Saturday, December 29, 2012
So...2012. Didn't like it very much, medical leave and unemployment were huge features of the year. At the same time, there were a couple of positives that I hadn't considered, but they are, or were, I guess.
1. In April, I went to FanExpo Vancouver. This is the type of event that I would normally long to go to but then would not buy a ticket and regret it afterwards. This year I went. I had fun. I met Lou Ferrigno.
2. I had the opportunity, or unexpected last minute panic depending on your point of view, to sit down on a computer and edit six two-minute webisodes from hours of behind-the-scenes footage from the second season of Back in the Day. My editing skills are rudimentary at best, I don't know what crossing your axis means but I enjoyed it and would like to learn more. You can check them out at http://www.backintheday.ca/webisodes/
3. During my medical leave, I had the good fortune to be interviewed for an article that appeared in newspapers across the country. It left a lot out, I did speak to the guy for over an hour, but it felt good to be able to address the issue of Aboriginal Education at a level seen across the country. It was a good article, and starts with "Robert Genaille was not a big fan of teachers." :) This also had the added benefit of my Mom getting to hear from people who would say, "Are you any relation to Robert Genaille?" She loved it. At any rate, check it out here: http://thechronicleherald.ca/thenovascotian/64606-adjust-education-native-students (I specifically found a Maritime paper's website, I'm shameless.)
4. For the first time, I've been in online conversations about Aboriginal Education issues and, in asking questions to get the other person's understandings, been sent links to my own writing. That was just sort of fun.
5. I went on a couple dates this past year. That's actually significant. I'm not a social animal. Really.
6. As part of my getting better, I've started going to the gym and exercising. I've lost twenty-five pounds to date and seem to have been plateaued for a really long time, and truthfully, I've really struggled the last couple of months with my attendance and my endurance there, but I did find that through the Christmas holiday, I didn't gain any weight, which is good. I am trying to get back into it properly and I am still fighting a losing battle with french fries but I am still fighting it, so that's something.
7. I actually took part in a protest with Idle No More. I've never done something like that before. I'm hoping I do so again. I think this one is important.
8. I've been afforded the opportunity to return to the first school I had the privilege to teach in. It's very exciting.
9. I still think I will be playing with my camera more and try and make something.
It has felt like a rough year, but I guess not awful. Happy New Year everyone.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Two Years, One Day Anniversary
Sunday, December 16, 2012
An Open Letter to the Teachers of British Columbia on the Matter of the IDLE NO MORE Movement
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Why 'Idle No More' Matters to Educators
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Between a rock and a hard place?
Earlier this year, I was privileged with the opportunity to be interviewed about Aboriginal Education by the MetoWe people, an interview which appeared in an article by the Kielburgers in newspapers across the country. In the article I shared my story of a young woman, "Mary", who was on the way out, so to speak, unable to fit into the classroom environment and generally at war with any teacher who tried to work with her.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Thirty 12-15 year olds in Vancouver have reached a point in their lives that they see no other choice but to consider ending those lives.
The media coverage I have been able to find on this has been scant. Not surprising, I guess. It's not glamorous or exciting: no one has actually died. No one has reached out and captured our imagination. No one but Aboriginal advocates have called for action (at least in the minuscule media this has attracted). I don't think I will get into a commentary about the media attention versus race/ethnicity of the young people today, but the fact that it is a pact of thirty that see no future for themselves is terrifying.
I have been touched by suicide. Too often. I know too many people who have been touched by suicide. It kills not just the victim, it kills everyone around them. It kills a part of the soul of everyone left behind. It kills a part of the survival of the Nation. It's not just thirty young people, it's thirty families, their friends, their friends' families, teachers, and all the people related to all of them, their Nations. It's the random person who talked to the kid who seemed sad and wondered afterwards if he said the right thing or the wrong thing.
I understand how clues can be missed. I understand being miserable a lot of the time but saying things are fine when asked. I understand what it's like to feel the choices are dwindling. I understand that loneliness. I don't understand how a group, together, could decide, together, that they are out of choices, but that only means I have more I need to learn. What must be going on that a twelve year old can't still look at the world with wonder?
It is not time, Canada, British Columbia, Vancouver, and countless Aboriginal organizations to be fighting over who is responsible for helping these youth. It is not time to fight over who is to blame for this situation. The scant media attention I have seen says these youth are still seriously at risk, as are countless, countless others. Stop blaming each other, make a plan and do something. Please.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
I found this short film tonight, it is a spoken word documentary that looks at the stereotypes. It is worth h a watch. The link takes you to the NSI site where the video is embedded. I couldn't get it to embed here, sadly, but that's okay. The site also includes his Director's Statement (where I got the word "juxtapose" above, I suspect).
I'm Not the Indian You Had in Mind - National Screen Institute - Canada (NSI)
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
To the Indigenous people of Turtle Island, the continents of North and South America, Manifest Destiny has a terrible meaning. While Americans understood it to mean the divine right to rule over all of the continent, something that made Canada and British North America nervous, it is true, the term is the device used to connote the genocide of the Indigenous peoples, the massacres and murders of our children and women, the theft of our lands and the destruction of our cultures. Manifest Destiny meant that one people were imposing their will upon the other and saying that they were superior and deserved to be so.
While I am unaware whether Canada ever used the term explicitly, it was manifest destiny that delivered residential schools, reserves, assimilation and the current neo-colonial actions being carried out by Canada to control and assimilate Native people today.
The phrase has power and is filled with meaning. Dark meaning, representing hate and racism and superiority.
So it was an unpleasant feeling to see the phrase show up on a new shirt design from The Gap clothing store. It's hard not to take it personally, I live with colonialism. It's hard not to wonder why they decided that phrase was an appropriate one for this new line.
It's hard not to wonder what it means.
The designer will, of course, plead innocence, he didn't realize he was offending so many. Hopefully The Gap will pull the design. They will probably also do the same, if they even bother.
****Pause. Reboot. Restart. While writing this piece, The Gap announced that they were pulling the T-shirt, and that they were sorry that people were offended.
I'm sort of at a loss as to how to proceed at the moment. This is something we have been seeing a lot of lately, the appropriation of cultural tropes by the dominant, or the reassertion of language that marginalizes and divides, such as this example above.
It feels like it is getting worse.
The question of power arises and I am forced to ask : Are we Decolonizing? Are we indigenizing in name only, adding some token courses and support workers and a whole bunch of art to our schools to make the non-Native feel less guilty and the Native feel affirmed? Am I complicit in tokenizing my people and culture? I speak out and get angry about "Manifest Destiny" but am I doing enough to decolonize? How often have I been silenced? I've lost count. How often have I silenced myself out of fear that I can't stand up to the colonial system? I've lost count. How often have I silenced myself because I'm convinced that I'm not Indigenous enough to speak back to the colonial voice? I've lost count. How often have a failed First Nations? Too often.
Can I decolonize or speak to the need to transform the education system when I don't feel I deserve to be here anymore? What progress is being made when we shout and teach and then turn around to see Manifest Destiny, and sexy Pocahontas costumes, and team logos and the government speaking against us and being called cockroaches in the papers and hearing only silence where the outcry should be?
I see some hope in the empowered voices online that get angry and speak out against "Manifest Destiny". I see some hope in the empathy and outrage expressed by the grade two students I taught residential schools to last year. I fear that hope will be extinguished when they get more fully indoctrinated into the school system and the colonialism that is Canada.
I don't know where I'm going with this thought.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Two very different things have been effective on my thinking these past few days, troubling the mind and leaving me at a loss as to how to address the issues.
The first, of course, is the suicide of the young lady in Metro Vancouver, after constant cyber-bullying and her own cry for help posted in a YouTube video. I am saddened by this, I can't say more saddened or less saddened than any suicide I have had the misfortune of knowing about, whether or not I know the person personally. All suicides are tragic, whether they capture the imaginations of the population or not. I am disappointed in the online world that continues their attacks on the young lady, even in death, including the memes that allege her death matters because she is pretty, and other bullied suicides were not. This simplifies the tragedy of her and everyone who commits suicide. It dismisses the issues that surrounded her decision to end her life, and it dismisses the issues that surround every decision to end your own life by making it an issue solely of our obsession with "pretty". It takes away complicity in her death and tries to refocus on another issue: why we focus on her and not someone else? It reframes this tragedy as not an issue of bullying, misogyny and depression and makes it about the public's appetites. Her death is no more or less important than any other suicides I have known, but we are talking about it and I hope we really talk about it and we look at our own complicity as a society that allowed it, and every other suicide to happen. The people that bullied her learned at the feet of parents, friends and teachers what they could get away with.
To this, add the hate spewed against another young lady for "desecrating" a memorial to a hockey player with her love for a popstar. The venom online has been vile, to say the least and its permanence is going to haunt this young lady for a very long time. What does it say about society that people can go online and call for soneone's suicide because she wrote her name on a memorial post where many other names were written?
Where do we go from here? I can only model what I hope others will see. How do we change this direction?
I wish I had answers...
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
YELLOWKNIFE, NWT (Tuesday, October 2, 2012) – A comprehensive curriculum on Residential Schools was launched today at the start of a three day information session for teachers from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Launched by the Honourable Jackson Lafferty, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment with the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Honourable Eva Aariak, Minister of Education with the Government of Nunavut at an opening ceremony, this curriculum is the first comprehensive teaching guide of its kind in Canada. Marie Wilson, Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was on hand to receive the first copy of the teacher’s guide and deliver the keynote address.
“A significant part of our history is in this curriculum,” said Minister Lafferty. “The coursework and resources enclosed are the result of exhaustive research and provide a deeper understanding of the impacts of residential schools on the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. This will give our students insight into the challenges faced by survivors, and a context for healing and reconciliation.”
With support from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Legacy of Hope Foundation, the Residential Schools curriculum is now a key section of the Northwest Territories Northern Studies course and the Nunavut Social Studies course. It covers topics ranging from the history and legacy of residential schools, traditional education and learning, colonialism, assimilation, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the Federal apology, the TRC and what reconciliation may look like. It also includes literature and stories of former residential school students shared through audio and video clips, allowing students to learn of both the positive and negative impacts that school life had on individuals.
“The most effective learning tools are those that matter to students, and this curriculum is deeply relevant to students in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. By enabling a deeper understanding of our history, our students will learn the impact of education on future generations,” said Minister Eva Aariak. "This is the first time Nunavut and Northwest Territories have worked together on joint curriculum and we are here today because of the strong partnership between our two territories.”
The curriculum was piloted in March of 2012 with a select number of schools across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
This is wonderful. I am quite moved by this development. The current First Nations- focused curriculum in British Columbia is optional, listed as alternatives to equivalent courses, and, I fear, not promoted or encouraged by schools in our current "austere" times. We have much to be proud of here, there are many programs around the province I find intriguing, and I remain incredibly optimistic and hopeful about the two Aboriginal focus school experiments in BC, but this curriculum implementation in the two territories is what I have been longing for. Everyone is going to take the unit, it is a requirement for all Canadians to know this important aspect of Canadian history. I have gone on the record and acknowledged significant achievements in BC around Aboriginal Education, now the Territories have made a significant move forward as well, one that I think BC needs to be considering as well. Your move BC.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
All Education is Political: Reflecting on the online discourse aroundthe BCTF Northern Gateway resource
The folks speaking against this resource, calling it biased and one sided, have failed to also call out the same with the resources provided by the pro- pipeline Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (who have a K-1 lesson called Petroleum is Magic), or the way the federal government has treated opponents of the pipeline in official policy and mainstream media. Instead they have grabbed onto this resource as the intrusion of politics in the classroom because it is endorsed by the BC Teachers' Federation, a union that does wear its social justice interests on its sleeve, as well as being perceived as militant and adversarial. I have not seen the same outcry for the government intrusions or the industry-produced resources, which also might be perceived as biased.
The outcry has become that we, as teachers, should not be "indoctrinating" your children in a "political point of view". We have no right. To this, it needs to be pointed out that education is a "political point of view", it is the story of Canada and British Columbia and their expectations of what their citizens should be. What the curriculum is is a whole bunch of ideas Canada and British Columbia think your child should know in order to function as contributing members of society. It is the story Canada wants you to know. (In my own personal universe this has usually meant "killing the Indian in the child," and I, as a First Nations person, am a "cockroach", but I digress.)
To those who claim education should be neutral, politics and beliefs should be taught by the parents, that we should not be teaching a point of view but how to think critically, I ask how do we teach critical thinking if we have to teach neutrally? Neutrality is a political stance. It is a stance that teaches our students to be drones, to not question, to not wonder. Yes, it is important that parents teach their children politics and beliefs, but if they want them to be critical thinkers, it is my responsibility to challenge them. I am not trying to change their beliefs, I am teaching them to critically think about those beliefs and other people's beliefs. To think critically is to wonder about the whys of our world, to consider how the world came to be the way it is. Neutrality teaches our students that it is okay for hundreds of Aboriginal women to go missing or get murdered. Neutrality teaches our students it's okay for Native people living in Canada to live in tents on Hudson Bay in a northern winter. Doesn't neutrality also say it's okay for our students not to think about our environment? The world they live in?
I am proud that the BCTF put this resource together (I was consulted for a First Nations point of view). I am even happy that CAPP has put out their own resources, and the mining industry and the Sierra Club and the Fraser Health Authority. There are lots of points of view on presentation. There is no neutrality. Neutrality creates drones.
I want my students to ask questions. I want my students to wonder why. I want my students to take a position on an issue, it doesn't have to agree with my position. I want them to think critically and challenge and defend and learn. In the end, their beliefs will be neither yours nor mine; their beliefs will be their own.
*******This may seem antithical to previous posts that advocate for transformation and resistance, indigenizing or Decolonizing, but I assure that it is not. My understanding of myself as a teacher is that I am a wonderer. I wonder why the world is the way it is. In teaching, I learn more about it as I engage the students, I learn from them as much as they learn from me. The engagement doesn't always happen, but to teach to transform (especially where my passions lie in Aboriginal Education), I need to teach everyone to understand and question where they are. It does mean my vision of true transformation will take time because teaching my students to learn to have their own mind means that they could and do resist my belief systems. But I hope I leave them looking at the world in wonder and that is the first step in Decolonizing and transforming our education system and our world. What so disappoints about the current discourse around this resources issue is the vitriol online (and I have seen it on both sides) and the refusal to consider each other's point of view. The politicization of the discourse has meant that everyone is imposing before anyone can teach and learn and I am worried about what that teaches our students. The discourse has not been one of questioning, it has been one of accusation, which reinforces the colonial, paternalism I want to resist.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Winnipeg Sun Publishes Racist Comments on Murder Story Calling Indigenous People Cockroaches
It is a nightmare to know that these vigils are necessary.
I feel useless.
But that feeling is not entirely true.
In that, I can share what October 4th means, share the story of the fear I have for the women in my life, for the students I teach; I can make visible the invisible, at least a little bit. I can ask you to consider that we live in a culture where they preach "women, don't get raped," when we should be teaching "men, don't rape." I can remind you that we live in a society where an Aboriginal woman can disappear and only a few people will care. I can point out that the Highway of Tears wasn't taken seriously by anyone, except Native people, until a non-Native woman was killed. That is unfair to that woman though, her tragedy doesn't need to be a symbol of what is wrong in Aboriginal- Settler relations in Canada. She deserves more respect than that. As do all the other women.
I can ask you to teach your students what the vigils mean, why they are important. I can ask you to honour and remember these mothers, sisters and daughters and teach your students to create a Canada where we no longer have to live in sorrow.
Please check out the following websites for further information:
And this article by Martha Troian:
Missing/Murdered Aboriginal Women: is it up to the public to call an inquiry?
Friday, September 21, 2012
- First Nations youth commit suicide about five to six times more often than non-Aboriginal youth.
- The suicide rate for First Nations males is 126 per 100,000 compared to 24 per 100,000 for non-Aboriginal males.
- For First Nations females, the suicide rate is 35 per 100,000 compared to only 5 per 100,000 for non-Aboriginal females. (Canadian Institute of Child Health, 2000)
- Suicide rates for Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average
Our students are our children. They struggle like we do and feel the same loss and legacy we struggle with. I am sharing my personal story for the same reason I share so much here and with my students. As young people facing a world that often feels like it doesn't like Aboriginal people, our students need to see and know people, of Aboriginal ancestry, who have faced what they face, struggled with the same challenges they experience.