My (draft) course is titled Indigenous Women: Past and present. Storytelling is an important foundational component in the course in its entirety. It is how the course begins because for Omushkego Cree and Anishinaabe peoples oral history has been a part of who we are since Time Immemorial. It is an important part of this course because the target student population is individuals of Indigeous descent who feel disconnected from their Indigeneity, their roots. It is also solely for Indigenous women and Two Spirit individuals, so stories about the significant roles that women held (hold) are critical. One of the course goals is to support students in their journey of reconnection, wherever they may be in that journey. Thus, the parts of the stories that are included at the beginning of the course are required for student prior knowledge and (re)building identity so that as students move through the course they may apply the teachings in those stories to significant work of Indigenous women today.
There are important cultural protocols around storytelling for many First Nations and Indigenous peoples including that many types of stories were (are) to only be told in the winter season. There are many commonalities among First Nations and Indigenous peoples. We are certainly connected. But there are diversities as well, in culture, language, ceremony, spirituality, protocols, and practices. This is also true for storytellers, Elders, philosophers, teachers, knowledge keepers, advisors and more. Dr. Louis Bird is a well-known storyteller, philosopher, Elder, historian and much more, not just in his traditional territory but in many areas. He’s collected the stories around his territory since he was a young man. He never claims to be an expert despite the enormity of his knowledge and experiences. He is also my adopted grandfather. Truly, a blessing.
What Louis taught me is that many Native people have become disconnected from their culture(s), language(s), and spirituality(ies) due to colonialism, and we live in a time that calls for the reclaiming, renewing, and revitalization of our ways, especially for young people. While it is important to maintain traditions, we are also allowed to be fluid and dynamic in a good way. He once said to me and another colleague that ancestors see us. They see the time that we’re living in, its climate, and how colonialism has impacted us and our communities, so they understand what we’re often up against in this new world. And it is for this reason, I approach including these stories in a good way. I also choose not include in my course profile some of the practices that will be a part of the course that supports the sharing of these stories.
Renowned Indigenous educator, Dr. Verna Kirkness talks about the importance of banking our knowledge(s) and language(s). And (Dr.) Louis Bird does this important work as he has written books and created Our Voices, An Omushkego Oral History Project so that current and future Omushkego generations know who they are and where they come from.
Louis Bird also talks about the types of stories that he has collected over his lifetime including what he refers to as Quotation Stories, Legends, Creation Story, Recent Stories, and Mystery (Fantastic) Stories. It is more those that are often referred to as legends that were (are) told in the winter season. Creation Stories are not legends. (I should mention here that while the term legend is used to refer to some stories, it comes with the connotation of being untrue, but this is not the case in First Nations stories, use of the term does not mean that the story isn’t true). Louis uses the term legend for Wisahkaychak, Wihtigo, and Chakapesh (to name a few) stories, but he does not refer to Creation Stories as legend. And Our Grandmothers’ Powers would also not be considered a legend, it would be a quotation story, or a recent story because it is about events that happened not long ago.
Now, I must say that these are the teachings that I was given. It is what I was told and taught, and I am no expert. And I come from a specific territory. This is the context of which and how I approach my work. It does not apply to everyone, and it shouldn’t, so no one should take my words as guideline. Each person doing work in Indigenous Education (Knowledge Systems) must seek out their own teachings because we are all unique in who we are and how we do this work (and how we intend to use it).
As for other aspects in my (draft) course, I will add rubrics to each activity in the modules, which I think will bring on more ideas and feed into some other suggestions that were given in review; however, the rubrics would be more a facilitator guide then for students (participants) because the intention is for them to have more freedom in their understanding, interpretation, and expression particularly in those first two modules. As the course progresses, student demonstration(s) of learning will be a bit more structured as expectation(s) also progress.
I’ve purposely left out part of the Old Nokomis story as this was/is often an element of storytelling so that curiosity is peaked and questions encouraged, but I may rework the Animaker video that I created for this course. I had wanted to push myself out of my own comfort zone when I used Animaker and incorporated it into the course.
Again, this is a blended course, so a lot of content (and protocol) will be covered in an in-person synchronous classroom setting including prior knowledge needed for the online (asynchronous) components of the course. Feedback will happen in the classroom with students (participants) and the timeline for the course may appear short (online), but it is taught in conjunction with the content covered in in-person synchronous classes. One of my reviewers utilized a calendar in their course, so perhaps I will look at whether this, too, could work for my course. I will also re-examine my layout in Canvas (tabs, etc), so that it is visually more appealing and perhaps I will incorporate the word, units, for modules.
I will also add the transcript for one of the stories in the modules. This will provide additional support to learners. This seemed to be an oversight for many courses.
Ekosani reviewers! Your time and feedback is appreciated.
This is a beautifully written reflection. I enjoy your explanation of oral history and storytelling and the different types of stories that exist. This truly highlights that we all have something to learn, at all times, much like your adopted grandfather. Truly humbling. Thanks for sharing.