Unsettling the Settler

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?
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

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: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/trc- report-a-good-start-but-now-its-time-for-action/article24824924/

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

I’m Sorry

Posted on June 19, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Christian, Church, cultural, Ed890, educational, First Nations, Masters, personal, Privilege, Race, reflection, Unsettling the Settler |

Chapter 6 of Paulette Regan’s Unsettling the Settler Within is all about Apologies. She says that an apology and/or testimonial exchange can be a decolonizing act. Her position as part of the TRC committee allowed her to sit in and listen to Survivor’s heart wrenching testimonies of their experience with residential schools. Although she was extremely moved, the interaction between herself and the Survivors was limited as she was working within the bounds of a government project.

“I am mindful that my apology, although heartfelt and sincere, was offered within the constraints of the ADR pilot project. My words were spoken in private within the context of a claims resolution process that, though more informal in nature, was still bound by legal convention” (Regan, 2010, p. 174).

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 10.40.23 PM

ADR via Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Regan obviously felt limited in her response to Survivors. She was honoured that she was allowed to be a part of those conversations, but her position with the government also hampered a full response. That said, she allows her readers to explore the idea of how Settlers (like her) fit into a testimony and apology context.


“Healing Walk 2014” Photo Credit: Jen Castro via Flickr

“Testimonial exchange may well be healing for certain people, and to some degree the very concept of healing has become analogous with decolonization. Within this context, one can talk about healing individuals or a nation. But the healing metaphor has been used almost exclusively with regard to Indigenous peoples. We have heard far less about the settler need to heal” (Regan, 2010, p. 175).

This paragraph moved me. I am not constrained to a title or a government position.  I am free to speak my mind (within limit) without legal ramifications. I have the freedom to explore my own thoughts and feelings that perhaps Regan didn’t. In reading this chapter, I have realized that I have been learning so much about decolonization over this last year, but I have never had the opportunity to apologize. So in honour of taking a step towards decolonization and acknowledging my settler need to heal, here I go.

I’m Sorry

This apology is going to start with a firm rejection of the “Canadian peacekeeper” myth.  If I am going to own and apologize for my White Settler side of Canadian history, then I need to do that while fully rejecting the “victorious Canadian Western Settlement history” that I grew up learning. From this point on, I am acknowledging that Canada is not a peacemaking country, and it never has been.

As a teacher, I need to apologize for working within and reinforcing a neo-liberalist society. I acknowledge how the institution of education (which includes me) often works directly against Indigenous ways of knowing. It inspires and drives capitalism, and I really don’t challenge this enough. When I have lunch dates with my students, and I ask them what they want to be when they grow up, many tell me about dream jobs that will make them rich. I wish I could say that I used these opportunities to challenge and reveal the downfalls of capitalism and how it affects my young students.


“Dr. Ladybug” Photo Credit: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr

As a believer in Jesus, I am sorry for what people have done in the name of Christianity. I am so sorry that people who said they loved Jesus actually just loved power and control. I am sorry that the residential schools were run by Christian churches. I am broken over the idea that people thought Aboriginal students needed to be stripped of their culture, their language, their heritage, and their families so that they could be “Christian.” I am grieved that many people will never be able to trust Jesus’s words in John 10:10 that say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

IMS cemetery

“Mary’s Indian Residential School and cemetery” via National Post

I apologize for all the times I was a bystander. If you asked me about some of these topics a few years ago, I would try to convince you I was innocent. I was not.  No matter what level or depth of understanding one has on these issues, silence is a stance. Not asking more questions is a stance. Not digging deeper into why things are the way they are, is a stance… and a privileged one I might add. I have been a bystander to unjust acts, and there is no innocence there. Here, I am nothing less than guilty.

To all of the First Nations students who have gone to University, I am sorry for thinking that you were handed a free education, and that this wasn’t fair FOR ME. I am sorry for the times that I had misguided discussions about this and I used my privilege and ignorance to speak hurtfully and perpetuate very racist, uninformed ideas. I wish I would have known some of the Treaty misconceptions  earlier. I’m sorry that it took me 28 years to even start this journey.


First Nations University of Canada

I am painfully sorry that I ignorantly tied poverty, drug abuse, homelessness and other social issues to race. I can’t believe I am capable of simplifying so many huge interconnected social issues and reducing them to a biological factor of the colour of someone’s skin. Here I must apologize for not seeing how the systemic racism has been initiated and then preserved by White privilege… my White privilege.

I know that I could continue. There are many things I am learning daily that I feel like I need to ask repentance for. But in this moment, I am going to stop; I’m not going to ask for forgiveness. I’m not going to expect forgiveness. This apology is not a way to relieve White guilt. This apology was not made so that I can feel better and then move on.  In fact, I don’t plan on “moving on” any time soon.  This apology is a way to take hold of the responsibilities of Settlers. This apology is to shift the obligation of reconciliation from the shoulders of First Nations people onto the shoulders of Settlers. This apology was a way for me to Unsettle the Settler Within.

unsettling the settler


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Unsettling the Settler Within: Chapter 5

Posted on June 16, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, Ed890, educational, First Nations, Masters, Unsettling the Settler |

unsettling the settler

In Chapter 5, Paulette Regan gives a short history of some of the Indigenous views of laws and peace. The colonial understanding was that First Nations people were savages who had a backward, unstructured way of life. When the Canadian government entered into treaties with the FN tribes, the government representatives assumed that compared to the First Nations people, they were the more progressive ones. They often puttered through the First Nation’s traditional ceremonies and spiritual practices just until they could get the FN leaders to sign away their land in the treaties.

indian land for sale

“Indian Land for Sale” Photo Credit: Nebraskastudies.org

“As we have seen, through the prairie settlement period, Morris and his fellow treaty negotiators, along with various Indian Affairs bureaucrats, had similar attitudes and viewed treaty making simply as the legal mechanisms required to access Indigenous lands for settlement purposes. In understanding treaty negotiations, they went through the ceremonial motions required of them but with no apparent understanding, or appreciation for, these sinews of diplomacy” (Regan, 2010, p.158-159).

In chapter 5, Regan uses the Blackfoot and Iroquois tribes as examples of how First Nations tribes were organized to uphold peace and maintain bureaucratic systems of law and order before the numbered treaties were signed. She values Indigenous visions of diplomacy, and though I don’t have time to go into detail, she explains many of the diplomatic processes that First Nations tribes had/ have.

Furthermore, I love that Regan connected the importance of FN law and peacemaking with the work of the TRC. She speaks about how one of the TRC’s roles is to try and recognize the significance of Aboriginal oral and legal traditions.  I especially liked when she said: “For reconciliation to be an authentic truth-telling process, it must profoundly disturb a dominant culture history and mindset that ‘misrecognizes’ and disrespects the oral histories, cultures, and legal traditions of Indigenous peoples, including their histories of peacemaking” (Regan, 2010, p. 147). She suggests that there are definite ways Canada can adopt FN practice when it comes to implementing law and political practices.

When looking at my own Treaty 4 Reconciliation project, I want to be attentive to the ways that First Nations elders have pointed out the flaws and injustices in the treaty relationships.

“The elders tell us what went wrong in the treaty relationship they established with Canada, of how treaties that were negotiated according to their diplomatic protocols were subsequently dishonoured as Indian policy and legislation overrode the spirit and intent of the treaties” (Regan, 2010, p. 160).

Any conflicts that Canada has had over treaties, land, or resources is due to our (settler) misunderstanding of the Treaties, not the other way around. In Regan’s job as the director of research for the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada, she has been in contact with, and researched many First Nations elders, Survivors, and Aboriginal people’s opinions and remarks on Treaties. Regan quotes Peigan elder, Tom Yellowhorn when he says, ” The Peigan’s initial enthusiasm for the peace treaty grew into bitterness when the seriousness with which they took the agreement was later not reciprocated by the government… For the Peigan the ceremony of peace making was solemn, undertaken with much gravity, especially when they smoked the peace pipe” (Regan, 2010, p. 160).

tom yellowhorn

“Tom Yellowhorn and family” Photo Credit Gordon Crighton via Glenbow.org

I want to make sure that as I work on this Treaty 4 project, I am not re-telling it from a colonial perspective.  Our Canadian history has been told from a Settler point of view long enough.  As I am in consultation with First Nations elders, I want to allow for some tension and strain in the re-telling. I want to try and give voice to how the elders of that day would have been feeling. I want to be attentive to the First Nations laws and peacemaking practices that were not only present at the signing of Treaty 4, but that were used long before European contact.


If you are like me, and don’t have a lot of experience with First Nation’s ceremony, I watched this video of a pipe ceremony which helped me understand a bit of what it may have looked like at the signing of the treaties.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Unsettling the Settler Within: Chapter 4

Posted on June 14, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, Ed890, First Nations, Masters, Race, reflection, Unsettling the Settler |

Chapter 4 brings light to The Alternative Dispute Resolution Program (ADRP) that Ottawa set up in 2002.  It is a program that was created to settle thousands of litigation claims filed by former Indian Residential School (IRS) students against the Crown and various churches. I had never heard of this program until reading this chapter, and as Regan explained how it worked, I can see why many First Nations people were frustrated with its implementation.

In its essence, the ADRP tried to use a Western model for claims resolution to deal with Aboriginal contentions. The ADRP became another colonial tool for re-victimizing IRS Survivors.

“This reconciliation discourse was actually a living testament to the ongoing dysfunction, violence, denial, and unequal power that characterize Indigenous-settler relations. In this sense, our dialogue contains all the elements of an abusive crazy-making relationship – victims name the abuse, which perpetrators either deny or acknowledge with a promise to reform, while pointing out all the supportive ways in which they are helping victims” (Regan, 2010, p. 112).


I find this picture from Michigan State University’s College of Law telling. This is the picture they use to advertise their ADRP program to law students.

I was quite shocked when I was reading how the ADRP was going about trying to “compensate” Survivors for their losses. The ADRP negotiators were trained to be “neutral,” (how neutral can a White, upper middle class Settler be?) listen to the testimony of Survivors, and then hand out a pre-set limited amount of money based on claims of sexual and physical abuse.  It was written right into the plan that monetary rewards would only be given for those two types of abuse. Loss of culture, language, heritage, and family relations did not play into the settlement. The entirety of The Alternative Dispute Resolution Program was flawed to begin with. When Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, including Paulette Regan, began to debate the value or lack of value of the program at a Calgary conference in 2004, Regan explained it as Native and non-Native people “engaged not in a dialogue but in two monologues, as we talk past each other” (Regan, 2010, p. 115). I think this is a great picture of what dialogue often looks like around Indigenous contentions, especially at a governmental level.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.31.21 PM

This article is quoted in Ch. 4. Gov’t officials took heat on how the ADRP wasn’t promoting healing or reconciliation.

What I take into my own Treaty 4 project is how easily colonial ways and understandings creep into processes that are meant to work for reconciliation.

“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 have to admit, this quote from Regan scares me. Thankfully I have had my Masters supervisor, Mike Cappello challenge me right from the beginning on being the “White Knight” with this Treaty 4 Reconciliation project. That said, I am becoming increasingly more aware of how Euro-centric understandings and approaches to reconciliation are embedded right in my life, and therefore into my project.  When I look at my journey critically, I think a lot of the reason I wanted to do this project had to do with me wanting to “solve the Indian problem.” I wanted to fix what was wrong.  I wanted to do something about the injustices that were being revealed to me.


“White Knight” Photo credit: Richard Paterson via Flickr

When I would explain my dilemma on not becoming the “White Knight,” to friends/ colleagues/peers in my Masters classes, some people would take part in White talk where they told me not to worry, and that I was doing such a good thing by wanting to work on this project. I am realizing more and more that I have to be so careful while taking up this reconciliation project!  If anything, I have learned that I need to be willing to completely abandon it if the First Nation’s elders and allies I will be working with don’t feel like this is an adequate way for me to help work towards reconciliation. This chapter helped me realize that for too long the reconciliation process has been on the backs of First Nations people. The ADRP relied on the IRS Survivors to do the work of re-living their abuse, fighting for compensation, and moving forward.  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? Who/what audience should my project be intended for?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Unsettling the Settler Within: Chapter 3

Posted on June 12, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Ed890, First Nations, Masters, Race, Unsettling the Settler |


Photo Credit: Bittermilk.com

Regan dives more into the “Peacemaker Myth” in chapter 3 of Unsettling the Settler Within.  She discusses how Canada is built on this faulty notion that we are peacemakers and peacekeepers, and always have been.  She uses example after example to prove that this is not the case. She explains how a lot of people tend to compare the colonization in Canada to colonization in the USA, and how they think Canada’s is less violent because of treaty making.  She proves them wrong by showing how government officials and policy makers like Alexander Morris, Duncan Campbell Scott, and David Laird used policy to impart cultural and societal violence towards Canada’s Indigenous people. She even reveals how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police managed to secure a peacemaker reputation from Canada’s early days. “For the most part, the celebatory legend persists. A nation of peacemakers emerged from this popular literature, particularly the valorization of the North West Mounted Police in poetry and pulp fiction produced from the 1880’s to the 1940’s” (Regan, 2010, p. 103).

I was shocked when Regan reminded me of the popular series that played on television in the early 2000’s called Canada: A People’s History. I completely remember watching these shows on CBC. She quotes some astounding lines from an episode titled, “Pioneers Head West: Can Ottawa Settle the Frontier Without Bloodshed?”

“Canada’s answer to the western dilemma; bring peace and order to the West before the settlers arrive. This was established through the NWMP who developed good relations with the natives and encouraged them to negotiate with the Canadian government. During the 1870’s, the natives signed a series of treaties, which transferred land to the Canadian government and transferred Plains Indians onto reserves… by 1880, the frontier had peace and order and was ready for white settlement” (Regan, 2010, p. 104). 

canada a peoples history

Photo Credit: CBC

Regan describes how time and time again, Canada has built up this peacekeeper myth until it has become Canada’s truth. It perpetuates the idea that there were these ‘Great White Man’ heroes who must overcome enormous obstacles to fulfill their national dream” (Regan, 2010, p. 105). These popular myths and their idolized heroes are explaining and justifying the actions of Canada’s past and present. I can definitely see how these myths become the inherent foundation of our country, and how after a while, no one even questions this identity, but rather simply believes it all to be true.


“Mountie” Photo Credit: Sean via Flickr

When looking at how this concept will be reflected in my Treaty 4 Reconciliation re-telling project, I have decided that I would like to emphasize the fact that First Nations people deeply valued the ceremonial customs and spiritual practices around treaty making.  They were entering into these treaties with an understanding of human connection, and they desired to establish trust and respect with the Queen’s representatives. On the other hand, the treaty negotiators spoke a language of peace while offering lies.

“They gave chiefs the treaty pen to touch and thus signal their acceptance, these representatives of the settler government needed no weapons except their false words. Indigenous diplomats who had brought their own diplomatic principles and ceremonial practices to the negotiations had no way of knowing that peacemaking as they understood it had been perverted into an act of symbolic violence” (Regan, 2010, p. 101-102).

treaty medal

“Treaty Medal” Photo Credit: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

I have tried looking for video clips of a re-enactment of the signing of Treaty 4, and I haven’t found any good ones.  I am worried about how big this project is getting as I would really like some videos to be a part of my project. If I must, I am going to try and get some filmmakers help in re-creating parts of this re-telling, although I also understand that as I move forward, I want to be extremely sensitive to video taping and re-creating the ceremonial and spiritual practices of First Nation’s culture. I will be looking for guidance from my First Nation’s elders and allies in this way.

That said, if anyone reading this knows of anyone who is in the film industry who would like to help me create some short video clips, I would be happy to get in touch with them!

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

« Previous Entries

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...