In the video, you are able to see the visual art piece that I created to represent my Miskasowin process. I could go on forever, but I summed up the process and meaning behind it in 4 minutes. Hiy Hiy!
So, today was the big day!
My partner, Chasity, and I had many conversations about relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples. We went ahead with our plan of creating a paper chain. Each person would sign their name and write one “action” that they could do to better these relationships. Our chain would represent “linking relationships,” or “linking together to make a change.” Our paper chain was long, which was a great visual to see that all of those individuals are willing and able to help better the broken relationships that exist. Many people were open to hearing what we had to say, and many people participated.
Something that I noticed was that lots of people who came to us didn’t speak English very well. These people had no idea about the relationship between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples. Many of them didn’t even know what Indigenous meant. This is where education and conversations are so powerful!
An Indigenous student came up to us and told us that what we are doing isn’t taking “action.” This bothered me. Coming from a white background, whos family wasn’t educated on Indigenous matters, I believe that the little things matter. I was able to educate my family by sparking conversations about new things I learned in University. I was able to open up their minds (along with my own) about racism, colonialism and privilege. This, made a HUGE change in my life and my families life, as they now have some education around these important matters and around Canada’s true history. When she told us that we weren’t taking action, it bothered me because KINDNESS, LEADERSHIP and EDUCATION is ACTION! If more people tried to break out of their “bubbles,” as I have begun to, then our chances of moving forward and building the broken relationship would slowly be possible.
I think the event went really well, and I think that not only other students at the University benefitted from it, but we did as well.
During class today we discussed our ideas for our big “event,” which aims to bring awareness to how much work we (Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous people) need to still do in order to better the relationships between us. My colleagues have some amazing ideas that they have been talking about. My partner and I were planning on doing the “Project of Heart” idea (painting small tiles to remember those who died in residential schools). However, we decided to do something different (because the price of the tiles was very high and because we figured that people wouldn’t stop to paint in a high-traffic area). We are thinking about doing something with the symbol of a chain. A chain to represent “linking relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples.” We are getting really excited for this opportunity because it is a chance to be a LEADER (as talked about in one of my previous blog posts). It is our chance to step out of our “bubbles,” and attempt to make a change in our community.
During this class, we had a group discussion about all of our ideas and what our plans were. Despite our good intentions, we need to be careful about what we do and say. We don’t want to come across as Eurocentric and we do want to challenge those ways of thinking (this, in my opinion, is more difficult than I thought). For example, we were told that using the word “bridges” to describe fixing relationships is Eurocentric thinking. Just because you build a bridge, doesn’t mean you are building a relationship with one another. These kinds of things are what create that “unsettledness,” which allows us to open our minds and think about everything we do with a critical lens. We are still in the planning stages of this, but it is going somewhere.
My family and I have always celebrated Canada day. Whether it be going to the fireworks, being out at the cabin, or wearing the Canada flag as a temporary tattoo on my face. Again, the TRUE history of Canada and all of the colonialism that existed and still exists in our country, was never even a thought of mine…until a couple years ago. I have always wondered; is it really so bad to celebrate Canada? Hasn’t there been good things that have happened that we can celebrate?
Throughout my years of education at the U of R, I have thought about these questions. In my opinion, the answer is, yes. There are things that “we” can celebrate. By “we” I mean my family and I (as white settlers). This is where privilege comes in to play. Of course my white family has LOTS to celebrate and be thankful for. However, once I became educated on the real history of Canada, and how many Indigenous peoples are still treated today, I realized that Canada isn’t actually as “free” and amazing as everyone thinks it is.
I still do attend Canada Day celebrations with my family (as it is our tradition to do so). However, I believe that it is more of a day that we celebrate family. We celebrate the fact that we are all here together. We enjoy the food, activities and fire works, but we do educate. My family and I think about Canada Day differently than we used to. We don’t celebrate the history or the land. We don’t celebrate the colonialism. This, I find, is hard to explain to people (who are uneducated about the history of Canada). This is where education is important, and my families (white settler) voices are important to spread awareness. This is where it starts…
Leadership is so important.
I have noticed (throughout my high school experience, university experience and life experience in general), that more people are willing to speak out and use their voice if someone else starts or “sparks” a movement first. Not many people are willing to step out of their “bubble” and be the first person to do something new or make a change. I believe that I have to be a leader, not only in the school that I will teach at, but within my community as a whole. I have recognized that I have white privilege and now my job is to use this privilege to educate and take action.
I have always been a huge advocate and activist for animals and animal rights. I always say, “I am a voice for the voiceless.” However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the Indigenous peoples in our community are the voiceless, too. I don’t mean this in an insulting way, I just mean that they aren’t heard. Our government doesn’t hear them, people don’t listen, and racism is very much alive. Because I have white privilege, I need to speak up for them, too. I need to be the voice that is heard in our community.
The article that was posted about this topic, talked about how the majority of the Indigenous population is very young. It talked about how more and more Indigenous youth are determined to speak out and make a change. As a white educator, I believe it is my job to support this, continue speaking out with and for them, and to be a leader everywhere I go.
This past month or so has left me speechless. In the past month, the man who shot Colten and the man who killed Tina have been freed of all charges. This clearly shines a very bright light on the intense injustices that Indigenous peoples face in Canada. There are arguments on both sides (defending the white man and defending the Indigenous peoples). What I did not understand is how mean people can actually be. I was oblivious to how much racism there really is in Saskatchewan and all over Canada. I knew some people were racist, but I also thought people just kept their thoughts to themselves. Like my mom always said, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” I guess this isn’t common sense for everyone.
Many people who I have shared conversations with, don’t believe in intergenerational trauma. I always hear “it’s just an excuse for them [Indigenous peoples] to get more money from the government.” Where did these comments even come from? How can people be so judgemental and plain RUDE? I don’t understand. Racism is real.
How would you feel if you were taken away from your family at a young age? Beaten and abused because you spoke your own language (which is all you know how to speak). How would you feel if you were forced to cut your hair, stop speaking your language, and completely get rid of any sign of your beloved culture? You’d feel absolutely broken. This pain doesn’t end, and this pain gets passed down to future generations because that is all that you’d know. In my opinion, this shouldn’t be a hard concept to understand, but apparently it is harder than I thought, because no one seems to understand it. I recently read a childrens book to my grade one class during internship. It is called “Not My Girl” and it is about a young girl who came back from a residential school and she just wasn’t the same. After everything they did to her, how could she be the same? She didn’t feel like she belonged in her own family or community! It perfectly described the trauma that the survivors felt.
I watched a video recently as well that some very well-spoken Indigenous woman created. She directed her video to white people. She was not mean or judgemental and she did not “clump” us all together as “racists”. However, she said that the Indigenous peoples of Canada need OUR help (as in educated white peoples voices). She claimed that no one is going to listen to them. We were the most powerful people back then and we are the most powerful now. She said that no one listens when you are brown, which is why they need us to speak out. I took her video to heart. This is what I was meant to do. I need to use my white privilege to speak out for those who don’t seem to have a voice in this unjust world we live. It really shouldn’t matter if you are white, brown, or black. Everyone’s voices should be equally heard, but they aren’t.
Unfortunately, I was absent on Monday and did not get to see the presentations that happened. However, I took the time to check out the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women PowerPoint and read a few different articles. After reading everything and viewing the Ted Talks video, I felt a variety of emotions…sadness, anger, frustration, guilt.
What stood out to me most was going through the CBC website just looking at a very small portion of those murdered women and CHILDREN. It bothered me that I have not even heard of any of these women in the media, in articles, etc. It is like their deaths are almost hidden away from the public. I had no idea that lots of those deaths happened right here in Regina! The way their deaths were handled by police services and investigators is horribly wrong and unjust to those poor women and their families. The cases were silent, their deaths were silent. It isn’t fair. Another thing that bothered me was the statistics of missing and murdered Indigenous women VS other Canadian women. This, I believe, is where my own identity comes in.
I am a white settler women. I have never experienced anything like this. I have also never thought about how my whiteness keeps me safe. To realize that, is very upsetting. To think that Indigenous women are more likely to be taunted, taken, and even murdered by a total stranger is way higher than that of a white woman. I think that these articles really made me aware of my white privilege, which is something that I am thinking more and more about.
I believe that to be a good teacher, is to learn from your students and others in your community. To be a good teacher is to be open minded, encouraging, and a good listener. I believe that each student should feel valued in my classroom.
I have learned so much in my university experience so far. I have learned plenty of factual information about Treaties and our history. However, I have also learned that it isn’t just about facts. It is about moving away from that Eurocentric point of view. I will admit, this was not the easiest thing to do at first, because that was all I have ever known growing up. However, it has become apart of my practice and the way that I think.
I believe that my students’ opinions and stories are valued. I want to be able to teach them that it is okay to ask questions. It is okay to question the “norm.” It is okay to talk about history and learn from it, and it is okay to listen and learn from those around you.
Canada’s history is not as light and innocent as I was taught growing up. There were many wrongs that happened at the hands of European settlers (that is a fact). Therefore, as a Treaty Teacher, I hope to have conversations with my students and open their minds to new ways of learning about what has happened in Canada, and what still continues to happen. I have felt uncomfortable in many of my class discussions, because of the shift that happened in my learning. My previous knowledge has expanded and changed for the better. This is the kind of knowledge that I hope to pass onto my students as a Treaty Teacher. We need to continue to question the dominate, Eurocentric thinking and practices, and teach the next generation to do so as well!
I say “powerful,” because that is what it truly was for me.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to participate in a Pipe Ceremony, facilitated by Elder Alma. I honestly was not sure what to expect. I usually cannot be around a room filled with smoke, as it irritates my eyes and throat. However, this was different. I wasn’t bothered by the smell of the tobacco burning. I felt calm; the whole room felt calm. There was so much peace and faith all around me. When the pipe was being passed around, it reminded me of my church in a way (going up to get the Holy bread). This connection that I made to my own faith and identity encouraged me to think about how important this ceremony is to Indigenous peoples. In the past, Indigenous peoples’ identities were stolen and they were forced to learn new ways of life and throw away their old celebrations, ceremonies, etc.
I thought about my own faith and my own way of celebrating. I could not imagine having that being taken away from me. Elder Alma was so inviting as she allowed every one of us to experience a beautiful healing and prayerful ceremony. I could tell that the smoke from the pipe meant so much more than just physical smoke. Alma mentioned that the pipe is the connection from the earth to the sky. The prayers that we say and think are the smoke which rises up into the sky so that our prayers can be answered. Again, this made me form a connection to my own beliefs and faith. It fascinated me to think about.
I participated, not knowing how I’d feel afterwards. I came out of it feeling like I learned about prayer, respect, love, healing, tradition, connection, and ceremony. My hope is that if more people (of any race, culture, age) participated in pipe ceremonies like the one I did, that more people would feel the same way as I do.
This picture that I found on Google, reminds me of what I saw at the pipe ceremony that I experienced with our class and Alma.
Today, I participated in my first blanket exercise. It was a very eye-opening experience. As embarrassing as it is to say this, I had no idea what the blanket exercise even meant. Did I have to speak? What did I have to do? Do I need to memorize facts? What did this whole thing consist of? I started to feel a bit of anxiety when I first stepped on to the blanket. As the “scroll person” started handing out scrolls, and people started walking around kicking the blankets back and throwing dolls away from people, I had so many emotions rush through me. It was an amazing way for those who are visual learners, and even those who are not, to participate and engage in learning about what has happened and what continues to happen to Indigenous peoples and their land. It shows the real history of Canada; even stuff that can be emotionally challenging and hard to think about. However, this is something that I am so grateful to have done.
I feel like when I am asked to describe my “identity,” I don’t really know what to say, other than “I am a women. I am 22 years old. I live in Regina. I am Canadian.” However, I feel like there is a lot more to it than just that. Especially after participating in the blanket exercise, I feel like there is more to who I am and where I came from. I feel like there is so much more to think about than just the basic answer. Looking back on the last part of the blanket exercise (when there were just a few people left standing on tiny pieces of “land,”) was truly saddening, in my opinion. I then think to myself, what can I do to help? What can I do to change this? The first thing is education. I am so thankful to be able to learn about this, and have the opportunity to participate in activities like this, so that I can then educate those who I teach (not just my future students, but my family and friends as well).
For the choice assignment that we will be doing, I think it would be very interesting to go to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, and focus on the “We Are All Treaty People and Trades, Treaties and Today” exhibits. I have been there before, and I have even taken my grade one class there to observe. However, it will be interesting for me to look at it in a different perspective. I want to challenge myself to think critically, ask critical questions, and take notes on my observations and ideas.