Treaty Event Blog #6

Preparing for the Treaty event, and our topic reimaging education caused me to think a little deeper on the topic of Treaty Ed in our schools.  During my preparation for the Treaty event I researched a little on exactly what the differences were in Indigenous education vs the settler image of education.  As I worked through that information, I began to think of challenging questions that may come up, as Tessa and I presented.  Thinking through those questions, which by the way, never did come up, allowed me to see that Indigenous ways of education are beneficial to all students and families.

The Indigenous ways of education seem to focus very much on learning by doing, inquiry or experiential learning.  The learning comes from working along side and observing others who have a higher skill level in a certain task than the learner.  The learning focuses on the process rather than the end product.  Much of Indigenous learning also takes place in nature, on the land.

How do we bring this way of learning into the classroom?  Well we recognize first and foremost that the process of learning is valuable perhaps even more so than the end product.  We as teachers bring in parents, Elders, and others who have knowledge, we allow our students to see that we are not experts at everything.  We acknowledge and incorporate the local Indigenous languages in our displays, books.  We play music that is important to our Indigenous students and we include the ceremonies that are significant as much as we do the settler ceremonies.  In our homes and communities we talk about what our children are learning about Treaty Education in their classrooms and expand on that knowledge. We talk to the policy makers about making Treaty Ed a part of the mainstream curriculum and not an add on hidden at the bottom of the curriculum website. In our communities, we talk about the token pledges and art work, so that those things have meaning and significance not just things that decorate the wall and look good.

These idea along with many others are important in the reconciliation process.  These things begin in a very small way to recognize that education was a Treaty promise.  In order to have reconciliation we need to begin to honour the Treaty promises.  These small ways as they become commonplace ideally lead to bigger ideas and actions.  The end result being that we see that Indigenous ways of learning benefit every child.

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Complementary seminars working well together. Blog #5

I thought both the Truth and We are Treaty People seminars were well done.  I also thought both seminars complemented each other well, almost like the seminars were planned together.

I always struggle with name changes to buildings and things like that.  I am a bit of a traditionalist, and I don’t like change.  So, when I hear of proposed name changes for those types of things, I usually have the thought of why waste all that money.  After the What’s in a name portion of the Truth seminar, it has gotten me to reconsider my thinking.  I naively thought that those we honour by naming something after them would be stand out citizens of the time.  It was shocking that Davin was not such a stand out citizen, and still had a school of all things named after him.  As part of my miskosowin process for this class, in the future I will be doing some research into the name changes that are proposed.

During the debrief of the Truth seminar, the topic of the land acknowledgement statement and plaques/pictures recognizing We are Treaty People are being placed in visible places in the schools.  It was mentioned that these are just tokens with no real value, and that my idea of it’s a starting place was another common rebuttal.  During the discussion I wasn’t able to articulate my thoughts, but as we moved into the We are Treaty People seminar it became clearer.

We were asked in the Treaty people seminar to do a mind map of what the statement We are Treaty People meant to us.  Through that mind map and the video the group showed, I was able to sort my thoughts out.

I do acknowledge that the statements and plaques can easily become just tokens and that the it’s a starting place can be a rebuttal, for those that don’t want to do much, or just tick of the Treaty Ed box.  I also see those things in a different light.  I see those statements and plaques in a prominent place as tool to start a conversation, about a very hot topic in this province.  I also see placing those things on the walls in the schools, tells the children that this is important.  Kids are taught implicitly and explicitly at home and at school, that things that go on the walls are important.  In our homes we place photographs, art work that have meaning to us, in the school when things are hung on the bulletin board the children know that it is important  and meaningful.   I also feel that if parents and visitors are seeing these things, it becomes a little easier to ask questions about it or for those who are nervous to brooch the subject it gives them a starting point in non-threatening way.  I don’t believe most people are ready for an in your face approach to these topics and I think that approach will turn people off and they will tune out, then we make no progress. This is most definitely an issue that will not be solved in a few years.  As Justice Murray Sinclair says it will take generations.  I know most us of hope not, but the rift has been growing for generations, it won’t close quickly.  What we can do is start with our young kids and teach them well, and they will teach others.

Becoming critical, somewhat. Field trip 2

I didn’t really know or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, to the fact that Fort Qu’Appelle was where Treaty 4 was signed.  As I reflect on the field trip experience, it is odd to me that the place just didn’t feel like it had that feeling of historical significance.  The feeling I am talking about is one I get when I am at a place and I am in awe to some degree of what had happened in that place.  I have been trying to sort out why there wasn’t that awe, even minimally.  I wonder was it that I was just trying to absorb everything, and because treaty education is so new to me that I was hyper focused on not missing anything significant that I didn’t give myself a chance to just be and feel.  Maybe it was that the town is so modern, and other than a monument or two and some murals on the wall there is very little that tells the town’s significance in Saskatchewan and Canadian history.  Or is it that my old learnings and teachings are still so deeply rooted, that I didn’t feel the significance, if that is so then I really need to continue examine my feelings and thoughts regarding treaty education, on a deeper, more critical level.

Some new learning and connections did come out of the trip.  I found what Larry said about pipes not being able to be taken into the city because of the sacredness of the pipe and that the city was not a place for something so sacred intriguing.  As well as when he talked about how education was important but so was ceremony. The week before we went to Fort Qu’Appelle I had read an article about a smudging walk in the North Central neighbourhood in Regina.  I found it very interesting that the article mentioned that since the smudging walk began, positive things were happening the neighbourhood.  I think it very much tied into what Larry was telling us.

Alma shared with us that Indigenous people never suffered from cancers and diabetes before the white settlers arrived.  I couldn’t help but think that these diseases are just one more ongoing way that the colonizers are affecting Indigenous peoples in a negative way.

I really appreciated the impromptu tour of Sacred Heart Church in Lebret.  I am always excited to tour most any church, I find them so interesting and peaceful.  One way in which I have grown is that before taking education classes, is that I would have appreciated what the guide had to say about the building and enjoyed the tour.  I noticed that after we left, and I had a chance to process I was looking at the information more critically, than I usually would.

I had a few questions that I am left with after this trip.

  • Was Sacred Heart church the church that Calvin was referring to when he said the Metis built it? If so why was that not mentioned in the church tour?
  • I noticed that there were ribbons on Alma, Evelyn and Audrey’s skirts. Are the ribbons significant or just decoration?
  • This is just a wish. We were in the healing center and I would like to have learned more about the center and how healing is promoted there.

Old places, new thoughts. Field trip 1

Our first field trip of the year took us to places around Regina.  Leading up to the field trip I had a bit of a crappy attitude, because of course its Saturday taking a day away from my family, been to some of the places that were scheduled a time or two so what was the point yada, yada.  Of course, with many things that I start out with a crummy attitude about attending, once I get going, my attitude changes sometimes slowly, other times quickly.  This time my attitude changed relatively quickly because of the people who were on this trip.  As we trickled into the classroom to meet and start our trip, we were having casual conversations about our lives.  To me when I am in any type of group, this is my favourite part, getting to know people on a little bit of deeper level whether they share personal stories or just chat about class stuff in a more casual way.

We took a trip out to the Regina Indian Industrial School(RIIS) grave  site.  I had just been there in March with another class.  Back in March, what stuck with me was how the parents didn’t know if their child was in there or not and mostly though was that I thought having unmarked graves was a huge injustice.  In the couple of months between the visits I mulled over that having marked graves was not necessarily something that may have been important to Indigenous people but maybe a settler way of thinking.  I did still think it was very unjust that there were no records or the records of who was buried were lost.  What hit me most on the second visit was the vast difference between the RIIS grave site and the other grave sites in Regina.  The RIIS grave site was on a busy road, it is not marked so anyone driving by would have no idea it was there, a train track is right beside, and planes are flying quite low. As one of the men in the video said it is not a restful place.  Compared to the Riverside cemetery, it is well marked, it has a fence around it and paved paths for people to follow, it is a very peaceful place as it should be.  The inequalities just astounded me.

Another space that I have been too countless times was the museum.  This time though instead of just admiring the beadwork and looking at the artifacts in the Indigenous galleries, I paid closer attention to the wording used in the description of treaties.  I found it ridiculous that one statement about why the treaties came about was worded that the First Nations needed to the treaties to “cope” with the white settlers.  It just blew me away that someone thought that was a good way to explain treaties.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo was interesting to me in several ways.  When she spoke about her sister (I think) being one of the Missing and Murder Indigenous Women in this country, it really made think again of the faceless doll project and how it keeps these women as abstract and that really nothing needs to be done about their plight.  As Melinda shared about her sister it also hit me that perhaps if more Indigenous people had a platform like Melinda did to share about the personal side of the issues, perhaps there would be more of an outcry and demand for change.  Non-Indigenous people use their influence all the time.  I also felt that the success of her community with the solar power needs to be heard far and wide because I think it would give many people pause to think of the negative stereotypes they hold against Indigenous people.  The community is taking on big oil to save us from ourselves.  We need to sit up and take notice and listen.

In all it was a great day with great learning.  Mostly though the conversations on our way to the different locations were great and while I don’t remember specifics, I do know that it provoked my thought process about what I had learned.

 

Learning from each other Blog #4

I was part of seminar 1 on the Treaties in Canada.  In preparation for the seminar my understandings Treaties was deepened.  Through my other classes on my journey to be a teacher I came to understand I was a treaty person because I live on land that was acquired through Treaty 4 and I still benefit from that treaty.  The deeper understanding came from Tammy’s comparison of the treaties being like a marriage covenant rather than a contract.  The covenant made sense to me because when the Indigenous nations came to negotiate the treaties, they believed that their Creator was part of that treaty and that the Creator owned the land.  Therefore, the land was not theirs to give, but to share.  Much like in good marriage, you aren’t expected to give your identity away but to share yourself with your partner and work together to build something great.  The other thing that created deeper meaning was listening to Pam Palmater’s talk on section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982.  That section affirms and acknowledges the treaty rights.  However, as we move forward, that section is repeatedly ignored, and treaty rights get stampeded time and again.  We keep getting further away from reconciliation each time the treaty rights are ignored and trampled on.  I thought at first, naively, the 94 calls to action would solve the issues between the white people and Indigenous people in Canada, I see now we have a long way to go.

Seminar 2 was a presentation on Missing and Murder Aboriginal Women and Children.  I thought the group who presented did a great job of presenting such a tough topic.  It was a topic that generated a lot of discussion.  I had mixed feeling about the activity of creating a faceless doll to represent a missing woman.  One of the things that really bothered me about these dolls, not just in class, but the whole movement is that these women aren’t faceless.  I think that it is very disrespectful to the women themselves, and to their families.  I remember a case of an Indigenous woman who had been murdered, and the media kept referring to the woman as the victim never using her name.  I remember the family being on the media and saying her name at every opportunity because they felt she deserved to be known by her name not as just some faceless  woman.  I don’t remember who the victim was because it was 20 or more years ago.  I do remember how important it was to her family that her name be known.  Because of this instance I feel those faceless dolls are disrespectful to that family and all others.  As we talked about in our circle when we know someone’s name we enter into a relationship with them.  I also felt uncomfortable and guilty after making the doll.  My doll was in my mind skimpily dressed.  It wasn’t intentional, I am just bad a judging size.  However, because of the badly sized clothing on the doll I felt that I was perpetuating a stereotypical image of the women.  I hated the thought that if someone other than my class was to see this doll that the image of the women being prostitutes would be front and center.  Many of the missing women worked as prostitutes yes but they were so much more than job they did.   I really appreciated that group took the time to debrief the activity and make us think if the activity was valuable in the classroom.  I do not think it is.

 

Apologies Blog #3

First, I was very excited that Pam Palmater’s talk about reconciliation was a requirement for this class.  I had wanted to attend in person, but the timing was off.  She is a very powerful speaker.  The part of her talk that resonated with me most was when she spoke about the apologies offered to the survivors of the residential schools.  I never realized just how poor some of the apologies were.  I was always on the uneducated understanding that officials would give good meaningful, genuine apologies.  When she said that an apology is an acknowledgement of wrong doing, reparation, and a promise not to do it again, it was like a light bulb went on.  I had heard some of the official government apologies, I began to see why they aren’t good enough.  The reparation is there in some instances, and in most instances, reparation is given grudgingly and as part of a court judgement.  The acknowledgement that residential schools, for example, happened is there but there seems to be very little, if any, acknowledgement of the damage and how wrong it was. There is no promise or commitment not to do it again.  As a matter of fact, in land claims and education the wrongs continue, just in a different way.

On a personal level, maybe its coincidental or not? but there has been a lot of talk recently about Pope Francis and how he will not be issuing a formal apology to the Residential school survivors.  For me this is causing some discomfort in my ideas and beliefs.  As a practicing Catholic, the Pope is the authority of the church and as such his decisions are to be in the best interest of all Catholics.  He sets the tone for the Church’s followers in these hot issues.  As an education student and a compassionate person, I find it unbelievable that it is so difficult to offer a true, heartfelt apology.  I don’t know if any of the churches involved have made financial reparation, but the possibility of financial repercussions shouldn’t preclude someone from making an apology.  I don’t fully understand all the legalities and semantics of why the apology won’t be issued by the Pope but I do know that  part of my miskasowin process is to try to understand it and work out this internal conflict I have.

As for myself, while I grapple with the whole Catholic church apology thing, there are things I can do in regards to Truth and Reconciliation.  The first one is to listen to more Pam Palmater, she makes things very easy to understand, in common terms.  The second is to continue to be open to and ask critical questions, when my beliefs and ideals are in conflict with Truth and Reconciliation principles.  I feel have come a long way since starting my education journey, about my very racist ideas of Indigenous people, most just uneducated nonsense.  However, it is still a process.Just because my knowledge has changed, improved and allowed me to change my surface thinking in big ways, there is still a lot of work for me to do to over come all my deep held thoughts and attitudes that are 49 years in the making, the deep ideas and rebuttals aren’t going to change in 2 years.  It is especially hard when many of same aged friends hold those old views, it’s a real challenge for me to have those discussions yet, because I feel so unprepared yet.

Finding miskâsowin

Engaging in miskâsowin in this course for me is a mental process with some research thrown in.  I say that it is research and mental process because I thought I knew who I was in terms of my family and my heritage.  I also thought I knew what it was to be a proud Canadian.  As I journey through the Faculty of Education, my old ways of thinking, my colonial ways of thinking have been literally rocked to the core.  From my first ECS 110 class where we were very blatantly told we were racist even if we are nice, to now ECCU 400 where my vision of my country is being turned upside down, Canada does have a dark past and sometimes its difficult to admit that.

The research part is learning about the Treaties, what they meant, and what they mean now.  I need to understand those to move forward to be a good teacher.  If I don’t have the knowledge, I can’t lead my students and own children to their miskâsowin, knowing where they come from.

The research can only take me so far, I have make that knowledge my own.  I think over this course the most important thing I can do is recognize that some of these ideas are going to make me uncomfortable.  It is how I deal with that discomfort that will either bring me closer to miskâsowin and tâpwêwin or further from it.  In order to come closer, and embrace the process, I need to acknowledge the discomfort, rather than brush it aside, and consider myself a bad person for the thoughts and discomfort.  Acknowledging the discomfort is the first step but delving into the whys of what is causing the discomfort is very important.  I need to remember to ask myself, why did that information bring on this thought?  Is this something I truly believe? Is it old ways of thinking?  Do I not have enough knowledge about the topic to think differently?  Am I afraid I am going to offend my friend if I voice a different opinion?  Exploring these questions rather than dismissing the thought or feeling is much more productive than berating myself for the thought.  Exploring the outdated thoughts that come into my head, will bring closer to be confident to speak the truth even to the friend I was afraid of offending.  Over the duration of this course that is going to be my main focus, to explore rather than suppress my feelings when these topics come up.  Hopefully by the end I will be just a bit more confident in engaging in the conversations.

 

Who Am I?

In the simplest form I am Pam to most people, mom to a select 6.  Pam is the simplest and my preferred way of identity.  Pamela is to formal for my personality and liking.  Adding my last name identifies me from all the other Pams or Pamelas out there.  Besides my name who am I?

I am mom of 6 children, the way I am most proud to identify myself.  I am also a 48 year 3rd year education student.   An identity I am also very proud of because even though its late in the game, I am proud that I am following my life long dream to be a teacher.  I also identify as a wife and a woman.  I am proud to be married for 28 years and a wife but don’t often include as part of my identity.  I am also a woman, which happens to be my biological gender which again is something I don’t include in discussions about my identity.  Wife and woman to me while they are something I am has also been a complicated identity

In the broader scope I am white, and my ancestry is British, Irish and German.  I identify most with my British ancestry, because I was closest to my Grandma who was a war bride from England and heard the stories of her growing up in England.  I am also Canadian.  I am proud to be Canadian.  My Canadian identity is a bit troublesome as well because of the past, but also the present knowing that many of the things I take for granted as a white Canadian are still denied to some because of their identities.

I don’t consider myself having a Treaty identity simply because I don’t know enough about being a Treaty person to form an identity.  I know I still benefit from the treaties but that is not enough to form an identity. I have a sense there much more to identifying as a Treaty Person than I know about at the present.

Who I identify as is much more complicated that the names I give myself or others give me, but those names simplify things to make it easy. Chelsea Vowel used the term settlers or Indigenous or First Nations for simplicity but the identities of all are so much more complicated.  I think we need to keep that in mind when we are identifying each other and ourselves.  Simplicity is good in some instances, like writing but knowing the stories behind the simple identities is something we should strive for.