Viewing the world from a new place

Last week I had the privilege of attending a 2 day Treaty Education Workshop at the University of Regina. It featured a number of Elders and OTC Facilitators to help us to understand Treaty Education; the symbols, the promises, and the significance. The Elders that shared their stories of living in the Residential Schools really spoke with a lot of honesty, passion and, yes, forgiveness too.

It was curious to compare two stories from the Residential School in Lebret, SK only a few years apart.  They were very different; one Elder shared painful memories that had led to many years of suffering, while the other acknowledged gratitude for well-deserved discipline as well as the path that her life had taken because of her experiences there.

What this made me consider is that we, as educators, carry the power to break or lift spirits every day. We do not always know the burdens that our students carry in their hearts when they come to school. We cannot see the psyche of our students transparently.

The second revelation I had at the Treaty Education Workshop was around Worldview.  I moved to Saskatchewan in June, thinking I knew what it meant to be Canadian. I am shocked and humbled to realize that my “Canadian” worldview is so different from Canadians here – whether Indigenous, European or other descent. Although I have always considered myself open-minded, inclusive, and accepting of others, I have learned that my worldview is not untarnished. I have come to realize that we are all a work in progress, as is our country. And this is really the point I want to make with my students – we all come to each learning opportunity with our “worldview-in-progress”. It is up to us to understand our baseline, decide on the direction, and rewrite the story. As a teacher, I hope to inspire my students the same way I was inspired by the two Elders I met last week. Two works in progress; damaged, imperfect, but having so much to offer the world.

I was fortunate to spend some time speaking to an Elder on Day 2 of the Workshop. We chitchatted about things we had experienced and seen, trading stories and opinions. All these things that had formed our own worldviews. There was mutual respect, trust, and honesty, and I felt that both my spirit and my worldview had somehow benefited from the interaction.

While I was preparing a presentation for my Arts Education class, I came across a wonderful interpretation of the map of Canada, called “Home and Native Land” by Jen Adomeit. Each province and territory’s official animal is represented.

Home and Native Land, by Jen Adomeit
Home and Native Land, by Jen Adomeit

This piece inspired me to consider including a Middle Years unit carving First Nation Spirit Animals into pumpkins. I wondered, “What does a First Nations worldview think of Halloween?” I wasn’t sure if the pagan festival would be disrespectful to combine with Spirit Animals, or not. I googled for pictures but couldn’t find a thing. So I texted the Elder to ask and was met with unbridled enthusiasm for the idea. She suggested Wolf, Bear, or Eagle, and I finally settled on a Turtle:

Turtle Pumpkin Carving
My First Nations-inspired pumpkin carving of a Turtle

The thing is, a few months ago I would have just gone ahead and never given it another thought. So if modeling consideration for the feelings and beliefs of others is a first step, then consider my feet firmly planted on the path to Treaty Education. I hope this is the beginning of a new worldview that benefits those around me.

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