Why Indigenous Content Matters

I recently read Cynthia Chambers article about the importance of treaties and how they impact our daily lives.  It really has encouraged me to think more about my own upbringing, my own familial values and how they clash with some of these ideals, ideals which they would not have been exposed to, nor would they likely accept them.  But I think that Chambers summed up the article excellently, saying “I do not want to take for granted this opportunity I have been given to live differently than my ancestors” (p. 35), and so neither do I want to just let this information pass me by, but instead that I, a white male, will learn about the importance of the treaties and let that knowledge change the way I see the relationships between Indigenous peoples, settlers, the government, and myself.

It is very important for all people(s) living within Canada to learn about Treaty Education and Indigenous Content and perspectives for a few reasons.  Firstly, Indigenous history is Canadian history, it is our history no matter what our ethnicity might be.  Secondly, treaties are historical documents showing the relationships between the government, the indigenous peoples, and the settlers.  We need to know what has been signed, for right or for wrong, and what our responsibilities are as those involved in the Treaties.  It is also important to look at these because it allows for an in depth look at the cultural differences between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada, and the fact that non-indigenous people have a culture, which seems to escape most people.  But ultimately, we as a society need to address the problems that have come up because of the mistreatment of indigenous people and their rights, and the best way to have hope for the future is to know what happened in the past.

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How where we are impacts who we are

Have you ever thought about how where you are impacts you?  Do all people learn the same way and succeed in the same things, or is there a relationship with the land and its environment that impacts the strengths and weaknesses of each learner?  Does local history mean anything when trying to complete the provincial curriculum?

Well, the Mushkegowuk Cree seem to think that the land, the people and their relationships are worth taking a look at to help understand the local people.  A study was done to show how relating young people to their elders and their land, specifically looking at the importance of the Kistachowan River.  The goal was to show how the impacts of colonialism and capitalism had deteriorated local knowledge among young people as compared to the adults and elders in their community, and how reintroducing these young people to the River and the surrounding land emphasizes the historical relationship of the people to each other and to their environment, with the ultimate goal of decolonization and reinhabitation, as defined in the article.

Some examples of how reinhabitation happened within the study includes connecting the young people to their adults and elders, and reestablishing mentoring relationships among them by interviewing adults and elders, and allowing elders to take them on a trip along the river, pointing out significant places and identifying their traditional names for those places.  Some examples of decolonization include using traditional language and names instead of the English ones, using traditional names to identify the whole environment, such as paquataskamik, which has a holistic meaning including the whole natural environment, and correcting incorrect word usage such as noscheemik, which has a much more specific meaning.

Learning about how place impacts students, and how learning more about their own place encourages excitement and a desire to learn more really has me thinking.  It definitely makes me want to learn more about my own area, and the areas that I will end up teaching in, for the purpose of both making the education more accessible to each community, but also to encourage students to learn more about their own history, community, and locality.  We all come from somewhere, and the more we know about where we came from, the better we can understand where we are going.

The Dangers of Common Sense

What is common sense in terms of education?  Well, as I stated in my last post, common sense are those things that people believe about society, politics, religion, gender, etc. that are not necessarily explicitly told, but observed as an overarching, and within schools institutionalized, set of beliefs that determine how school should be seen, how students subject matter should be conveyed, how students should be taught, and so on.  In his article, Kumashiro continues his earlier thoughts on the topic with arguments as to why holding on to common sense actually encourages oppression.  He argues that not only do certain teaching styles not mesh with personalities of certain students, who do not, in fact, learn the way that society says that they are “supposed to” and thus give a disadvantage to one group of people, but that systemic oppression cannot be approached, thought about, and resolved unless students are faced with the realities of their own ‘common sense’.

The biggest thing that Kumashiro states in fighting against oppression towards various groups, is to present students with the realities of their own beliefs, and bring them to a point of crisis, in which they must either choose to hold on to those beliefs by refusing to acknowledge them or they can reject those systemic beliefs and grow.  Without this point of crisis, problems involving oppression become “othered”, in which those who are performing it are some distant group, with little impact on people now.  Crisis makes issues real, no, crisis shows people that which is already real even though they can only see it