Monday, February 16, 2015

Invitation to Share Success Stories: Decolonizing and Indigenizing

I'm working in my classroom, filing stuff, cleaning out my desk corner, making sub notes, and compiling the first submission to our student magazine. I'm also checking out comments on my blog.

"Hi folks," writes a colleague, "I finally got a chance to read this profound and articulate article." Michelle is referring to "Decolonizing Our Practice -- Indigenizing Our Teaching" by Pete, Schneider and O'Reilly.

"I am moved to see such a clear plan of what indigenizing means, and how it looks in theory, practice and the resistance. I would have liked to hear some success stories to encourage me. Often, I feel like it's an uphill battle, and am touched to know that others are doing this work elsewhere."

So here it is, Michelle and I invite educators and beyond to leave a comment, sharing stories of  success "Decolonizing and Indigenizing" or perhaps a positive "Unsettling" experience.

I'll start.

Elder Sam Isaac of Ochapowace

Four years ago, Sandy Pinay Schindler, our Prairie Valley School Division's First Nations and Metis Education Coordinator initiated a project.

"As I drove to visit Elder Sam Isaac on Ochapowace," writes Sandy in the first edition's introduction, "the snow covered fields were gently shadowed in blues and pinks, the restful hues of winter. Elder Sam was the humble star of the Treaty 4 film project in 2010-11. The students were drawn to his quiet, dignified manner. The young people could sense a kind and compassionate heart."

Sandy was on her way to ask Elder Isaac for a name for the project.

"Surrounded by his two little dogs, Sam offers me tea as we sit and chat about many things, both real and spiritual. I describe the book, the interviews, and the project to him, offering a pouch of tobacco as a show of respect. Sam listens, accepts the tobacco, and tells me that he already has a name in mind."

"This book is about young people speaking and writing about leaders and leadership. Kitoskayiminawak Pikiskwewak -- Our Young People Speak".

Since that first edition, "The Leadership Edition", my students have also participated in "The Healing Edition" and "The Treaty Edition". This year we are working on "The Holistic Edition". Non First Nations, Settler Descendant kids and First Nations and Metis kids are privileging Indigenous knowledge and stories. I have learned much, too, like practicing protocol and community "curriculum".

Every year I have a few concerned Settler students who wonder why we are just writing about First Nations and Metis topics and people. Some years I have taken the whole class to the library to look for magazines with prominent Indigenous stories and photos. Rarely do we find even one picture; maybe we find an article or two. When asked, I also discuss the local history books which often are over 1000 pages and many only devoting less than ten pages to the First Peoples.

This magazine continues to be a success, praised by community members both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. At the Gala launch each May, all the students feel like stars. I believe it is an act of Unsettling, Decolonizing, and Indigenizing.

Michelle and I would love to hear your success story. Comment below.

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