Week 8: Teaching Indigenous Content Through a Non-Indigenous Lens

 

The narritive within “Learning From Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing”, in its self, is a source of reinhabitation and decolonization. When the articpiapnts partook in tradition Mushkegowuk practices such as river trips, they were walking in the shoes that INdigenous people group. When they listeneed to the elders speak, and explores their history, language, and land, they were leanring about their ways of life. And by leanring about their modern day issues, they were understanding the truth. All of this is a form of decolonization, or at least it is a start. By sharing what they leanred about the Mushkegowuk people, their land, their history, and their present issues, they were begining a process of reinhabitation.

The experience within this narraitve provided a great way of educating, decolonizing, and reconsiling, however, it is not often that teachers are given this opportunity. This is a scenary that reminded me of my own experiences:

Human connections to the environment is a concept that was introduced to me by one of my high school teachers. Since then, I have put an importance on this connection and continue to work at re-establishing it within my life. I do this by spending as much time outdoors, bringing plants into my house, and having a garden where I grow my own food. It wasn’t until last Thursday during my internship that I first compared this connection to Indigenous worldview. The outcome for my lesson was Indigenous Perspectives on the Ecosystem for grade 7 science (IE7.1). As I prepared for what I would teach, I struggled with the content that I would be passing on to my students and the context in which it would be coming from. I am not Indigenous, and despite what I may think, I know very little about Indigenous culture. How, then, was I too teach such a lesson? After reviewing what ecosystems are, I opted to show the students two videos: one of an elder explaining Indigenous perspectives on ecosystems, and another of an elder taking viewers on a medicine walk outside of Moose Jaw. The elders in the videos effectively passed on their cultural views of the environment– something I wouldn’t have been able to do so well. After our lecture yesterday, I have been thinking a lot about my lesson. While my students were able to take a lot from the videos, at this current moment in time, teachers are not always able to have elders teach Indigenous culture for them, therefore, it is a totally normal occurrence for non-Indigenous teachers to have to step up to the plate. I wonder now, how Indigenous students feel about non-Indigenous people teaching them about their own culture. Especially if it is white people… descendants of the people who assimilated their ancestors… and part of the reason Indigenous culture needs to be taught today. It is a messy situation; one that I currently do not have the answer to, but will continue to think about, acknowledge, and work towards throughout my teaching practice. In the meantime, however, utelizing what is available to us such as elder talks, Buffalo Days, Treaty celebrations, powpows, and even youtube videos, are succesful ways of beginging the process of decolonization and reinhabitation. I think the firt step is creating awarenes, and if you can do that, then you have a start that you can move even further from!

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