What Role do Teachers have in Decolonization?

This week’s article, “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” by Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Gruner, & Edmund Metatawabin, highlighted the importance of place-based learning (and re-inhabitation) in the process of decolonization. The project that this article discusses involved connecting different generations of a community to learn about the history of their land through the land; it fostered conversations between youth and Elders in the community that passed on traditional knowledge about: the history of the land; how to live off of the land and rivers; and the original names associated with that land (as well as Cree concepts associated with the land). Through this process, not only were the relationships between community members strengthened, but the relationship between the community and the land was also strengthened. 

It is important not to overlook or skip over the historical and cultural significance of the land. It is also important to foster dialogues that allow for engaged learning and that highlight Indigenous knowledge and history. As the article highlights, the knowledge of community members and Elders are key to re-inhabitation and decolonization. By fostering a dialogue about the history of their community and the traditional names and meanings of places, the sense of community became strengthened and the youth involved felt more of an attachment to their land. It strengthened the knowledge of historical Indigenous teachings and perspectives, and helped younger generations to better understand their own history and relationship to the land. 

In my own subject areas (Social Studies, English, and Inclusive Education), I could set up research projects about the Indigenous history of the land that involved community outings and visits (to or) from Elders who can share their personal knowledge and relationship about/with the land. I think it is important to engage students in these important discussions and to enhance their awareness of the traditional knowledge and importance of the land, but it is also extremely important to foster relationships between youth and community members with knowledge about the land and language, as “it is the bond among people in community that has made survival possible from time immemorial” (2013).

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