my miskâsowin journey

My miskâsowin journey has been much different than I thought it would be. I expected all these revelations and self-discoveries about myself. Instead, I found that I challenged my thinking and beliefs a fair amount this semester. Conversations and actions I thought were positive, I realized were maybe not as advantageous as I once thought. I’ve learned that sometimes when I don’t know the appropriate way to respond, or I’m not sure I know the ‘right’ facts, I will avoid confrontations with people. However, if there is one thing I have learned through my miskâsowin journey, it is that as a treaty person, I am responsible for speaking up and sharing the correct truths.

“Now that you’ve seen it.. You cannot unsee it. Now that you’ve heard it, you cannot unhear it… There is no innocence now that you’ve heard it, and now that you’ve seen it” – Noel Starblanket

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miyo-wîcêhtowin

The Treaty invitational event reinforced in me that truth, reconciliation, and decolonization will only happen if we widen the circle. I think it’s important that as a settler Canadian, I continue to be an active treaty partner and work to widen the circle of truth and understanding. I believe our treaty event allowed for meaningful and informative conversation in a way that wasn’t forceful or hurtful to any one person. I think we did a good job at recognizing what discussion topics were important to us, and taking the opportunity to share our areas of interest/passion with our guests.

At our school, we work hard to honour and commit to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. Last year, we did a school-wide project with the Calls to Action, and this year many teachers have continued to recognize and incorporate the Calls to Actions in their classrooms. One way I think we could further expand our knowledge and promote the work we are doing is by involving the community. It seems we do these great things, but it primarily just stays within the building. I would like to see how we can take our work of recognizing the Calls to Action and introduce those into the community centres. By expanding school’s treaty event to more than just friends, families, and classmates, schools can continue to expand the circle in communities.

One thing I think that is important if I were to do this at school would be to ensure there is no cultural appropriation. It would be important that those running each aspect of the event are aware of their parameters on the information they can share. For example, as a Settler Canadian, it would be inappropriate and disrespectful for me to explain the teachings of drum groups, then lead a drum group.

I think a treaty event in our building would be a great opportunity for all learners to incorporate Indigenous teachings into their practices. This would be beneficial for Indigenous learners to promote their cultures, while the non-Indigenous students can promote the work of being active treaty partners. We currently are fortunate enough to have two strong Elders in our building. This treaty event can help students and family members become connected with our Elders.

The treaty event really allows students to take ownership of their learning. I believe students learn best when they have some control over what they learn and how they learn it. This would be a really good opportunity for students to collaborate with one another, inquire into themes that are important to them, and figure out how best they want to show what they know.

For me, our treaty event has opened up conversations with my family. I think that my mom walked away with a lot of new information, and a different perspective than she was used to. So, we have discussed her new information since then. Although these discussions surrounding truth and reconciliation with family members may not always end in agreeance, there are more of these conversations happening. I think this is a step in the right direction, and I hope to continue the discussions with my family regarding truth, justice, and reconciliation.

Seminars 3 and 4

Seminar 3 brought forth a lot of myths that I was unaware of. I knew there was controversy about Davin school, but I never knew why people wanted to change the name. It was eye opening to hear all about all the shady things Mr. Davin did. It astonishes me that someone can do all these awful things, and is rewarded with having a school named after him. Even fast forward to now, and the decision to leave Davin as is further proves that certain institutions are still not ready to take responsibility for the harm that was done to Indigenous people. It really made me think, “what other buildings or streets do we have in this city that are named after these types of people?” I think as we continue to work towards truth and reconciliation, we will see a lot more of these situations come out throughout our city.

I liked how Seminar 3 didn’t just focus on Davin and Dewdney. I enjoyed learning about Indigenous taxes and the myths surrounding those topics. I frequently hear people say, “well they get so much for free”. And although I knew that wasn’t true, I never knew what was true and how to correct that myth. Although I still am unsure of all the ins and outs, this group made me want to explore this misconception further to better understand.

As part of Seminar 4, we chose to carousel our seminar. When planning on how we would answer our prompt, we always left with more questions and fewer answers. Everyone’s understanding on what it means to be a treaty person is so different, so we thought it would be best to brainstorm with our peers what that means. We wanted our seminar to raise further questions and allow our peers and ourselves the chance to really think about what it means to be a treaty person. It is important as a settler Canadian, that I am aware of what being a treaty person means to me and the privileges I have because of these treaties. When thinking of what it means to be a treaty person, there are major imbalances between settlers and Indigenous peoples. Therefore, we thought the best way to work through those imbalances was through reflection and discussion.

Seminars 1 and 2

Every day I come to this class, I leave feeling like I’ve learned so much. As I drive home, I frequently have those “wow. I really have so much to learn” moments. Not only do I leave feeling more knowledgeable, I also leave feeling challenged. I feel challenged with how hidden, yet obvious racism is in our city. I feel challenged about the ways in which I thought I was supporting my Indigenous students. And I feel challenged to do more to help the Indigenous students I work with in my room.
The two seminars last week were no exception. I really enjoyed taping out the treaty map of Saskatchewan. It was a great chance to have a visual, and collaborate with peers. I think this would be an awesome Kickstarter activity in classrooms. This would be perfect before students were to delve deeper into the treaties within Saskatchewan. I was really proud to show up to Congress on Saturday and see that our stellar tape job was left kept perfectly in tact! Tammy’s speech blew me out of the water. Her real life comparison was a strong connection for me. I think almost everyone can relate to Tammy’s speech. We all are either in relationships with an unequal balance of power, or know someone in this relationship. For me, Tammy’s speech made treaties more relatable, and personal. I thought Tammy accurately articulated the feelings and processes that went into these treaties, and it was inspiring to hear how she plans to take her truths from the past in order to move forward.
The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women presentation was quite impactful. When I thought of all the times I’ve walked to my car late after work, or walked home from downtown, I always felt a little uneasy being alone. However, I never had to think about being seven times more likely to go missing. When I think of the Indigenous girls in my classroom, it terrifies me to think this could happen to them. No matter your gender or your race, you shouldn’t have to be unsafe walking home at any hour. It frightens me to think of one of my girls just walking home from a friends house, but never making it home, just because of her race. Although it’s been over a week since we did the faceless dolls project, I was reminded of it today at school. One of my male Indigenous students had to write a poem about what love means to them. He started rapping about his mom and how much he loves her. I all of a sudden got hit with a “oh my gosh” moment. What if that was his mom? I can’t imagine going through life without my mom there for me. I’d like to think I’m a functioning adult, and I still call my mom for help once a day. It is awful these women are susceptible to this every time they leave their house.
The faceless dolls is something I have seen many times. In fact, the year before I started at my school, students worked on the faceless dolls project. I was pleased we had the chance to try it in our ECCU class. During the talking circle, looking over the collection of dolls really hit home on what those dolls represent. Who are these women? Is it appropriate that there faceless, or are we not acknowledging who these women are? My interpretation of having them be faceless is that these dolls can represent anyone. By having the dolls faceless, people might stop to think about why they’re faceless. That then might lead to people acknowledging that this topic is rarely spoken about, and the women going missing are rarely named and talked about. I also somewhat agree with the video we watched. Is it fair for different people across the country to label the dolls with a person and share their story?

“Decolonize the hearts and minds of our neighbours, our friends, our family members…”

I found Pam Palmater’s discussion quite interesting. I found her speech to be quite direct, and enjoyed that she was straight forward with what she was trying to say. I found it interesting when she explained that truth needs to happen before reconciliation can happen. I was stunned by the statistics that Palmater shared. I was at a loss of words when Palmater stated that that Indigenous Women were seven times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women. This was hard to swallow, as I think of my Indigenous females I see at school everyday. This is a risk they face, just because of their culture.

 

When linking Palmater’s discussion to the Principles, I am drawn to Principle 6 – “Reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health, and economic outcomes that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians”. I think this is key in order to move forward. As Palmater stated in her speech, we need to “decolonize the hearts and minds of our neighbours, our friends, our family members…” (40:40). I believe that in order to create a more equitable and inclusive society, we first need to make sure that everyone sees the disadvantages Indigenous peoples face when it comes to social, physical, and mental well being. It is crucial that everyone confronts these disadvantages, head on. Palmater also states that, “Indigenous people shouldn’t carry the burden of educating everybody. There is a role for our allies to play” (41:38). When I think of my role in a diverse school, I think of how important this principle is. Our students hit every socioeconomic status, and come from almost every type of family imaginable. No two students are walking the same path. Therefore, I think it’s important we make all young people aware of the inequities our peers face on a daily basis, while still keeping the integrity of these people. 

 

Next year, our staff is starting an initiative called Following Their Voices. Although it is still in the beginning phase, and I am unclear of what that will look like, I’m already aware of how this program will affect my teaching. For example, some of the research this program is based off of shows that Indigenous students feel their teachers hold them to a lesser standard than their non-Indigenous peers. Hearing that students within Saskatchewan feel that way has challenged how I operate within my classroom. I already find myself aware of how much time I spend with each student, and that I provide as much one-on-one time with each student as possible. Although this is simple in theory, I find myself being pulled to the more vocal students. It is the student’s that ask for help, or have parents that advocate for their child, that sometimes take up more of my time. Since we looked at the Following their Voices research, I’m challenging myself to spend less time with those students, and more time with the more reserved students. I hope that by in doing so, these quieter students feel that my expectations are the same for them as they are for everyone else in my room.

When you know your why…

This is one of my favourite videos around. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it.

  1. The man in the video can seriously sing!
  2. Michael Jr’s message I think is so important. When people know why they are doing something – whether it’s a job, school, to help someone, etc. – they’ll typically do it with more purpose and intent. I find this especially true when working with students on Math… If they can see how the Math concepts will help them in the real world, most of them are more likely to be successful.

How can the Blanket Exercise lead to Miskâsowin and Tâpwêwin?

Now that I know there is some Irish in my family, I find myself a little more intrigued in Irish culture. As I mentioned last week, growing up with no sense of culture didn’t really bother me until lately. I always thought it was cool how my friends celebrated Ukrainian Christmas, or were Scottish dancers outside of school. However, I didn’t really realize until the past couple of years what it really means to have that sense of culture. When I talk to my parents about this, they both said they didn’t grow up with any cultural traditions. Other than my one grandma saying her grandmother had a bit of an Irish accent, it doesn’t sound like any of my grandparents were involved in their culture.

Teaching at a diverse school, I constantly see my students practicing their cultural traditions. Walking around my school building, one can see girls walking around in traditional Ethiopian dresses, Drum Group and Bustle making happening in the Community Room, or boys playing Cricket out on the front lawn. I find it amazing how students from all corners of the Earth can all practice their cultural traditions at the same time in one building. I see students who strongly identify to cultures or religions, and how important that connection is to them. Seeing and hearing this from the students has inspired me to explore Irish cultural practices.

One tradition my family has is Sunday Suppers every other month. On one Sunday every two months, we all get together, make delicious food, and visit. My family is full of amazing cooks, so we use the creations of the cooks as an excuse to catch up with one another, while eating some amazing food. Since cooking is something that I enjoy doing, I plan to start with looking at traditional Irish foods. I’ll not only just go straight for recipes, but look at how meals are prepared, and what specific meals are prepared for particular events.

When reflecting on the Blanket Exercise, I left class feeling quite heavy. I’m a visual and kinaesthetic learner. Therefore, I found Blanket Exercise extremely impactful. It seemed that I knew about a good amount of the historical events that were discussed. However, the visual component of the blankets, the removal of the babies, and the relocation of my classmates was something I found quite moving. I found it hard to imagine how the land of Indigenous peoples was taken over so fast.

The day following the Blanket Exercise, I discussed my experience with the Social Studies teacher at my school. I expressed my concerns about what this would look like in a high school setting. We had a good conversation about how this exercise can help visual and kinaesthetic learners understand the trauma Indigenous peoples have faced. I mentioned that I was worried how students would react – would certain students be immature or take it as a game? She mentioned that she had done this activity with her University students and was quite upset with how it turned out. That really bothered me – how can the people who are supposed to educate our youth act so light hearted during an exercise like this? If they don’t see our history as serious and impactful, how will they not only help future generations understand the severity of our history, but also help these young people act? In order for current and future generations to be appropriately educated on Canadian history, we need to ensure that we as educators are sending the right messages, and supporting Indigenous peoples on the journey to reconciliation.  

I think the Blanket Exercise can help with tâpwêwin, as it recounted many historical events students learn about in high school. As previously stated, I think the simulation aspect of the Blanket Exercise can help students further understand the traumatic events that Indigenous families have gone through. I think this exercise can also help students of all cultures “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. I hope the events and emotions felt during this activity would help people understand what Indigenous peoples would have felt like during these real events from the past. Furthermore, I think the Blanket Exercise could leave students with further questions and inquiries regarding Canada’s history, which could open up a whole new opportunity for learning.