Note: I am trying not to get bogged down with the different terms so am using Indigenous and Aboriginal interchangeably below though I know some people will prefer one term over the other.
Source 1: Aboriginal Education Resources – BC Ministry of Education (particularly the video on Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives in the Classroom). https://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/documents.htm
This section of the Ministry of Education’s website has several different Aboriginal Education resources on it. One that I found quite impactful was the short video they have embedded on Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives in the Classroom. It talks about the need to indigenize the education system not only to support the success of Aboriginal students, but also so that all students learn about the people whose territory we are in. There is one point in the video where Laura Tait (Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District’s Director of Instruction in Aboriginal Education) says: “Honestly, if it’s not you, who else is it going to be?” It sounds so simple, but this part of the clip resonated with me, because what Laura said reassured me that everyone is responsible for Reconciliation and all teachers are responsible for indigenizing our education system. It made me feel like I have a role in this work even as a non-Aboriginal person (even if I am not sure what this role is exactly) and validated my interest in my inquiry question.
This was important for me because in some ways I feel very connected to Indigenous knowledge and culture (largely because of two very meaningful work experiences and the relationships I built through those experiences), but I also struggle with whether it is appropriate for me to have such a strong interest in this area as a non-Aboriginal person. I wonder if it is ethical for me to apply for a teaching position in an Aboriginal community or at an Aboriginal school as an “outsider.” Should Aboriginal students be learning about Aboriginal knowledge from Aboriginal teachers, role models who they might see more of themselves in, rather than from me, a non-Aboriginal person? Does the fact that I am neither of Aboriginal nor of European descent change the answers to these questions? Why are there so many non-Indigenous Indigenous Education teachers? Is this ethical? I had asked at one point about the possibility of doing my practicum at an Aboriginal-focused school and was told that this may not be possible because they sometimes will only accept students with Aboriginal ancestry. This made me wonder about the authenticity of my relationship with Aboriginal knowledge, because I can also appreciate the desire to mentor Aboriginal teachers specifically, particularly when they are underrepresented in the profession.
These are hard and uncomfortable questions, but ones I have been pondering over the last couple of years while working in Aboriginal post-secondary education and Aboriginal health, and now in relation to my teaching practice. Watching the Ministry of Education’s video on Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives in the Classroom brought these concerns up again for me and as usual led to more questions than answers, but there’s nothing to do but to keep digging and exploring. As Laura Tait said later in the video: “As Canadians, we can all stand up and find our place and where we fit in all of this.”
Source 2: Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation
I have been learning that many Indigenous cultures see teaching and learning as occurring through relationship. Given this, I have been wondering about the authenticity and appropriateness of the methods I am using to explore my inquiry question.
All of my previous learning about Aboriginal ways of knowing and being has been very organic: I had the privilege of learning by simply being present in certain places or around certain people through my two jobs. Kirkness and Barnhardt (1991) say some of the salient features of Indigenous knowledge are that “it is thoroughly integrated into everyday life, and it is generally acquired through direct experience and participation in real world activities.” I feel lucky that my learning so far has been like this – I connected to Indigenous culture and knowledge by chatting with Elders at work, paddling to Newcastle Island in a big canoe and singing a paddling song, and witnessing a Celebration of Learning event where the ‘Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins told their stories from the heart. This learning, while it occurred in professional contexts, was often quite personal and related to my way of being in the world.
What I am struggling with now is that I am mostly using methods like reading articles and viewing exhibits to explore my inquiry question (along with the interviews required for the assignment). This is largely because I just moved to Victoria and I don’t have the same kinds of relationships here yet. I am missing the experiential learning piece and also a bit of the relationship piece and as such questioning the authenticity of my methods. I wonder how much I am looking outside of myself (at content) rather than within my self/spirit (at ways of knowing/being). Using this thesis to explore my inquiry question is thus, for me, a way of trying to extend my relationship with Indigenous ways of knowing and being rather than Indigenous content. It is my effort to continue to learn through relationship and emotional connection (heart and not just head) and to hold on to a piece of authenticity in that process.
Source 3: Brant, J. (2009). Book Review of Braiding Histories: Learning from Aboriginal Peoples’ Experiences and Perspectives by Susan Dion. Alberta Journal of Education Research, 58(3), 483-487.
I would like to read Dion’s full book but since some of my other sources (particularly the theses) are quite long, I elected to read a review of the book written by Jennifer Brant, a Brock University PhD student, for now.
Brant describes Dion’s Braiding Histories stories as a “transformative approach to the ways in which Aboriginal people are remembered and represented in the school curriculum” (p. 483). The goal of Braiding Histories is to disrupt “dominant approaches that produce and reinforce the notion of Aboriginal peoples as romanticized, mythical Others” (p. 483). Having just watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk on The Danger of a Single Story, I think this romanticization is an example of a single story and I see the importance of bringing other stories to people’s attention. The final chapter of Dion’s book focuses on her own experience working with graduate student teachers and asking them to look within themselves to critically examine their own preconceived notions of Aboriginal people.
This led me to question whether I have a single story of Aboriginal people and I am having trouble reconciling this with my “over-eagerness” to learn about Aboriginal culture at the moment. Am I focusing on Aboriginal education for every assignment in my PDPP program because I have a romanticized view of Aboriginal people/culture or because I have an authentic relationship with Indigenous knowledge? I’m not sure of the answer to this but I know I need to be careful in my teaching practice to not look at my Aboriginal students and assume their culture is the most important part of who they are. It very well may be for some, but there are going to be others who are not growing up with their culture, may not identify with their culture, or simply have other important parts of them in addition to their culture. I spoke with several students at VIU when I was working there who were frustrated because their professors singled them out in class because they are Aboriginal (e.g. to provide their opinion on residential schools). They were tired of being asked to speak on behalf of all Aboriginal people. I think remembering all of these things will help me build authentic relationships with my students.
Brant also notes that Dion says: “teachers cannot teach what they don’t know” and talks about the need for Aboriginal content to be a mandatory requirement in teacher certification programs. I really feel I need to have my own relationship with Indigenous knowledge to include it in my classroom in an authentic way, which is why I worded my inquiry question the way I did (this also came up in Naryn Searcy’s thesis which I have used as my fourth source). There is an Indigenous Education course included in our PDPP curriculum, but it is not until the summer. I wish it had been in the first semester so I could have carried this knowledge through my whole experience in the program. I do, however, appreciate that some parts of our program reflect Indigenous ways of knowing/being even if this is not explicitly stated. For example, the cohort model and community/relationship building opportunities we have engaged in are relevant in this sense.
Source 4: Searcy, N. (2016). Integrating Indigenous and Eurocentric Pedagogy Within the English First Peoples Curriculum. Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia.
Naryn talks about teaching English First Peoples 12 for the first time and encountering her own discomfort with emotionally charged texts and content (e.g. she was not comfortable enough to use humour in her teaching the first year). She says she decided it was her job to improve her comfort level: “I acknowledged that it was no one else’s responsibility but my own to develop my understanding of Indigenous perspectives” (p. 2). She worked collaboratively with Anne Tenning (now District Vice-Principal in Aboriginal Education for SD68) and others to implement sharing circles and outdoor/experiential learning opportunities in her classroom as a way of bringing in Indigenous knowledge. She found she was able to create space for deeper learning in her English 12 class using these methods. Naryn said: “By the end of the EFP12 course, students were responding [to the texts] with thought and depth and often shared emotional information of personal significance” (p. 31). A student also expressed the community-building benefits they experienced: “sharing circles were integral in getting us to bond…at the end of the course we could all trust and connect…you could be yourself, we were a family by the end of the course we were so open with each other it was quite incredible” (p. 31).
I enjoyed reading Naryn’s thesis and was grateful to have the perspective of a non-Indigenous educator to juxtapose with the unpublished dissertation in exploring my inquiry question. I took a few things away from Naryn’s work. First, she integrated not only Aboriginal content, but also Aboriginal ways of knowing/being into her classroom and seemed to do it in a way that felt authentic to her. Naryn discussed wanting to avoid the “add and stir model” and that it is essential to “not only incorporate cultural content but pedagogy as well” (p. 8). Reading her thesis showed me that it is possible to do this as a non-Indigenous teacher teaching non-Indigenous students. It also sounded like working in partnership helped Naryn increase her comfort level. She was lucky to have Anne Tenning there at the first sharing circle with each class to explain the purpose of the activity and the protocol guiding it. This underscored for me the importance of building relationships with people who can support me to bring Indigenous knowledge into the classroom. My relationship-building efforts may make a great deal of difference to how my students experience Indigenous pedagogies.
Naryn also talked about the tension educators experience between humility and anxiety. She discloses she felt “unease as a classroom teacher in ensuring appropriate respect and protocols when working with members of the community or with Aboriginal texts that contained sensitive content”. Several quotes from her thesis stood out to me and really drove home for me that building relationships is fundamental to both deepening my own connection to Indigenous knowledge and incorporating it into my classroom. This fits into my previous learning as well – building relationships and becoming friends with my coworkers is what helped me feel comfortable enough to ask questions, try and make mistakes when working in Aboriginal education and health. This is also what we talk about when we look at how we can build community to create safe learning environments as educators. Naryn said:
“Initially my anxiety was very restrictive in the way it controlled my tone and my energy. Ultimately I began to relax, and after a series of consistently positive engagements with members of the Aboriginal community I realized that I was being strongly supported…I have also come to recognize that my anxiety reflects my respect for the subject matter and a sincere desire to facilitate the course properly…I have come to understand that my anxiety is a necessary part of delivering an English First Peoples course in an appropriate and respectful manner, yet I must not let my fears extend to the point where I am not able to be myself in my role as an educator…Any non-Aboriginal teachers who are implementing Aboriginal content will have to find the balance of healthy humility and a practical sense of caution which makes them question themselves, acknowledge their own limitations, thoughtfully consider their practice, but also still be able to be themselves and find joy in the students and material they are teaching” (p. 78-80).
Source 5: Kirkness, V. J., & Barnhardt, R. (1991). First nations and higher education: The four R’s–respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility. Journal of American Indian Education, 30(3), 1-15.
The article talks about how we need to change the education system to work for Indigenous students so that it respects them for who they are and the knowledge they bring as Aboriginal people, is relevant to their worldview, offers them reciprocal relationships, and helps them exercise responsibility over their own lives. The article also talks about how we need more Aboriginal teachers and includes a quote from Chief Simon Baker from the Squamish Nation who says: “Having White lawyers running your band government is not First Nations self-government.” This made me think again about the questions I mentioned at the beginning of how appropriate it is for me to be working on this stuff as a non-Aboriginal person (even though I am not white), whether I should be looking to teach in community or if those jobs should be going to Aboriginal people, etc. – all uncomfortable questions.
Kirkness and Barnhardt’s (1991) discussion on respect also helped me reflect on my inquiry question. They talk about how university can seem impersonal, intimidating and hostile to Aboriginal students. It can be a place where “little of what [these students] bring in the way of cultural knowledge, traditions and core values is recognized, much less respected. They are expected to leave the cultural predispositions from their world at the door and assume the trappings of a new form of reality, a relativity which is often substantially different from their own” (p. 6).
Though Kirkness and Barnhardt focus on the university setting, I think their reflections apply to K-12 as well. I recently attended a talk by Dr. Nick Claxton at the First People’s House at UVic where he talked about similar issues. Dr. Claxton talked about growing up going to “mainstream” schools where he felt he was missing out on learning about who he is as a Wsanec person. It wasn’t until he was doing his Masters degree that he was able to bring spiritual and cultural knowledge into his education. Kirkness and Barnhardt (2011, p. 7) say that “[f]or the First Nations student coming to the university….survival often requires acquisition and acceptance of a new form of consciousness that not only displaces, but often devalues their indigenous consciousness.” I don’t want this to be the type of classroom I create. I want my classroom to embody the qualities Eber Hampton (quoted in Kirkness and Barnhardt, p. 9) describe as relevant to Aboriginal perspectives on education, including: spirituality, service, diversity, culture, tradition, respect, history, vitality and place. I want my classroom to be a place where real (authentic) learning occurs and where students (and I) can experience the type of personalized “human” relationships Kirkness and Barnhardt describe (p. 10). To do this, I will have to make an effort to exercise my own vulnerability rather than “hid[ing] behind a veneer of academic aloofness and obfuscation” (p. 11).
Source 6: Banks, C., & Banks, J. (1995). Equity Pedagogy: An Essential Component of Multicultural Education. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 152-158.
Discourses on Aboriginal education are often separated from those on multicultural education by activists and scholars who assert that Aboriginal rights need to be considered separately. I have heard people say that Aboriginal people are not just another ethnic group and should not be considered part of “diversity” since they are Indigenous to these lands and were here first. Therefore, Aboriginal rights and education demand specific consideration. There is certainly validity to that argument; however, I chose to include this article on multicultural education in my annotated bibliography on my relationship with Indigenous knowledge because there were some points in it that helped me shift my thinking on my inquiry question.
The article begins by proposing that integrating multicultural content into the curriculum is not the essence of multicultural education. This resonated with me because I have been wondering about incorporating Aboriginal content into the new curriculum vs ways of knowing and being. Banks & Banks (1995) don’t specifically address ways of knowing/being but they introduce the concept of equity pedagogy. Equity pedagogy provides students with tools to “function effectively within, and help create and perpetuate, a just, humane and democratic society” (p. 152). Banks & Banks (1995) also discuss that equity pedagogy requires addressing structures that perpetuate inequalities in schools. This includes social structures (e.g. student-teacher power differentials and status inequities among students) and hidden curriculum/deep structures (e.g. bell schedule, physical layout of classroom).
This helped me think about the fact that incorporating Indigenous knowledge into my teaching practice may not mean presenting a unit on residential schools (content integration). Instead, it may mean shifting the way I conceptualize time and finding ways to let the pace of my classroom be guided by the students rather than the bell. It may mean physically setting up my classroom in ways that build community and flatten hierarchy, rather than lining the desks up in rows facing me (an arrangement that Banks & Banks propose implicitly communicates to student that they “are expected to participate in the same activities simultaneously and to learn in identical ways as directed by the teacher” (p. 154)).
I also took away from Banks & Banks (1995) that implementing equity pedagogy begins with me better understanding myself and my own social location. The Banks & Banks article talks about the need for teachers to engage in reflective self-analysis and examine our own “cultural experiences, values, and attitudes…the ways in which institutionalized conceptions of race, class, and gender have influenced [our] personal lives” (p. 156). The article suggests writing one’s life story as a powerful tool for doing this. I have also been looking at some resources on Indigenous Learning and Recognition Portfolio through work – this is a tool to help people record their prior (particularly experiential) learning to validate the knowledge/skills they have gained from family, community and cultural backgrounds and to build self-awareness and self-confidence. It is mostly being used in post-secondary settings (in some cases by students challenging courses for academic credit), but I have also seen it applied in K-12 in a modified format. I think it is a great instrument for student and teacher self-reflection and I know the more self-aware I am the more I will be able to incorporate Indigenous knowledge in an authentic way.
Source 7: Remarks on the International Indigenous Portfolio Collective from Sharon Hobenshield at Vancouver Island University’s Indigenous Knowledge and Portfolio Sessions – Day 3.
This is a 10-minute video from the Portfolio Dialogue Sessions Vancouver Island University hosted last May, which I was privileged to attend. This particular morning consisted of presentations from Sharon, as well as Janet S talking about the Canoe of Life model for Indigenous Portfolio development (I wish I could find the recording of this but can’t!) and Pedro (our Chilean partner) on Mapuche Indigenous culture.
Sharon spoke a bit about what Indigenous knowledge is and how it can enter into the education system. Here are some quotes that resonated with me in relation to my inquiry question (I haven’t yet fully processed what they have taught me in relation to my inquiry question):
- “Think about today your role, your responsibility, and how you show respect for who you are, first and foremost, but then how you give respect and responsibility.”
- “Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous theory, Indigenous methodology. Western language makes us break those pieces up, but from an Indigenous perspective as Janet has showed us [with the canoe of life] they’re very connected…Indigenous ways of knowing and being…it’s that relationship, that inner spirit, that inner journey to figure out who we are and [VIU Elder-in-Residence] Uncle Gary says our good Shqaluwun I think if I’m saying that correctly.”
- I like that Sharon uses the Hul’qumi’num word ‘Shqaluwun’ and acknowledges she might not be saying it correctly because it reminds me that even Indigenous people are still learning about all of this and that it’s better to try than to leave it out of my practice.
- “We’re in relationship with all these things. And so our role and responsibility is to show respect to all these different things. That the trees have spirit. [VIU Elder-in-Residence] Aunty Florence teaches me that. The trees have spirit. The air has spirit. The birds have spirit. Everything has spirit. Everything has life. Everything has energy. And our role as Indigenous people is to show respect to those things by being in relationship.”
- “My way of showing respect is to get up and give thanks…I’m thanking the sun for rising and I’m thanking my ancestors for bringing me here. I’m thanking them for this life, for this existence. And for me what I’m realizing is that I have to practice that…To show respect, to have responsibility to this, I have to enact that every day. And I’m not saying that I do that everyday. I’m learning and I’m trying to be that. Because when I do make those connections, I do feel more balanced, as Janet said. I do feel like I’m walking in a good way on this Earth…that is a big piece of working with Indigenous knowledge in the Academy.”
- Sharon talks about how she likes Portfolio because it brings out that Indigenous knowledge and also provides a concrete, written tool that the institution likes.
- “It’s about walking in two worlds…and showing respect…the Western world is now a part of this for us right and so it’s showing respect to all those different layers.”
- “As we’re bringing Indigenous knowledge into the institution, what are we going to do with it? What are we going to do for these learners who are standing up so bravely sharing their history, trying to figure out who they are.”
- “This place, institution, academia, university, has been a place in history, education overall as a tool for assimilation. But yet [Student] is standing up saying I’m finding my voice in this place…what a contradiction but what an honour. And so again, what is our role, what is our responsibility in showing respect to someone who’s telling and saying her story. And it can’t be just that symbolic thank you for sharing your story.”
- “It’s about moving forward collectively to change and reshape our relationship together. And we can’t do that as Indigenous people alone. I can’t do that by myself. We need this kind of shared partnership…people who see that there’s a connection to be made, see themselves in this.”
- “In all learners is their need to bring their full selves into the institution and the institution to accept that.”
Other resources to look at:
I am including these knowing that my learning around my inquiry question will continue beyond this annotated bibliography assignment, beyond this semester and beyond this program as it is something I am passionate about continuing to unpack.
- Brown, L. (1995). Educating the Heart. Making the classroom a healthy place: The development of emotional competency in holistic transformative education. Book draft.
- Archibald, J. (2008). Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body and Spirit. UBC Press.
- Monica S’s reconciliation canoe – beautiful piece but I haven’t asked for permission to share so haven’t included it here.
- Videos from Indigenous Portfolio Dialogue Sessions at VIU – portfolio sharing from 3 generations of Indigenous women
- Teaching for Indigenous Education – resources from UBC for educators to support PD in Aboriginal education: http://www.indigenouseducation.educ.ubc.ca
- FNESC resource on how to teach math in a First People’s context: http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/PUB-LFP-Math-First-Peoples-8-9-for-Web.pdf
- Northwest Territories education resources – culture is supposed to be embedded in the curriculum there and I thought about doing my practicum there for that reason. There are a couple documents I have saved and am interested to read:
- Inuuqatigiit: The Curriculum from the Inuit Perspective
- Dene Kede Curriculum documents
- Stiffarm, Lenore. (1998). As We See…Aboriginal Pedagogy. University of Saskatchewan. Published by Hignell Printed in Winnipeg, MB.
- Spirals of inquiry: https://henriksenlearning.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/spirals-of-inquiry/
- Aboriginal Perspectives into the Teaching and Learning of Science Education: Beginning the Conversations in Southern Saskatchewan