Question: How do I responsibly teach my students about aboriginal perspectives when I have limited experience and knowledge in the topic?
I have found exploring aboriginal education to be a difficult journey for myself; I come from a Eurocentric upbringing with my heritage being English, Irish and Scottish; Though both myself and all members of my family were born in B.C. I still feel a connection to this heritage. It is not to say that this was good or bad but for majority of my life before entering the professional development program these attitudes and tendencies are all I had been exposed to. Since the program began the depth of knowledge and insight I have gained is to me rather surprising. My personal/professional journey beyond what has been covered during time up on campus at Simon Fraser University can be summarized by three categories: The books I’ve read, the professional development day within Langley and the Thunderbird club at Langley fundamental middle secondary school .
I’ll share my critique of one book and give the names of others you can explore when you have some spare time.
- Peace pipe dreams by Darrell Dennis.
I found this book really helped me understand many of the misconceptions I had about First Nations. From funding and taxation First Nations to the Indian Act, it covers many topics facing First Nations in a humour that I was able to relate to. One issue for example was the about funding for reserves. True that they aren’t taxed and the government does provide the reserves funding to these parcels of land. The funding for many is barely enough to provide upkeep of the facilities within them and with increasing populations on the reserves it has caused a lack of housing for many who live there. Reserves are often forced to choose between creating new homes or maintaining what is there, there’s not enough funding to do both. The book has helped me see more sides of issues facing First Nations.
The other books I read that I would recommend are;
RED a Haida Manga by Michael Yahgulanaas
The Sacred Tree by Phil Lane, Jr. Judie Bopp, Michael Bopp, Lee Brown, and Elders.
RED is an easy story that fun to read if you enjoy that art style; The Sacred Tree provides a deeper look as First People’s spirituality.
ODYSSEY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT DAY
Opening and Closing ceremonies
The opening and closing ceremonies at the odyssey professional development day in Langley were humbling. As I stated before prior to this program my education on First Nation’s issues was limited to what I had learned in social studies from high school and stories heard on the news. Langley sits on the unceded territories of the Stó:lō Nation which is represented by the Kwantlen, Mastqui and Katzi Nations. To hear the emotional stories by many of the elders presenting that day and how far they have come was inspiring. Many within the audience were in tears and while I did not I cannot help but empathize with them. The closing ceremony which was a cleansing ceremony where the elders collected the tissues from the opening ceremonies and burned them. This was so that the tears and bad emotions brought out from the opening ceremony could be removed. The instruction we were given for this was that when we leave the fire pit that we do not look back; In looking back you are not able to remove the spirits and bad emotions that you were trying to release, if you are always looking back then you keep those regrets with you and cannot more forward. This spoke to me in that during much of this practicum I have looked back on my lessons I’ve taught and held onto regrets about those lessons. While it is important to reflect on the lesson and to improve on what has been done; being trapped by what I haven’t been able to do has limited my growth, I must look forward to become better.
Professional Journey: There are a couple ways which I have explored aboriginal education while teaching. The first of which is by joining the Thunderbird club at my placement school; This is an aboriginal club that explores topics and interests within aboriginal knowledge, it was open for anyone to join and I jumped at the chance. The club has participated in a number of activities from snowshoeing, making bannock and a poster competition.
The other professional part for my journey occurred during the Odyssey professional development day where I join in a workshop by Mike James on Ancient Traditional Native games which I was then able to include a couple for my minor games unit.
Mike provides a number of workshops for teaching Native games as well as counselling to aboriginal people. If you are interested in learning more about the games feel free to contact me; But If you’d like the history as well as the games I recommend contacting Mike at his website. http://www.aahngp.ca