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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why Aboriginal Education Matters: A Fragment of a Thought

How do you describe the feeling of being silenced? In what ways are you able to express the hopelessness and powerlessness that well up when you get in trouble for telling your truth, integrating your wisdom into the conversation? How do you respond to the understanding that your worldview, however "valued", is contingent on the perception of being the other to the colonial worldview? I've experienced situations where I have been silenced. I've had power struggles with dominant voices who have given my Indigenous voice a hearing and then re-marginalized it when it did not meet the perception of their understanding, both as a student and as a teacher. Sometimes I have resisted, more often, I fear, I have let myself be silenced. I am a child of colonization after all, I know my place. I have lived the experience of being centered, with the normally dominant voice moved to the margins, and watched that voice fight hard to regain their power. It often happens that the discomfort of letting another worldview have the floor prevents the dominant truly allow a sharing of power. In the larger sphere known as Canada, I saw an interesting article yesterday: Taseko Mines asks Harper to place limits on first-nations input. The article reports on a letter sent to the federal government by the president of Taseko Mines, asking "No aboriginal prayer ceremonies, please, and no kindergarten plays about dead fish". The letter also complained about the weight given to Aboriginal "spirituality" in the decision-making on the last time Taseko Mines applied for approval to do the Proseperity Mine. I am on the record, in this blog, opposed to the this mine project, but that is not the point of this post. I am fascinated by the power relationship on display in the letter from the president. He is pushing back against the centering of Indigenous voices in a situation that will have great impact on Indigenous people. He is opposing the way and means the Indigenous voice chooses to make itself heard. He is reinforcing the colonial attitude of power and control. This post is titled Why Aboriginal Education Matters because I sort of view aspects of Aboriginal education as the idea of re-centering focus onto marginalized voices and allowing those truths to be told in the way they need to be told, the way that best serves the storyteller. To decolonize, I need to tell my story in the way that I know how, which is not necessarily the way I have been taught in school. The value of Teztan Biny to the Tsilhqot'in is not in its monetary value or its value as a tailings pond. The Tsilhqot'in have explained its importance repeatedly, but it falls on deaf ears because we continue to center on the colonial reference point. My latest silencing has been and continues to be devastating, not just because of the nature of the silencing, but also due to the fact that when allies asked what was wrong, I would explain but they would not understand. They do not get the reference I am making because it is not western, it is outside their frame of understanding. Aboriginal education needs to decolonize while it invites learning. This will take time to understand how for me as well.

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