Updated: Jun 13
Equity as Inclusion
Rightful presence has much to do with the removal of imposter syndrome among Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. The feeling of not being good enough has been a part of our intergenerational trauma going back to both slavery and genocide through legislation and residential schools. Those positions of authority and in control of the distribution and keeping of information such as teachers (Calabrese Barton, A., & Tan, E., 2020) and museum curators (Hunter, 2022, p.29) are inherently steeped in whiteness and privilege.
Teaching and learning in justice-oriented ways does not leave room to compromise with colonialism and forces us to look at our past to improve the future. We have the tools to deal with the discrimination within STEM programs through the implementation of historical treaties (Borrows, 2017, p.20). Race as a concept itself was introduced as a capitalist endeavor, beginning with the Atlantic Slave Trade and was since improved upon by ruling colonial states such as Britain then later The United States of America and Canada (Hunter, 2022, p.26).
The concept of power and control then lay with those of Whiteness and piety; they must be white religious men to have status and prestige. This concept was then used to not only control people, but the very information that they received. Some examples of this are the Negro Bible, which was a different version that “the rest” received, and there was the attempted genocide of Indigenous Peoples though residential schools, Indian Act, White Paper, etc. which were all opposite to our cultural and traditional belief systems.
It is the responsibility of the educator to understand the past not to create the concept of an inclusive environment, but a safe place where everyone belongs. Terms such as decolonization and inclusion have been absorbed into western society as fads, with institutions taking the lead as if they, along with church and state, weren’t the reason for division in the first place. When going back to original teachings, the BIPOC population survived off the land regardless of their geographic location. It was the white-supremacist-controlled companies and governments established by a white male dominated system when the global majority started to become marginalized.
Anishinaabe Elder Darrell Boissoneau (Darrell Boissoneau - Anishinaabe Culture-Based Education, n.d.) summarized in four sections the importance of culture based education. When speaking of education, the worldview he holds is similar to ours as Rotinonhsyon:ni and many other Nations across Turtle Island and globally. When he alluded to language learning and complex thinking, it only made sense that land based learning would be an essential part of our culture. With the many different concepts that are ingrained into Indigenous languages, there is a direct need for hands-on, experiential learning.
The comparison of Tribal similarities and the effects of colonialism around the world stood out significantly to me. First Nations University of Canada Elder Willie Ermine from Sturgeon Lake First Nation speaks about choice and willingness to accept others. Anybody “can have the option to say, " I want to go to this Western institution for this kind of learning” and that you can “choose this Indigenous institution for this kind of learning” (Introductory Videos, n.d.).
This to me reinforces the message Elder Darrell Boissoneau was trying to convey, that knowledge belongs to everyone. It is something that helps you not only find your identity, but start expanding your mind to a larger worldview through complex and critical thinking paired with physical experience (ie: land based learning) and community engagement.
“What is our philosophy of the world? We can learn about Aristotle and other great thinkers, but we have great thinkers as well!”
- Anishinaabe Elder Darrell Boissoneau; (Darrell Boissoneau - Anishinaabe Culture-Based Education, n.d.)
What Matters in Education
The Rotinonhsyonni have a different belief system, so when teaching the medicine wheel to a class of elementary school children I would leave the words the same. Each section would read "mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual", because this is the system those who use it have structured it, and it is how I learned it from Anishinaabe elders. For me to change anything about it would in a sense be unethical. It would be the same as a settler taking our teachings and embellishing them in order to get a point across.
I would tell the students where I learned the medicine wheel teachings using stories and bridging their understanding of the wheel to the Condolence of the Rotinonhsyon:ni. Each aspect of the condolence focuses on each part of our whole self beginning from head to feet and all our important organs. Rather than changing wording from the wheel, I would add these different parts of the condolence, to reinforce the understanding of the importance of well-being across all Indigenous Nations while directly relating it to their own.
Leaving their knowledge in the teachings and adding ours to further education, with over "634 First Nations" (“WHAT MATTERS IN INDIGENOUS EDUCATION: Implementing a Vision Committed to Holism, Diversity and Engagement”) and eight Inuit ethnic groups is important for each Nation across Canada in all 15,500 schools. Educators have become the front line in the battle against "policies, programs, people and politics that failed to honor the knowledge, values, and skills of Indigenous Nations". In a discussion today, a teacher agreed that having Indigenous languages (to the area) would help reinforce their teaching. Having an Indigenous language and culture prerequisite alongside French would only enable everyone to flourish, and they agreed that teaching about other Nations is a difficult but necessary task and that having their Indigenous counterparts present would only further education as a whole.
To help reinforce these ideas to an elementary class I would use stories to help them better connect. The grade four class I am in now finished the book "I Want to Go Home", and I just purchased "I am Not Just a Number" which can both speak to spiritual, mental,physical and emotional well-being. They are both relatable to students, one being about summer camp, and the latter about residential schools. Giving them scenarios, such as the ones from these children's books, where these different aspects of the wheel are present will help them with their comprehension and retention of the teachings.
We would then have an activity where the students would fill in their own personal medicine wheel, filling in the different parts with things that they enjoy in each spot. They will then have a visual idea of what their "whole self" looks like on paper. This opens up the teaching of everything coming in full circle. We had to think about it, we had to know how we felt about it, did it feel right to write it down, then actually put that idea to paper.
Sha'tekayen:ton Andrew Brant
Borrows, J. (2017). The Right Relationship: Reimagining the Implementation of Historical Treaties. University of Toronto Press. https://utorontopress.com/9781442630215/the-right-relationship/
Hunter, A. (2022). It Was Dark There All The Time: Sophia Burthen and the Legacy of Slavery in Canada. Goose Lane Editions. https://gooselane.com/products/it-was-dark-there-all-the-time
Calabrese Barton, A., & Tan, E. (2020). Beyond Equity as Inclusion: A Framework of “Rightful Presence” for Guiding Justice-Oriented Studies in Teaching and Learning.
Darrell Boissoneau - Anishinaabe Culture-Based Education. (n.d.). NCCIE.
Introductory Videos. (n.d.). NCCIE. https://www.nccie.ca/playlist/introductory-videos/#
“WHAT MATTERS IN INDIGENOUS EDUCATION: Implementing a Vision Committed to Holism, Diversity and Engagement.” People For Education, https://peopleforeducation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/MWM-What-Matters-in-Indigenous-Education.pdf