First Nations

Princess Culture and Early Childhood Education: Application

Posted on April 11, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, eci814, First Nations, Grade 1 & 2, Kindergarten, Masters, Privilege, Race, teaching and learning |

In my last post, I ended with some questions about what we, as teachers or early childhood educators, could do to combat the racialized and gendered messages that our

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“Disney princesses” Photo credit: Ricky Brigante via Flickr

students are being bombarded with in their Disney princess/superhero culture. We need to remember that racial understanding makes its way into our classrooms without effort. “Race is a structuring principle that must be interpreted in classroom interactions, not as a naturally occurring phenomenon but part of the assumptions that ultimately inform how people construct their world” (Leonardo, 2009, p. 233).

Our students have racial constructs already formed by the time they get to school, and many of those constructs have been influenced through their parent’s opinions, and the movies and shows the children have been exposed to. Unfortunately,

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Photo credit: Disney UK

we can’t wait for Disney to change their ways and disrupt the dominant discourse, because even though they are starting to try, by releasing movies like Moana, there are still many issues with movies like these portraying Indigenous people. It is going to require educators to take a critical look at the hidden and lived curriculum students are stepping into school with, and learning how to deconstruct these narratives with their students.

In my grade one class last year, we had talked a lot about male and female ‘gender roles.’  I didn’t have to give many examples before the students started chiming in with what the “world” tells boys and girls they can or can’t do. During our talking circle, students were giving examples such as, “People say boys can’t have long hair,” or “Girls like pink.”  I don’t think there was one student that day who didn’t participate in the talking circle; every child had experienced some type of gendered scenario where they knew how boys and girls were supposed to act.  It was neat watching them agree and sympathize with each other as each child gave examples of what they knew about gender and how it didn’t sit right, even in their little six year old bodies.

I decided to take this lesson a step further with my students because “to children, the boundaries between reality and fantasy life are often unclear (van Wormer & Juby, 2015, p. 591).  Kids don’t always understand that the behaviours on TV shows or in movies shouldn’t be imitated in their own lives. I wanted to try and help my students look critically at the gendered and racialized scenarios they see in movies, and deconstruct the message while relating it to their own lives.

The first clip we watched was Gaston’s song from Beauty and the Beast. Take a look if you need a little refresher.

When I chose this clip, I knew it would have a lot of the gendered physical characteristics  of males, and I was hoping the children would notice.  After we watched the clip, I asked the kids what Disney was telling them about men/boys. Sure enough, the kids picked up on so many of the physical qualities.

“Boys have to be strong.”

“Boys have to have big muscles.”

“They are hairy.”

“Boys eat a lot of food.”

“They drink beer.” (Oops, I may have forgot about that part of the movie!)

Then one student pointed out something that I hadn’t really thought about, but was so prevalent.

“Boys like to fight.”

Wow. How had I missed that obvious behaviour from the clip? Clearly Gaston was fighting with the men in the parlour, but I was more focused on the kids finding physical characteristics of what men “should be like.” This led us into a great conversation about violence and how boys are pushed into more of a violent social construct than girls.

We then looked at a couple other princess clips; one of Snow White, and another of snow whiteCinderella. The students were even quicker to find gendered stereotypes of women which included body image, a woman’s “roles,” and standard of beauty.  Unfortunately we don’t have to look far to see the media pushing women in one gendered cinderelladirection, and it mostly has to do with the beautification and sexualization of girls/women.  Our class had a really good conversation around this topic, and it even led into how they can be safe/protected online.  Many children recognized that inappropriate images of women are scattered everywhere on the web, and many children openly admitted to seeing these while they were using the internet in their own home. We discussed how “the world” sometimes treats women’s bodies as objects, and that is not fair or right. I reminded them of what they could do if they ran into inappropriate images/videos while online (close it immediately, tell an adult etc.) I try my best to incorporate digital citizenship lessons throughout the year as we use quite a bit of technology in my class, and I know students run into these situations at home as well.

The last part of the student’s assignment was to re-iterate a stereotypical message they knew about boys and girls, and then offer an alternative. For example, “boys CAN have long hair,” or “girls can wear blue and boys can wear pink” etc. The students left empowered, and I had a student come back the week after and tell me how his sister was telling him something about a “girl colour,” and he told her there was no such thing as girl or boy colours! What a precious example of social/gender de-construction.

Unfortunately, I did not dive into an extension of this lesson that included race… but I wish I would have.  I think deep down, challenging gender constructs was more comfortable for me than challenging racial constructs, and so I left it at that.  Now that I have more anti-oppressive grad classes under my belt, and feel a little better versed in my understanding of Whiteness, identity, and erasure, I am willing and hopeful to tackle more lessons of this sort when I head back into the classroom after mat leave.

However, Leonardo (2009) does warn us that “whites must learn to be racially sensitive about contexts when race seems a legitimate theme to invoke and ask why it was relevant to them then and not other times… Whites can participate in building an antiracist pedagogy against white mystifications, and displacing white racial knowledge from its privileged position of classroom discourse” (p. 239). This makes me wonder what it looks like to challenge the “princess/superhero” culture in specific lessons, but support it on something like a school dress up day.

Last year we had a dress-up day called “Disney Day,” where, you guessed it, students were encouraged to dress up as their favourite movie character.

Not surprisingly, all students either dressed up as a character, or wore a shirt that had a superhero logo or character on it.  Looking back, I’m again reminded at how prevalent and engrained the Disney culture is in these children’s lives. I would never consider boycotting the Disney day, as I know these types of days are extremely fun for students.  But if I could do it again, I would choose to have some critical discussion around gender/race as a reminder before the day. The children can learn to spot Whiteness, erasure, and cultural appropriation. This type of day would be the perfect time for them to practice their awareness in this area.

Furthermore, an asset-based, positive way teachers can disrupt the princess/superhero IMG_2265culture in their classroom is by offering other cultural/linguistic alternatives. Mary Caroline Rowan in her article, ‘Resituating Practice through Teachers’ Storying of Children’s Interests’ explained how she used Aotearoa/New Zealand learning stories to impart traditional Inuktitut words to preschoolers. It “could serve as a means of first recognizing and, second, deepening Inuit cultural and linguistic approaches to early childhood education” (2013, p. 180). Incorporating First Nations, Inuit, and Metis languages through storytelling is a valuable pedagogical tool teachers can use to help combat ‘White ways of knowing.’ Rowan emphasizes that using Indigenous methodologies

“facilitated the development of a practice of making learning stories that I hoped would make Inuit knowledge(s), patterns, and meanings accessible and, in so doing, make spaces in ECE practice for Inuit ways of knowing and being” (2013, p. 180).

In what other ways can we make spaces in ECE practice for Indigenous ways of knowing and being? How can we disrupt the dominant discourse of princess/superhero culture and acknowledge the ways in which it directly influences student’s understanding of themselves and each other? I am only entering the beginning of this journey, and am hopeful to walk beside other early childhood educators who believe in this work as well.

References

Joseph, A. (2016, Dec. 2). With Disney’s “Moana,” Hollywood almost gets it right: Indigenous people weigh in. Salon. Retrieved from: http://www.salon.com/2016/12/03/with-disneys-moana-hollywood-almost-gets-it-right-indigenous-people-weigh-in/

Leonardo, Z. (2009). Reading whiteness: anti-racist pedagogy against white racial knowledge. In B. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stovall, (Eds.), Handbook of social justice in education. (pp. 231-248). New York: Rutledge.

Rowan, C. (2013). Resituating Practice through Teachers’ Storying of Children’s Interests in V. Pacini-Ketchabaw & L. Prochner, Resituating Canadian Early Childhood Education (172-188). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

van Wormer, K. & Juby, C. (2015). Cultural representations in Walt Disney films: Implications for social work education. Journal of Social Work. 16(5), 578-594

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Princess Culture and Early Childhood Education: The Research; Over-representation and Erasure

Posted on April 9, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, eci814, First Nations, Masters, Race |

In my last post, I highlighted some of the problems with having a Disney infused culture.

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“Princess Birthday” photo credit: Cat via Flickr

There are many racialized/gendered messages being sent to children, and “the racial innuendos and insults typically are beyond the level of conscious awareness (van Wormer & Juby, 2015, p. 591). Many young children, especially pre-school to grade one
age, are captivated by Disney characters. They have the movies, the costumes, the dolls, and the Disney themed birthday parties.

Many of us grew up with Disney movies/characters didn’t we? What’s the problem? Is it really a big deal?  Well, the problem lies when there is an over-representation of Disney
knowledge and an almost erasure of Indigenous knowledge/ways of knowing.  I am the perfect example. Did you know that I made it all the way through elementary school, high school, and my undergraduate University degree before finding out about the real

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Photo Credit: The Media Project

horrors of Canadian history in my grad classes? I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about residential schools, Treaties, the TRC, Indigenous languages, or any real information about Indigenous peoples other than they used to make tipis, they used
arrowheads, and they helped the ‘Pilgrims’ when they came to North America. I didn’t ever learn how Treaty 4 affects me, and how I benefit from the Cree and Saulteaux peoples being removed from their land. Parul Sehgal (2016) of the New York Times “describes how inconvenient people are dismissed, their history, pain and achievements blotted out” (par. 3). Indigenous stories were not something I was taught or even had access to, really.  BUT… if you had asked me about a specific Disney movie, I could probably sing 15 Disney songs word for word. We even watched Disney movies in school for classroom parties or during the lunch hour.  Clearly one type of knowledge was over-represented in my life, and one was erased.

I did, however, have some opinions on “Native people.” One of them was that they were so lucky because they got their University for free, and that just didn’t quite seem fair to me. (Read more about other Treaty misconceptions and facts here.) I want to be clear that the issue was not that I watched Disney movies when I was growing up, it was that I was so surrounded by my White culture (including Disney) that I didn’t ever need to challenge the status quo or question my Whiteness. The media I was attracted to erased certain populations of people, and presented others in a less than positive light. Fryberg & Stephens (2010) suggest that “American Indians are so underrepresented in various contexts (e.g., media, school) that they experience an extreme form of colorblindness; they are invisible,” (p.115).

Disney is easy to pick on, but the fact of the matter is that all mainstream media dictates one message and ignores another.

“Media images can serve a deliberate purpose in maintaining the dominance of our existing societal gender, race, and class hierarchies. The motivation for movie production, for example, may be to incite patriotism, ethnic pride, and/or the assimilation of minority groups into mainstream culture. The most common motivation… is to reproduce whatever images dominate within the ‘whole white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ to which films in the global market must appeal” (van Wormer & Juby, 2015, p. 582).

These ideologies affect and inform our students, and it then becomes our job as educators to disrupt these ways of thinking and offer other stories. “A critical reading of Whiteness means that White ignorance must be problematized, not in order to expose Whites as simply racist, but to increase knowledge about their full participation” (Leonardo, 2009, p. 231). It wasn’t until I understood my place in Canadian history as a White settler woman that I was able to comprehend the depth of that identity and my role going forward.

“School appears to [be] a key site for racialised (and national) subjectification” (Phoenix, 2009, p. 18).  In many cases, students are coming to school and not escaping the

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Photo Credit: Patrick Feller via Flickr

hegemony of culture, but their classroom experiences demonstrate “the ways in which they… recognise western representations that [construct] them as inferior” (Phoenix, 2009, p. 18). Even the youngest of students can tell when they are “othered.” Children do see race and gender, and their little identities are already quite developed when they arrive at school. If they are familiar with the princess/superhero stories of Disney and the like, how does that influence their classroom and school interactions?

What can I (we) do as early childhood educators to disrupt the dominant story being told? What experiences can we share as a classroom that can challenge the hidden curriculum the students are learning through the princess/superhero culture? How can we help such young minds grow in critical awareness of their favourite princess/superhero stories? What alternative stories can be shared to counteract the dominant racialized/gendered messages the children are receiving?

My next princess culture post

References

Ball, J. (2009). Supporting Young Indigenous Children’s Language Development in Canada: A Review of Research on Needs and Promising Practices. The Canadian Modern Language Review. 66(1), 19-47

Fryberg, S. & Stephens, N. (2010). When the World is Colorblind, American Indians are Invisible: A Diversity Science Approach. Psychological Inquiry. 21(2), 115-119

Leonardo, Z. (2009). Reading whiteness: anti-racist pedagogy against white racial knowledge. In B. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stovall, (Eds.), Handbook of social justice in education. (pp. 231-248). New York: Rutledge.

Phoenix, A. (2009). De-colonising practices: Negotiating narratives from racialised and gendered experiences of education. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 12(1), 2-22.

Sehgal, P. (2016, Feb. 2).  Fighting ‘Erasure’. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/magazine/the-painful-consequences-of-erasure.html?_r=0

van Wormer, K. & Juby, C. (2015). Cultural representations in Walt Disney films: Implications for social work education. Journal of Social Work. 16(5), 578-594

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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.)

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“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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Authentic online spaces: Good or bad?

Posted on March 19, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Blog on Blogging, Eci834, First Nations, Masters, Privilege, Race, Technology |

This blog prompt comes at an interesting time for me as I have had a couple great conversations around this topic just recently. Both have to do with blogging and the conversations that occur because someone shared their thoughts/opinions/knowledge online; good, bad, or otherwise!

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Photo credit: Will Lion via Flickr

The first story happened in the last couple of weeks for me.  I have been blogging my reading responses for my other Masters class, EC&I 814 Critical Perspectives of Pre-school Edece-bookucation. We have been diving into topics around how to de-pathologize curriculum and re-situate early childhood education into an asset oriented perspective.  It goes along nicely with the anti-oppressive education work I have been doing this last year of my life.  In these posts, I often quote Luigi Iannacci who is one of the authors of our textbook, Early Childhood Curricula and the De-pathologizing of Childhood. I got an unexpected surprise one day last week when Iannacci emailed me through my blog’s ‘About page’ (which as a side note is why it’s important to have a contact form on your blog) and commented on my blog post. He was very encouraging…

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This led to me emailing him back, and we have had a little conversation back and forth for the last couple weeks. He has been very open and genuine, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask him if he wanted to Skype/Facetime in with our class during my presentation coming up on March 28th. He was more than happy to do it, and we have been figuring out exactly what that will look like.

But what can I say? What an amazing opportunity for myself and my classmates to actually talk to the human behind the stories and theory represented in our text. This opportunity happened BECAUSE I blogged my reading response for the world rather than wrote it for my professor. No, our conversation didn’t happen in the comment section of my blog or in a discussion forum, but none the less, it happened because of my blogging platform.

What do I take from this?

  1. Teachers need to give their students opportunities to write for someone other than themselves.
  2. Authenticity is inspired in others when it starts with me.

 

The second story happened to a friend of mine, Claire Kreuger. By the way, she has given me permission to tell this story. She has been blogging her thesis– HALLELUJAH! (I am so glad that this is starting to become a thing.) And she has had some interesting conversations around some of her posts. The story she told me yesterday was where her authentic online space did not go over so well.

Through her thesis, she has been actively trying to disrupt her own understanding of Whiteness, colonial spaces, and privilege. Her thesis is an Auto-ethnography, which involves her using stories from her own family, classroom and experiences. In her post, H is for Headdress, she explains why it is unacceptable for non-indigenous people, children included, to be wearing and making headdresses. Though this issue has been brought to light multiple times in the media, and in education, it still seems to be happening quite frequently. Claire mentions how even her own daughter made a feather headdress in class last year.  This is actually where the authenticity/openness of her blogging takes a turn for the worst.

Shortly after mentioning her daughter’s craft in her blog post, Claire got an email from her child’s teacher with the principal cc’d. The teacher wanted Claire to come in and chat… Uh oh! Anytime a teacher is willing to schedule a meeting on Friday after school, you know it’s not to talk about some awesome answer the child gave in Science that day. Sure enough, the teacher and principal wanted to speak about her blog post. The teacher

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“Blog With Authenticity Without Getting Fired” photo credit: Search Engine People Blog via Flickr

felt like Claire attacked her in the blog posts, and was telling others that she was a bad teacher. She had printed off pages from Claire’s blog (kind of ironic, right?) and challenged Claire on what she had written. Claire had to do damage control and explain the situation.  She told the elementary teacher that she thought she was an awesome teacher, but that Claire did have issues with that craft in particular, and how Indigenous people were being (mis)represented on a classroom and even school level. She tried to
apologize to the teacher and principal and explain that she was not trying to condemn the teacher per se, but rather address what her daughter had shared in conversation at home. Her daughter’s lack of knowledge and language around First Nations people was actually more of an issue than the craft itself, especially since Claire is actively trying to educate her own children about First Nations content at home. It is a symptom of the bigger systemic issue, and Claire clearly pointed that out in the blog, or at least she thought she did. Though the conversation was awkward, it was one that probably needed to happen on both accounts.

In this case, Claire being open and authentic in her blog caused tension with her face to face relationships. She was forced to stand behind her convictions and call somebody out on their racially insensitive actions. Though she was pressured to censor her opinions and thoughts, she found a way to adjust her blog’s comments, but not erase the story itself.

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“Blogging Readiness” photo credit: Cambodia4kids.org via Flickr

In either story, the good news is that the blogging platform brought out conversation, good or bad.  The public nature of the writing brought on discussion. The openness of the content spurred on more conversation. It can’t always guarantee that other’s will be authentic or genuine, but it sure helps when you know the writer is starting from that place.

 

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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.

References

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: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/trc- 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.

sheldon-williams-pride-club

Regina’s pride parade. Photo credit and story at CBC.ca

“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.

ralph

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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