and Erasure


Asamen, J., Ellis M., & Berry G. (2008). The SAGE Handbook of Child Development, Multiculturalism, and Media. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications.

Broadnax, J. (2015, Nov. 18). The Hollywood Reporter’s New Cover Shows Hollywood Continues to Erase Women of Color. Retrieved from: 

George, K. (2015, Jan. 9). The Disney Movies You Grew Up with Are Incredibly Racist. Retrieved from:

Gutierrez G. (2000) Deconstructing Disney: Chicano/a children and critical race theory. Aztlain 25: 746.

Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage Project. (2015). Think Before You Appropriate. Things to know and questions to ask in order to avoid misappropriating Indigenous cultural heritage. Simon Fraser University: Vancouver.

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How Indigenous Learning Stories Can Combat Colonialism

Posted on March 27, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, baby, cultural, eci814, educational, First Nations, Masters, Privilege, Race, Unsettling the Settler |

Mary Caroline Rowan discusses Indigenous learning stories in her article, “Resituating carol rowanPractice through Teacher’s Storying of Children’s Interests.” Rowan believes that learning stories can be a device to impart Indigenous knowledge and practices. The “learning story” derives from Aotearoa/New Zealand and is a structured, narrative style observation story that documents children’s actions and incorporates them into a story that walks through a child’s interests, ideas, and emotions.  In her chapter, Rowan uses the learning story model, and incorporates Indigenous vocabulary words that support Inuit culture.

(Warning: understatement of the year…) Colonization has had a strong impact on the Canadian Inuit’s culture. Through strict policy and violence, the Inuit people were forced to attend Residential schools where they were taught White ways of knowing and denied access to their language, culture and families.  “Inuit approaches to living have been systematically undermined in relationship with a southern society that believed that it knew best how to use the north, how to develop its economic potential, and how to improve the moral, intellectual and material lives of its inhabitants” (Rowan, 2013, p. 175).

The Inuit language and culture have been silenced through years of colonial policy and forced assimilation. Rowan’s approach to her research is rooted in the understanding that “locally based social and cultural knowledge(s) provide a foundation for meaning, understanding, and strength at the community level” (Rowan, 2013, p. 174).  She journeys down the path of decolonial theory to find ways to incorporate this local knowledge and disrupt hegemony in her early childhood education action research. Through the practice of transformative pedagogy, “which recognizes the value of home and community knowledge” (Rowan, 2013, p. 180), Rowan chooses to write two learning stories that use traditional Indigenous knowledge and language.

Rowan uses Hugh Brody’s research (1975 & 2001) many times in this chapter. hugh brody Brody was a British anthropologist that visited the Canadian Arctic in the 70’s. Much of his work influences Rowan’s theoretical approach. Brody (1987) wrote, “The voices of the people must be heard; their words breathe life into our understanding. We cannot know other cultures by looking at them; we must hear their accents, absorb their intonations, and enter their points of view” (p. xv). This is vital to Rowan’s work with Indigenous children.  In her learning stories, she enters an Inuit child’s world and writes about kamiik, (sealskin boots) illu, (a snow house/igloo) and a play structure on a local playground.

Through her stories, children were spurred on to wonder and question about other traditional cultural practices. One child “really wanted to see the quilliq (stone lamp) lit.qulliq This eventually led to an important event that involved the lighting of the quilliq” (Rowan, 2013, p. 182). I believe this is the magic that an engaging story can hold for a child. It begs them to enter into the story, and wonder and question in much deeper ways. The amazing thing about a learning story is that the children reading it are the centre of the story. It is their behaviours and actions that are documented.

When I decided to write my own learning story, I decided to centre it around my five month old daughter.  I am currently on mat leave, and do not have a classroom where I can use my students in the story.  I decided to take pictures of important events in Adelyn’s day where I saw her learning and engaging with her environment… AKA my home.  Because I didn’t want it to only be applicable to our family, I tried to use objects or experiences that could transcend culture. I openly admit however, that by being a White female settler, I am already working within a privileged, dominant discourse.

However, I tried to write the learning story in a way that allowed the opportunity for other languages and cultures to insert their own local vocabulary/understandings. On each page I underlined a word that I thought could be traded out for something more culturally appropriate or local if applicable.  For example, I wrote about Adelyn sleeping in her crib.  I know that many other cultures use moss bags, boxes, bassinets, parents bed, etc. Those reading/translating this story are encouraged to switch the vocabulary when necessary.

On the topic of translating, I guess I should mention that I had some friends/family translate the learning story for me into their own language.  I am so privileged to have acquaintances from many cultural/linguistic backgrounds, and thankfully many of them were willing to help me translate the story into their own tongue.  By the time the story was finished, it was translated into 7 (almost 8) other languages: Inuktitut, French, Korean, German, Mandarin, Spanish, Swahili, (and Cree is on the way). But considering Brody’s quote about “hearing their accents and absorbing their intonations” (Brody, 1975, p. xv), the story was not finished yet.  Through technology, we now have the capacity to actually HEAR other languages being spoken. I asked each friend to also record themselves reading the story in their language so I could import the recordings into the ebook.  This was successful, and now beside each translated line, there is a button one can click to hear the sentence being read in the corresponding language.

Again, I know there are still many faults with this process and product. By inserting other languages over a White, privileged experience, I am inviting minority groups into my dominant narrative rather than the reverse. I realize that this project is occurring because of a chapter I read while taking my Masters degree at a University. (The ivory tower image can’t be much stronger than that.)


“Ivory Tower” photo credit: Billie Grace Ward via Flickr

I also realize that it is quite problematic that the book I have made is available in ePub format which is best read on an iPad, eBook reader, or a computer with the correct software installed. I know this type of technology is not accessible to everyone, and by doing this, I may just be perpetuating a very privileged group’s access to these materials.

That said, in offering this story in more than one language, I hope to accomplish some inclusivity.  I am sending a copy of my story to each of my friends/family that helped me translate it, and I hope it will be read to their children and children’s friends in their home language.  I am also hopeful because of my story’s ebook format. Because it is an ePub, it can be opened in the Book Creator app so that the pictures can be changed.  Perhaps someone would like to take out the picture of my daughter, and insert one of their own child in their own environment.  This ePub format also allows the story to be printed for those that may not have access to an iPad, ebook reader or computer.  It does lose the ability to hear the languages being spoken, but the written text in the different languages will still be there.


I will leave you with a few questions that I have pondered throughout this work.

  1. How can I (you, we) ally with other Indigenous peoples who are wanting to “breathe life into their understanding.” What does it look like for me (you, we) to support the amazing work already being done by Indigenous people who want to keep their traditions, culture and language alive?
  2. In what ways can I, as a white settler woman help disrupt hegemony and colonial thinking among settlers? In what ways can I infuse Indigenous ways of knowing into my teaching, or my every day life? What stories will I read to Adelyn that don’t have her (or people like her) as the central focus?
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Deficit Thinking Results in Bio-Medical Interventions

Posted on March 1, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, eci814, educational, Kindergarten, Masters, teaching and learning |

Reading through this week’s chapters was a sobering reminder that I’m not as de-pathologizing as I would like to be.  The explanations on the biomedical approach to literacy is literally how I have done my job in grade one for these past 6 years. The DRA mentioned in chapter 3 is the exact tool that we use in our division for scoring children’s reading. As I was reading their explanations of how it is used, the stories were all too familiar to me.


Screen shot from our online reading program called Raz-Kids which is a resource created to help kids achieve grade level.

The tool itself can be neutral and just another way we assess students, but the categorization, labelling, and decision making that is based on these results is troubling. In my experience, this can become the only tool that we use to gage student’s literacy. It becomes the be all and end all and we work towards hitting that numbered goal rather than looking at the child’s literacy strengths and literacy needs from an asset based approach.  Because the division only looks at these ORR levels, it unfortunately drives teachers like me to work to get students to “grade level.” Don’t get me wrong, reading at grade level is an important thing, as there are statistics that show if children aren’t reading at grade level by grade 3, they have a higher risk of dropping out of school. BUT- listen to the language I just used in that sentence. It is all deficit based language.


Ways to see who is not reaching the skills required.

How would things change if I came at reading, writing, and basic literacy from a completely asset point of view? What if we built off of the children’s strengths culturally, linguistically, socially? How would my literacy instruction change if I cared less about a number and more about individual student growth? Would I spend less time testing and more time observing the student strengths and trying to work from those?  How do we move past the standardized test when that IS the test that schools/divisions/governments base achievement on?

I just asked 5 questions that are somewhat rhetorical because unfortunately I cannot leave the system that I teach in. I now need to decide how to work within that system. I can’t just complain about the system if I do not offer suggestions on how to problem solve these issues. That said, here are three things I am going to try to do when I get back into the classroom after my mat leave is over:

  1. Use cultural language/print more effectively.  I want English AND the other languages children speak in my classroom represented within my classroom. This will be done through labelling the classroom, but also through homemade books and artifacts co-created by students and their parents. Many parents/siblings will be more than willing to help bring a bit of themselves and their culture and language into our classroom. Rather than a teddy bear journal that gets sent home over the weekend, maybe a journal that encourages new vocabulary from all of the homes of the children could be sent home.
  2. Use more than a phonics based approach to teach reading. This is hard for me as I feel like I have done a “good job” of using reading strategies, phonics, and structures of English to help students learn to read English… BUT I know that I need a bigger representation of language in my classroom. When I taught Kindergarten, I used to use the children’s names to help them see the English language structures. For example, if Mikayla was the helper of the day, we would talk about how the “ay” in her name says a long a sound. This would be similar to the ‘ay’ in day, say, pray, spray etc. This might work for names that follow English “rules.” But what will I do when someone’s name does not fit? How can I honour a child’s name that was originally made for a language other than English? How can I use this as a chance to honour, represent and draw attention to that child’s culture, heritage and home language? Even further, how do I look at this experience for children and depathologize in my own practice?
  3. I will actively use more than the DRA or other standardized tests for decision making within my classroom. I think the chapters were pretty clear that most educational institutions are using the biomedical approach for decision making, understanding knowledge production,  and policy creation in regards to children.  There is not much I can do about that, except push back and show that I will not use those means to make decisions within my own classroom. I will show that students have value beyond the tests and constraints the “system” has put on them, and I will do everything I can to make informed decisions using the personal knowledge I have gained about my students through dialogues with them and their families. “The children of Elmwood received literacy instruction based on a single theory. When one theory is exclusively employed, only the goals of that theory can be achieved” (Early Childhood Curricula and the De-Pathologizing of Childhood, Ianacci and Heydon, p. 83). I will strive in every way possible to use more than a single approach to literacy for my future students.

What do you think? What are other ways we can teach literacy from an asset based approach? Am I off base? An idealist? Or is this something we need to strive for in our schools?

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De-pathologizing refugee children’s ECE experience

Posted on February 15, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, eci814, educational, Kindergarten, Masters, teaching and learning |

This week’s chapters struck a chord with me as I was reminiscing on the types of play/activities I encouraged when I was teaching Kindergarten, and even grade one. I am embarrassed to say that it definitely did not reflect the culturally sensitive practices I read about this week.

In his book, Early Childhood Curricula and the De-pathologizing of Childhood, Luigi Iannacci speaks about how culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students are pathologized ece-bookbecause of their lack of English language. He encourages teachers to approach curriculum by asking, “Who are my students? What resources do they possess? Are these resources being accessed or ignored in lieu of experiences that may render them deficient?” (Iannacci, pg. 233)

Unfortunately I think my experience has been to mostly ignore these student’s culture, and try and help them learn English language and ‘Canadian’ culture. Don’t get me wrong…  We did country projects where students could learn about whatever country they wanted and bring a meal that represented that country etc. but I wasn’t honouring or upholding individual’s backgrounds and diverse experiences from home. I guarantee I was looking at these students from a deficit point of view, trying to figure out what they lacked and how I could help them “catch up.”


“Knowledge” photo credit: Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr

Iannacci speaks to how teachers can potentially help students become curriculum informants rather than information recipients. He encourages teachers to look at who the child is rather than what the child is. He believes that students should not be, “recipients of knowledge deposits and pathologized for their inability to meet pre-established expectations” (Iannacci, pg. 233). This caused me to reflect on my own practice and what I can be doing differently when I head back to the classroom after my mat leave.

Anna Kirova, in Children’s Representations of Cultural Scripts in Play, gave me some practical ideas on how I could start supporting intercultural learning within an early childhood classroom. She starts by suggesting that we get to know exactly what cultures/languages are represented in your class. Often times the information in the CUM folders is misleading and/or erroneous. We should be asking our students, their siblings or their parents about what country they are from and what language(s) they speak.  If at all possible, we should be bringing in people/family who speak these children’s native tongue. This shows that we value the child’s first language, and the adult may give us some amazing insight into cultural practices from their home country. It also signals the children that language “code-switching” is acceptable and an important part of learning a new language.

Another suggestion was to set up some play centres that encourage cultural practices within the classroom. The tea centre was an excellent example of this for me.  Many cultures/families drink tea, and though they may go about it in different ways, it provides


“Tea Party: Ms. Jen’s Classroom” photo credit: Meriweather Lewis Elementary via Flickr

an opportunity for students to role-play what they see at home.  Each child can model and explain to the other students how their family prepares tea, and a ‘tea party’ is such a natural way for students to invite their classmates into their experience.  The market centre was another excellent example of this culturally sensitive practice that invites a new and different understanding of this universal task of gathering food. The only issue Kirov alluded to with this centre was that if your refugee students were born in Canada they may not have first hand experience in any other market except the grocery stores here in Canada, so an adult or sibling with experience could come in to help.

The last and extremely easy suggestion these chapters gave was labelling the room in the children’s first languages. A parent or even Google can help with this! Labelling things like door, window, toilet etc. I appreciate this simple step to help students and parents feel like they are not only welcomed, but an integral part of the classroom.

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A Spiritual Journey to Reconciliation

Posted on January 23, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Braiding Histories, cultural, Ed890, First Nations, Masters, Privilege, Race, reflection, Unsettling the Settler |

Before you begin reading, know that this is not a blog post. It is a final paper that has been cut and pasted into a blog post. It is my attempt at answering all of the questions I previously asked in past blog posts from my Ed890 class. It is written for a professor, and I posted it so that I have record of the final steps in my journey through that class.

A quick update as well would be that since having my daughter, I decided to postpone my project until I have officially finished my masters of education through course route. I still plan on completing the project, but I will be taking as much time as I need, not rushing to complete it so I can finish my degree. Here you go!

As I move forward with my Treaty 4 Reconciliation Project, I know there will be some hard decisions to make, and difficult questions to answer, especially as I start getting into the practical production of the project. I have already asked many of these questions on my blog, but I came at them hypothetically. I wasn’t really looking to answer them. Now it’s time to engage with them on a bit more of a practical level. As I enter into the creation of my project, I will begin to answer how I am going to come at some of these difficult decisions/questions. Below I will engage with each question separately and begin to answer how I plan on taking some of these bigger epistemological questions and engage with them pragmatically.

How can I help settlers unlearn Canada’s typical national story? 

Before participants enter into the Treaty 4 story, they need to be reminded of the dominant Western expansion story and its pitfalls. I would suggest that before participants take part in my project, they watch clips from “Canada, a People’s History” videos. There are some clips on YouTube, and the whole series can be borrowed from the library. Students should be asked to think critically about who is represented in the story, and who is not. By watching just a few clips, can they recognize who “Canada’s people” are? Who is the story about? What/who is missing?

Once students have looked into the dominant narrative of Canada’s history, the Treaty 4 story can be entered into thoughtfully. The Treaty 4 story needs to be re-told through the eyes of First Nations people. “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). Voice needs to be given to the experiences and history of the First Nations people that were involved in the signing. That said, it cannot shift to become “just Treaty Ed.” The re-telling needs to look more like what Claire Kreuger calls “Settler Ed.” During the ARIS experience, students need to be questioned to be mindful of how this re-telling differs from the dominant narrative, and where they and their ancestors fit into the story… Aboriginal or not.

“Although this is distressing work, it is not to be done in the absence of hope – hope for a new and better relationship between Aboriginal people and Canadians is exactly what motivates me” (Dion, 2009, p. 113). How can I, like Dion, emphasize the power, strength, and wisdom of the First Nation’s people within the Treaty 4 story?

I think the videos I create need to show how resilient and strong the First Nations people are at the signing of Treaty 4. Each character that is introduced in the story needs to have a bit of a backstory and introduction. They shouldn’t just be a random character. I will have to be careful how many characters I introduce into the story so that participants can connect with each on a personal level. I think 4-5 characters is probably a good number for participants to follow along with. Using the backpack feature of the app, participants will pick up Cree words that emphasize these character’s strength qualities. Participants can pick up a word of strength and resilience before they meet each character in the story. I will do my best to tie in the correct word to the right character.

How can I foster an environment where the acts of colonial settlers can be investigated, and questions of responsibility can be taken up?

“If the current quest for reconciliation is no different from settler practices of the past – a new colonial tool of oppression – it has now become imperative to challenge Canada’s peacekeeper myth. Peeling back the layers of myth reveals that we must confront our own repressed and unscrutinized past as part of our own truth telling” (Regan, 2010, p. 67). I struggle to know how to push someone to investigate acts that have become so commonplace. I often think why didn’t anyone question what was happening to the First Nations people when thousands of Settlers were coming to Canada and First Nations people were being displaced right and left? We know that obviously there were some people who questioned what was happening, and certain people who challenged the policies that led to residential schools and reserves. That said, they were not loud enough, and we know that these systemic oppressions continued for too long, and still continue. I think the best way to have participants investigate these acts is to allow the participants to “interview” a Settler within the Augmented Reality Treaty 4 story. The app gives options for the participants to ask characters within the app questions and receive answers. I think one of the characters will have to be a Settler, and as the participants ask them questions, their racist worldview will have to be exposed, as will the benefits they received because of the Treaties. With some proper questioning afterwards, participants will have the opportunity to reflect on Settler actions and policies.

When is it our turn as colonizers/settlers to take responsibility for our own history, and work towards reconciliation from our end? Where do these understandings fit into the way I take up my Treaty 4 Reconciliation Project?

I believe the time is now. As Vanessa Watts from University of McMaster and Hayden King from University of Toronto point out in their article, “TRC Report a Good Start, but now it’s Time for Action,” there have been many Canadian reports done in the past that report on the violence and atrocious conditions First Nations people have had to deal with.

“The formulaic response to these moments of clarity and accompanying opportunity has been tacit acceptance, followed closely by delay and obfuscation, then apathy, and finally the status quo. It is a tradition in this country to ignore progressive solutions to the Canadian problem. This aversion is rooted in a resistance to sacrificing privilege and sharing power” (Watts & King, 2015).

Watts and King believe that it is no longer good enough to ignore yet another report about the racism and oppression facing our First Nation people. After reading the Truth and Reconciliation report’s Calls to Action, anyone can see how clearly something needs to be done.  That said, these Calls to Action in some ways are much bigger than me, and in other ways, they are exactly for me.

“The dynamics of symbolic violence are evident in the visceral exchanges between residential school survivors, government officials, and church representatives in public forums and less visibly in the everyday bureaucratic processes and practices that serve to reinforce colonial power relations. This subtle violence is all the more elegant because it is embedded in a language of healing and reconciliation that is seductive to both the colonizer and the colonized, albeit for different reasons” (Regan, 2010, p. 116).

I do not want to be a part of more subtle violence towards First Nations people. First Nations survivors have been putting in the time, the effort, and the back-breaking work of fighting policy, stigma, and oppression for years. It is time we as colonizers/Settlers stand behind them as allies and support the important work they have been doing all along. Reconciliation does not require me to re-tell the Treaty 4 story. Reconciliation does not require me to create a new lesson/unit for my own students. Reconciliation requires me to take responsibility for my own Settler history, learn about the ways I take part in racism and oppression, and work towards making that right in my own life. For me specifically, that has come as a call to make this Treaty 4 Augmented Reality app. I have realized that as I begin to take responsibility for my portion of history, I can work towards helping others understand where they might fit as well.

Who/What audience should my project be intended for?

After reading through the course texts, I have decided that this project should be mainly intended for Settlers. Sure, others can take part in the experience, and learn alongside us, but the First Nations people of Saskatchewan have been historically re-victimized by being asked to continually share about the oppression their people faced, teach others about this oppression, and then fight the governmental policies and systems that continue to oppress their people. It is time that Settlers learn about our own oppressive history and challenge our own ways of knowing.

“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). I feel like I am struggling to find a balance between my desire to re-tell the history of Treaty 4 from a First Nations point of view and my desire to help White Settlers disrupt their own historical understanding of Saskatchewan’s history. Can I do both well?

When I first asked this question, I was bound by the fear that I had to do both well. In the weeks following, I have realized that the freedom lies in an open hand mentality. Though I have previously stated that I don’t want to be the White Knight, my thoughts and even actions proved otherwise. I felt like this project was my one shot to get it right. How on earth was I going to help Settlers disrupt their racist thought patterns and honour Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people through the re-telling of Treaty 4? I have now come to a place of open hands. It is not my responsibility to do anything in anyone else’s hearts or minds. God, the Creator, has set me on a reconciliation journey. I have realized that my role is to walk in obedience to what I feel called to, and trust that He is big enough and strong enough to guide the rest. This project’s success is not measured by how many people it reaches.  If this project reaches 100 people, or just 1 person, (myself), it has been useful. This project has been a spiritual journey for me, and as I have begun to de-colonize my own life, I have come to realize that success cannot be measured by Western standards. In fact, if I try to do that, I am losing sight of the spirit of intent that began this whole project in the first place.

Where do I fit as I blend my own spiritual understandings of creation and promise with those of our First Nation’s ancestors?

This process has also caused some inner turmoil for me over the past few months. I consider myself a Christian, a believer, and a Jesus follower. With these names have come years of Bible training, church attendance, and Euro-centric understandings of the world. I don’t think all of these experiences have been bad ones, and I don’t think all of them have been good either. What I do know is that my basic understanding of God has been framed through a Western church lens. That said, I have had many moments of deep spiritual connection with the Creator of the World, and for these times, I am forever grateful. I believe God has set my path for me, and called me into a relationship with Him. In the times when I have experienced God in the deepest ways, it is not surprising that they were free from the constructs of church policy, church business, and church frameworks.

I wish I could say that I have figured it all out and can now give you a solid vision statement of what I believe and how First Nation’s understandings of the world fit into my Christian beliefs. I can’t.  What I do know is this:

  1. I have a lot to learn when it comes to First Nation’s spiritual practices and ceremonies. I don’t have much experience with them, and my understanding in this area is limited to historical accounts of these practices or other’s experiences with them. I would like to grow my knowledge base of the spiritual side of ceremonies and traditions. Especially those surrounding the signing of Treaty 4.
  2. “Indigenous peoples are those who have creation stories, not colonization stories, about how they came to be in a particular place – indeed how they came to be a place” (Tuck and Yang, 2012). Right now, I feel like God is calling me to go deeper with Him in my understandings of Him as Creator. I have been convicted that I don’t have much of an appreciation or relationship to the land or creation.  I have been conscious of this, and have began taking time to appreciate the outdoors in ways that I haven’t before. It has started small by giving gratitude while on a run near my local creek, thanking Him for the cat tails and birds flying by. While driving through the prairies, I have looked out the window and tried to imagine what the natural Saskatchewan landscape would have been like before the farmer’s fields. I thank God for the beautiful never-ending sky and clouds that seem to represent His vastness. I also feel like I want to take a bigger step and devote a day or a weekend to being outdoors; learning and appreciating all that the Creator has given to us. This would be deeper than just a camping trip. The intent and spirit behind the day/weekend would be connecting with God as Creator and honouring all that comes with being on the land. I am trying to wait on the Lord in this respect, and trust that I will know when this trip should happen, where it should happen, and with who.
  3. This is a journey. I don’t have to have all the answers, and I don’t have to be at a certain point to feel like I can move forward with reconciliation. I want to meet with, and dialogue with First Nations people who are on this journey as well. I want to learn from Elders and listen to teachings that challenge my mind and heart. I want to trust that the work God is doing in my life is a good one, and that it will continue. I believe this journey is bigger than myself and as I move forward, I know I must remain humble and contrite in spirit.

To conclude, I have realized that this journey is a messy one. It’s not always clear what road I will go down next, and I’m not always sure where I fit or how. I know I have grown tremendously over this last year as I have learned about these topics, yet on the same hand, I feel just as helpless and just as inexperienced as before in many ways! I look forward to starting the practical part of my project with open hands, and I am willing to see this project change, shift, and grow as it continues.


Dion, S. (2009). Braiding histories: Learning from Aboriginal peoples’ experiences and

perspectives. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Regan, P. (2010). Unsettling the settler within: Indian residential schools, truth telling, and reconciliation in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press

Strong-Wilson, T. (2007). Moving Horizons: Exploring the Role of Stories in Decolonizing the Literacy Education of White Teachers. International Education. 37, 114-132.

Tuck, E. & Yang, K.W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. 1, 1-40.

Watts, V. & King, H. (2015, June 5). TRC report a good start, but now it’s time for action. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from: report-a-good-start-but-now-its-time-for-action/article24824924/

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Decolonization is not a Metaphor

Posted on June 27, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, Ed890, First Nations, Masters, Race, reflection |

I just finished reading Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s article called Decolonization is not a metaphor. It was a great article that challenged me on how our liberal arts education has started to use the word decolonization to describe any type of activism or social movement that is related to anti-oppressive education.  Some people seem to lump decolonization into being “critically conscious of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and xenophobia” (Tuck & Yang, 2012). Tuck and Yang are clear that this is not what decolonization is, and decolonization should not be used as a metaphor for all of these others things.


Regina’s pride parade. Photo credit and story at

“When metaphor invades decolonization, it kills the very possibility of decolonization; it recenters whiteness, it resettles theory, it extends innocence to the settler, it entertains a settler future. Decolonize (a verb) and decolonization (a noun) cannot easily be grafted onto pre-existing discourses/frameworks, even if they are critical, even if they are anti-racist” (Tuck and Yang, 2012).

Tuck and Yang make it very clear that “decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life” (Tuck and Yang, 2012). Not surprisingly, AGAIN my mind has been opened to thinking about these concepts in a new way. Never before had I thought about decolonization as a term that applies only to Indigenous reconciliation and repatriation. Perhaps this is because I just finished a University class called Introduction to Post Colonial Theories that touched on many different colonial/imperial histories and topics. I was under the impression that decolonization is fighting against colonialism in general… and I was under the impression that colonialism in general was around anything capitalistic, Eurocentric, and “White privilege.” Tuck and Yang were very clear in their article that we are doing more harm than good when we use decolonization as a metaphor for all of these other critical theories. When we do this, we produce a false Settler innocence to try and reconcile Settler guilt and involvement.

save indigenous lands

“Save Indigenous Land” Photo credit: Survival international

I am once again embarrassed to admit how easily I am wrapped up in a colonial way of thinking. As I have been working on this Treaty 4 Reconciliation project,  I actually thought I was taking the initiative and really helping to decolonize our world in the local Aboriginal context. After my Post Colonial class, I felt some pride in being moved to take part in First Nations activism because of my position as teacher here in Saskatchewan, and how I was affected by the TRC’s Calls to Action. After reading this article, it has become very apparent to me that no, decolonization is always about re-centering Indigenous peoples. It’s about accepting and learning how Aboriginal ways of knowing are at the core of decolonization, and this is always in direct relation to the land.  Again, I need to start seeing things differently.


Aboriginal ways of knowing are at the CORE of decolonization; this very idea has been resonating with me a lot.  First Nations ways of knowing are centered around Indigenous spirituality, rituals, and ceremonies.  I cannot take up this work of reconciliation without becoming familiar with Indigenous spirituality, rituals, and ceremonies… AND entering into them.  When I began this work, that wasn’t on my agenda.  In fact, as a White Christian female Settler, I have some tensions there. I can honestly say I don’t know where I fit when it comes to Aboriginal beliefs and customs. I am finding myself consistently battling spiritual and knowledge based tensions. I know that to continue this journey, I need to start having an epistemological, ontological, and cosmological relationship to the land. Tuck and Yang say,

“In order for settlers to make a place their home, they must destroy and disappear the Indigenous peoples that live there. Indigenous peoples are those who have creation stories, not colonization stories, about how they came to be in a particular place – indeed how they came to be a place. Their relationship to land comprise their epistemologies, ontologies, and cosmologies. For the settlers, Indigenous peoples are in the way and, in the destruction of Indigenous peoples, Indigenous communities, and over time through law and policy, Indigenous peoples’ claims to land under settler regimes, land is cast as property and as a resource” (Tuck and Yang, 2012).

For me to move forward with reconciliation, I need to start digging into my understanding and relationship to the land. I need to start becoming familiar with the spiritual side of First Nation’s history. If I re-tell the history of Treaty 4 for my project without acknowledging and entering into the spiritual/cultural significances present at the time of the signing, I am not RE-telling the story of Treaty 4, I am just telling the story of Treaty 4 again.  I know my next step is trying to figure out where I fit as I blend my own spiritual understandings of creation and promise with those of our First Nation’s ancestors. But as you can guess, this is not going to be a mere day long journey…

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