Friday, 19 August 2011

Foundational Reading in Aboriginal Education

Starleigh Grass is a teacher, blogger, and mother from the Tsilhqot'in Nation who currently works in St'at'imc territory.  This article is reposted from her blog Twinkle's Happy Place, where she connects teachers to research and resources for integrating Aboriginal curriculum and pedagogy into their classrooms.  I encourage you to check it out, it is an excellent blog.  You can also follow her on Twitter at @starleigh_grass.
@SheeKhaTe on Twitter is preparing for her graduate studies in the fall and is also spending the summer preparing for her studies by doing some reading before classes started. She was wondering which readings I found especially powerful.

I'm glad she asked because one of the things on my mind is how to indigenize my studies. I'm a little bit worried that my courses won't have a lot of Aboriginal content. UBC is pretty good, and I've noticed that since I did my undergrad at UBC Okanagan they've worked really hard at increasing Aboriginal student support and content. 

Still, though, it is a mainstream course and I doubt there will be enough Aboriginal content to satisfy my appetite.

I have been doing my reading journal, but I also wanted to spend some time reflecting on which texts shaped my perspective during my undergraduate studies and brief time in the classroom so that I could use them as foundational texts during my research. I've also been thinking, if I were to design a course on Aboriginal education for pre-service teachers, which texts would I use?

Anyhow, here's a portion of the email I sent her. Perhaps you might find it useful, too :)
Online articles/reports
I went through my old blog posts using the research tag and found some articles online which you might find useful. I've attached the blog links which contain links to the full article because the blog posts provide brief summaries:

  • This article focuses on Nunavut but its lessons are broader than that. I really appreciated how it focused on how teachers have to tailor instruction and content to Indigenous students and go against the mainstream in order to best serve their students and how difficult this is to with limited resources and support. I feel like it's a very realistic portrayal of many teaching situations.

Academic Books

In terms of book books, like, things you hold in your hand, here are some books that have shaped the way that I look at education. Hopefully you can find them in your university's library, and if you can't find them librarians are usually happy to order things or to borrow a copy from another library -

  • CCPA's The Gifts Within - Our Schools Ourselves is a periodical and this issue focused on Aboriginal education. The articles are written from a variety of Aboriginal educator's perspectives from pre-school to post secondary.
  • The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residential School System in Canada . This is a frequently cited report. It is absolutely a must read! You can find this full text online but if you can get a hard copy it'll be much easier to read If you have to read it online definitely read the recommendations
  • Volume 3 - Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples - the section on Aboriginal education can be found here This is a document of historical significance because it was one of the first government publications to address underlying issues in Aboriginal education and propose progressive reform. Many of its recommendations have not been implemented despite the fact that they are bang on. This document is frequently cited in academic writing by and about Aboriginal people. Your library should definitely have a hard copy.
  • The Dispossessed: Life and Death in Native Canada by Geoffrey York - The education chapter is excellent. If you choose to read the book be warned that you'll cry a lot. The chapter on suicide is worthwhile. It's a good book, it's just really hard to read emotionally. You'll want to burn something down when you're done.
  • Wasase by Taiaiaike Alfred - this focuses less on education and more on how to break free from the chains of colonialism. I'm almost done it and am really enjoying it.

Fiction Books
  • In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Cullen
  • Halfbreed by Maria Campbell
  • Will's Garden by Lee Maracle
  • Keeper N'Me by Richard Wagamese   
As a habit I look for ministry publications on Aboriginal education in my province and district documents. It's also useful to look on websites like the AFN or the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres to see what kind of publications they have that might align with what you're researching.

You might also want to poke around in your public libraries, K-12 school libraries, and university libraries to see what's there locally. I found a 1985 report by the Lillooet Tribal Council that totally shaped the way that I worked in that community by just poking around in the public library. Just pick stuff up, read the table of contents, the back of the book, the first and last paragraph of the introduction, and then decide if it's worth your time.

I think that a lot of Aboriginal students in different fields are in the same position. They are in a mainstream course but they want Aboriginal content so they have to be pro-active and tailor the course to their own needs. This usually has a ripple effect because in the course of doing this they educate their professors and peers about Aboriginal education. If you have readings in your field that are useful for people who want to learn about Aboriginal perspectives I encourage you to share your list of "must reads" too! We are like a village and we have to share with each other in order to survive and if we get into the habit of doing this we will all be stronger at the end of the day.

If you think that there are texts that should be considered foundational readings in Aboriginal education, feel free to share! I am almost done Wasase and will be looking for something new soon so any advice would be much appreciated!


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