Introduction to Indigenous Canada

While scrolling on Facebook this week, I found an article online about Crystal Fraser who is publishing a list of 150 things for non-Indigenous people to do to start walking on the path of truth and reconciliation. In the article (linked above), she recommends taking a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called Indigenous Canada that is offered by the University of Alberta to learn more about the people with whom I share this land. (Sidenote: I totally didn’t know about MOOC’s and now, in the style of Pokémon, I want to take them all). I feel that I am already well ahead of many Canadians in my knowledge of the Treaties and Indigenous peoples, but now that I am living in a predominantly white community, it’s paramount that I don’t allow myself to become apathetic and that I trouble the students that I interact with in regards to the history of Canada. For my own personal knowledge and for professional development, I enrolled in the Indigenous Canada course.

 

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“Indigenous Canada Logo” Indigenous Canada, University of Alberta, https://www.ualberta.ca/courses/indigenous-canada

 

I’m excited to see what the course has planned as the first few videos have been very interesting. The first elements include worldview and the importance of storytelling. As an English major, this piqued my interest right away. “Indigenous ways of knowing are based on the idea that individuals are trained to understand their environment, according to teachings found in stories” (Indigenous Canada – Indigenous Worldviews). I believe that stories are powerful tools for teaching and learning. The difference is that for Indigenous people, the stories of “these experiences come directly from the land and help shape the codes of conduct for Indigenous societies”(Indigenous Canada – Indigenous Worldviews). In western cultures, there has been a push to remove ourselves from the land and disassociate with what is around us. This can be seen in the way that we interact with non-human others (plants and animals) and even with other humans. We have been taught that people that are different than us are to be feared. We dehumanize others through stories. But stories can also be great tools for breaking down these barriers as well. Through viewing the creation stories presented in Indigenous Canada, I hope to decolonize my mind and rehumanize/reconnect with the people and other beings that I share this land with.

As I am attempting to rebuild relationships broken by societal misconceptions, I am reminded of the strong emphasis on relationship in many Indigenous worldviews – not only to other people but to the land as well. The environmentalist in me loves seeing the connection between natural systems, populations, and prosperity. “The interdependency with all things promotes a sense of responsibility and accountability. The people would respond to the ecological rhythms and patterns of the land in order to live in harmony.” “The hierarchical structure of western world views that places humans on top of the pyramid, does not exist”(Indigenous Canada – Indigenous Worldviews).  The more that I read and learn about connection to land, the more I think that this is so important. After taking ESCI 302, an environmental education course, I’m convinced that all people need sustained time in nature and need a connection to nature, perhaps more than we realize in our schools today.  Therefore, another goal that I have for my teaching is to incorporate environmental education in an interdisciplinary way. I’ve thought for a while that the ways of knowing found in Indigenous worldviews should be implemented alongside environmental education. The synthesis of language/stories, natural environment and the reciprocal relationality of Indigenous worldview is seamless in my mind – even if it’s hard to put into words and possibly harder yet to put into practice in the classroom.

Poster #05 of the Graphic History Collective’s series Remember l Resists l Redraw: A Radical History Poster Project. Text: Erica Violet Lee. Artwork: Anonymous (by request).

Of course, I do need to recognize that there are many Indigenous worldviews and while they may share some elements, there “are great complexities and rich diversities within each nation”(Indigenous Canada – Indigenous Worldviews). I also want to acknowledge that Crystal Fraser and Sara Komarnisky’s article is now published. I look forward to seeing how many items I can accomplish in the next 149 days of Canada’s 150th year. Although I know that these are not boxes to be checked off, the list offers many ways to begin to learn and grow as a Treaty Person this year. Even though I didn’t really weigh in on the Canada 150 controversy, I do intend to both celebrate and acknowledge the truth of what has happened on this land. I am proud to be a Canadian and I celebrate the successes that have occurred despite the fractured Treaty relationship but I also want to work towards rebuilding the Treaty relationship in the small ways that I can. Healing takes time but learning the truth is the first step towards upholding the original spirit and intent of the Treaties.

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