The Double R’s

The Double R’s: Rivers and Reinhabition. What is Reinhabition? According to the article “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” written by Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Gruner and Edmund Metatawabin, reinhabitation is to “identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environment,” (pg. 74). Rivers can be compared to this. Rivers are a space in the environment, recognizably, the outdoor environment which has been proven in multiple studies on how the outdoors teaches us how to live healthily. While talking about rivers and their benefits to us and the environment is not relevant to this article, the connections between reinhabitation and decolonization within the Fort Albany First Nations in connection to honouring the Mushkegowuk Cree beliefs through a 10-day trip along a river. Throughout the article, examples of reinhabitation and decolonization can be found. 

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The Elders and Youth went on a 10-day trip along a river
Photo Credit: PeterThoeny Flickr via Compfight cc

For instance,

  1. Throughout the trip, a relationship was formed between the youth and the elders. 
    1. Ex: “Elders would share knowledge with youth about ways to live off the river and lands and note key sites along the way. As part of the project, youth and Elders travelled together…” (pg. 75)
  2. Youth were given the opportunity to exemplify their learning.
    1. Ex: “Youth conducted interviews with peers, adults, and elders on key issues…” (pg. 75). 
  3. Traditional teachings, such as language were taught. The Elders taught youth their language as they feared it might be disappearing.
    1. Ex: “Some community members worry that the decreasing use of words like paquataskamilk means that the ability to form a linguistic connection to traditional territory could be at risk within a short period of time,” (pg. 78). 
  4. The knowledge learnt was shared with others. 
    1. Ex: “Fifteen interviews were collected and formed the basis for a short audio documentary, titled The Kistachowan River Knows My Name, which aired in the local community and on Wawatay radio, which reaches a wide audience in Northern Ontario,” (pg. 75)
  5. The project encouraged discussions.
    1. Ex: “These smaller projects became part of the broader effort to engage the community in a discussion about what activities can and should take place on traditional territory and how decisions about those activities should be made,” (pg. 83).
  6. Knowledge was shared.
    1. Ex: “The river trip helped members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographic knowledge,” (pg. 81). 

Throughout the article, one could sense the Elders were pleased with the knowledge they passed onto the youth, as they feared it was becoming lost due to colonization. It was also apparent that the youth were engage in what they were learning as they used audio aids to help encompass the trip and were made available to share with others. To continue, to read the article, one may feel like they can sense the power and emotions participants experienced. The personal accounts included in the article, I found, were very moving. When it comes to incorporating these ideas into my own classroom, I had a couple ideas come to mind. Instead of trying to teach a concept I am unsure of like the idea of culture in a social studies class, I could invite families or those who identify as that culture into the classroom. Furthermore, the class could leave the classroom for a field trip. For instance, would students learn more about The Medicine Wheel from me, teaching it in the classroom. Or would they learn more by visiting an Elder in a space they are comfortable in, where they are able to engage more? This is all involved in Place-Based Education. For math, students could experience careers which deal with math on a daily basis so they can see math “in-the-real”. Incorporating place-based education into the classroom would better the students understanding and make their learning more meaningful to them. 

Until next time,

  • Jayden 

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