EC&I 831

Can I be a Witness?

Our task this week was to decide upon one of two options for our Major Digital Project.  After a tortured week of thinking (so dramatic, right?) I decided on

Option B: Based on the idea that individuals are now more able to learn and share online, you will choose something significant that you would like to learn, and you will share your progress openly in an online space. 

But what will I learn and how will I share?

To explain my choice, I need to take you on a little journey back to July 2019 when I was enrolled in EC&I 804.  It would prove to be one of the most rewarding, challenging, and exhausting courses I’ve taken.  The content was fascinating to me… and made me wish I’d taken it sooner in my Masters journey.  But things happen for a reason.  Here’s a bit of my  “WHY” for my project choice.

Touring museums is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, particularly if the exhibits contain stories of people.  Animals, dinosaurs, natural exhibits… all those are cool, too.  But stories of people – that’s my thing.  I love stories.  I love telling them, I love hearing them, I love reading them, I love writing them.  My favourite way to connect with people is through stories.

So, it was with my love of stories and with my metaphorical backpack of curricular theories in tow that I headed to the museum with my EC&I 804 classmates on July 11.  Our time at the museum was brief but made me feel heavy, like there was some kind of emptiness in my soul so to speak.  I was also reminded of how much I admire First Nations people who have striven so hard and sought to maintain connections to their culture.

A phrase I heard at the museum was “in blood memory.”  From my understanding it broadly means that the land is the connection through which First Nations people can explore their culture and start their journey of identity, healing, and reconciliation.  I feel jealous of this.  I attempted to articulate my jealousy and my feeling of disconnect during our discussion back in the classroom when we were sharing our museum observances and was reminded of my place in the discourse as a European white female.  I carry that white privilege around with me all the time and oftentimes I do forget or realize it’s there.  I just feel heavy with the weight of it and feel like I will never get to the bottom of it.  Peggy McIntosh describes this in her work “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”

Driving home from class that day, I began to think and reflect and talk out loud to myself about what I experienced at the museum and afterwards in our discussion.  Why do I feel jealous? Where do I fit in as a white female?  Where do I belong?  What does it mean when I don’t recognize my heritage or cultural background?  If I didn’t live the experience of my heritage or if I don’t connect to it, what does that mean?  Can I call myself English/ Irish/ Polish/ Ukrainian/ Russian/ Swedish?  In retrospect I don’t feel I was represented in any part of the museum. Where do I fit in the picture?  Did my ancestors have anything like what the First Nations refer to as blood memory – a belief system, a connection to land or sky or air or something – that I can now hold onto or use to ground me?  If this is the way I feel with my white privilege, how on earth does a whole culture move forward and heal from the attempted cultural genocide known as the Residential School system?   And how can I help?

These were my actual thoughts and they were accompanied by a sudden and uncontrollable urge to cry.  Which I did, unabashedly.  We were warned that we would feel uncomfortable over the course of our learning … and that it would be a good thing.  But my emotional, visceral reaction to a walk through the museum left me feeling incredibly raw, vulnerable and exhausted, like I know nothing and have so very much to learn.  I feel unsettled.  I feel sad.  I feel responsible.  I feel the need to apologize for oppression.  I feel I need to “fix” what is wrong.   I feel overwhelmed. I feel survivor’s guilt.

I thought about changing my course-based Masters program to a thesis route… for about five minutes.  It’s just not in the cards for me with everything else going on in my life right now.  But somehow the nagging feeling that I need to commit myself to my own personal journey of reconciliation keeps rearing up when I least expect it.  Like NOW.  So… that’s it.  The something significant that I would like to learn about is First Nations cultures, particularly their education, or lack thereof, at the hands of the national government.

In essence, I am embarking on my personal journey of reconciliation as a witness.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission states “[t]he term witness is in reference to the Aboriginal principle of witnessing, which varies among First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Generally speaking, witnesses are called to be the keepers of history when an event of historic significance occurs. Partly because of the oral traditions of Aboriginal peoples, but also to recognize the importance of conducting business, building and maintaining relationships in person and face to face.”

I think this fits the assignment guidelines in that it is complex to learn, worth learning about, and is of great interest to me.  I will use online sources to guide my project – I’ve already started compiling a list and doing some research and reading – but I will also consult community resources, such as the FNIM consultant in our school division and hopefully an elder in our area.

To document my learning, I will blog about my journey as well as compile a list of resources that I come across that are helpful or insightful.  I could focus on how to incorporate the resources into my ELA classroom, could describe how the resource fits into my journey, or I could simply critique the resource.   Perhaps my collection of resources will be shared online somehow – not sure yet if it will become an open course or a website or something of that nature.  I hope that as a result of my journey of reconciliation that I can become a witness within our classrooms and communities.

What Is Reconciliation from TRC – CVR on Vimeo.

 

I’m unsure if I have enough “structure” to my project – likely not.  What do you think?  I will welcome your feedback and your guidance on how to best make this journey meaningful and rewarding. I already know it will be difficult… but I also know it will be worth it.

 

14 thoughts on “Can I be a Witness?”

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing your journey. I think you have a great start already and feel your passion will lead you to produce a great artifact of learning and more. I look forward to learning about your journey to help me with mine. We have some great resources in my school division and I’ve learned a lot from treaty education workshops, our school elder and knowledge keeper, and more. Thanks for the share.

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  2. You are such a gifted writer. I loved reading your story and your idea really resonated with me. I feel like the term reconciliation is used more frequently than ever before, but what does it mean to the average person? I want to know more and can’t wait to follow your journey through this project.

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  3. Hi Kyla, I can really tell by reading your post that this is something really important to you — which means it is certainly something worth learning! I know wherever this journey takes you, it will be relevant to you personally and also professionally. I really look forward to following along of your journey! Best of luck 🙂

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  4. Good on you to accept this mission! Your journey through this project and how you document it will without a doubt be an inspiration for others to be more proactive in accomplishing our daily responsibilities as teachers related to Truth and Reconciliation. I can’t wait to see how it goes.

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  5. I am so inspired by your honesty and humility as your journey through this process! It seems like this has been something on your heart for a long time, so it’s pretty amazing that you finally get to dive deeper into it. I can relate to a lot of your questions and feelings, and I am really looking forward to following along and reading what you learn through all of this. It seems like you have a good plan in place and that it will naturally develop as you go. I especially like your idea of meeting with elders and knowledge keepers to learn through storytelling to gain their insights and wisdom. I also really love Murrary Sinclair and know that he can teach you a lot through his videos. You can find a lot of good resources and ideas on the Truth and Reconciliation website (http://www.trc.ca) as well as the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website (https://education.nctr.ca). This is a topic that I am passionate about as well, so if you want to collaborate or just share what you’re learning, feel free to reach out! Good luck on this exciting journey 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much, Amanda! I appreciate your guidance and support. I truly feel like we all need to be on this journey together – the more the merrier – because that just makes the learning more meaningful. I am thankful for supportive colleagues and classmates who are willing to help in my journey!

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  6. I’m inspired! I cannot wait to follow you as you compose this project – how meaningful to you and your students! I will send along some resources to you from a student perspective as well – I am one of the teacher leaders of our Treaty 4 Team at our school and these kids have incredible ideas! Ps. The way that you write, I can feel how excited you are.

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