Marie Battiste’s book Decolonizing Education: Nourishing the Learning Spirit has really challenged me! I picked up Battiste’s book in a effort to learn more about Aboriginal ways of knowing while trying hard not to appropriate a culture that isn’t mine.
With in the first few pages, Battiste lays out some interesting and hard-to-read facts about Aboriginal learners schools: “Aboriginal peoples in Canada and Indigenous peoples throughout the world are feeling the tensions created by a Eurocentric education system that has taught them to distrust their Indigenous knowledge systems, their elders’ wisdom, and their own inner learning spirit.” (Pg 24) Indeed, that was the goal of Indian Residential Schools. Get rid of the culture, the language, the religion. I am happy to say it didn’t work! Yet, there is a lot of work to be done. Battiste writes, “Canada must dispense with all notions of superiority, assimilation, and subordination and develop a new relationships with Aboriginal peoples based on sharing, mutual recognition, respect, and responsibility.” (Pg 26)
So as teachers, how do we do this? I want to make sure that I don’show disrespect by merely throwing in a few stories or artifacts or art projects into my units. That’s the opposite of what should happen. Battiste is calling for a shift in how we view education, students, and learning. When I read the article “Using First Nations icons in school ‘not culturally safe,’ says Ron McLester,” I knew that I was on to something that others were thinking about and talking about. In the article McLester talks about non-Aboriginal teachers trying to incoporate Aboriginal ways of knowing in the classroom without the proper training and protocol: “What I think the problem is, is having a non-indigenous person using traditional indigenous knowledge in a way that may not be culturally safe or be approved to be authentic by the community.” So knowing your community and getting connected with the right Elders is crucial. I love how the articles ends: “The way forward is together,” McLester said. “We share the world, we share the Earth, we share the air, so the future’s together. So let’s do it in a way that is respectful.”
And that’s where my journey is at right now. I’m connecting with Aboriginal educators to make sure that I am teaching in a way that is respectful. I’m becoming aware that I teach more and more using a circle, using stories, and sharing common and prior knowledge. I’m learning along with the students. I haven’t finished reading Battiste’s book yet because it is a heavy read. So I continue on, hoping to decolonize the education system, at least in my classroom!
“The current structure helps preserve class structures and a ruling elite rather than sort our everyone according to their inherent capabilities.” (Marie Battiste)
“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10-25)