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The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Photo credit: Bethan Bates.

Trent’s Indigenous Bachelor of Education Students go to Winnipeg

Written by
Bethanie Dusome
and
and
December 13, 2022
Trent’s Indigenous Bachelor of Education Students go to Winnipeg
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Photo credit: Bethan Bates.

Indspire is an Indigenous charity that supports First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students across Canada. While they offer all kinds of services and programs, they also host and organize many events. The Indigenous Bachelor of Education program at Trent University was recently invited by Indspire to attend their "National Gathering for Indigenous Education." This event was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, from November 23rd to 25th. 

This National Gathering was about bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators together to find and share ways to bring Indigenous Education into classrooms. It was also to make that shared path forward, to create and get new resources, support systems, and safe spaces for youth that involve Indigenized education. 

There were a number of events throughout the three-day conference. My favourite part of the trip was the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It was absolutely incredible because this past summer, I worked for the Metis Nation of Ontario where they trained us on beadwork, and one of the examples they used were fire bags, which are also known as octopus bags. During that training, I was introduced to this beautiful piece of beadwork by Jennine Krauchi. It is a twenty-six foot tall beaded octopus bag that she had made for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. 

The twenty-six foot octopus bag by Jennine Krauchi. Photo credit: Bethanie Dusome

One of my favourite workshops I attended was a workshop with Curran Katsi'sorókwas Jacobs. One thing she talked about was Land Acknowledgements. She had written her own and mentioned that she had been told that hers was more like a Thanksgiving Address, but either way, they are Ohénton Karihwatéhkwen which translates to "the words that come before all else" or "Words Before All Else." She taught us that they can be used as a way to free the mind of the people who you will be teaching, whoever else you might say it in front of, and yourself. It allows you to start fresh in the space you are in, free your mind from anything not related to what you're doing, and focus on the now.

She then posed the question, "what does it mean?" She was not talking about figuring out what hers meant. Instead, she asked something that everyone should consider before offering a Land Acknowledgement. This is not supposed to be a rehearsed speech you mindlessly say or read from a paper just to check something off your to-do list. They are supposed to have a meaning that you understand and connect to. She talked about how she believes that writing our own is a way to do so and is what we should be doing. Not only does it help us form a connection with the words we are speaking, but it helps us to learn why they are so important to say and understand what we are saying.

Jacobs also talked about how she disagrees with how people are being taught to interact with Elders. They are being taught by settlers, for the most part, and Indigenous People who were taught by settlers. That the way to interact with Elders is more transactional. She talked about how yes, you need to be respectful, but it is not and should not be transactional, especially if you have already built a relationship with them. Once you have created a relationship with them, just be respectful and help each other out when need be. You should also have that conversation with the Elders you are interacting with and see how they want you to interact with them. Not allowing these relationships to be relational takes away the ability to thoroughly learn from them and connect with them in the end.

One of Jacobs's most significant points was that we, as Indigenous people, should encourage settlers to do the reconciliation, not relying on Indigenous voices. She told us about her experience with one of her projects, where she would talk with settlers and give them all the information they needed to do the reconciliation. However, they relied on her to do the talking when it came down to it. She mentioned that the circular way is not progressive; it's how we have always thought. She doesn't discourage settlers when they believe it is if they are actively putting in the effort to be progressive. 

Throughout the entire conference, there were a lot of resource links and different companies and organizations describing how their resources could help with decolonizing pedagogy. 

There were also many opportunities for conversations with others to be educators and educators. A few ideas that I had either talked with people about or heard were about alternative desk setups. Sometimes, all it takes to set up your classroom is to set up desks so that the students are not just staring at the board or teacher. Then, from there, you can move on from relying on lectures as a way to teach students. Instead, you could have discussions about topics just like most primary grades do to learn.

While attending the conference, I experienced so many wonderful moments of pride for being Métis, general happiness that I will be able to apply this in my own classroom someday, and I was able to let my curiosity run wild as I explored so many things. Conferences like these provide incredible opportunities to bring people together, for people to learn, and for people like me to get more involved and feel like part of their community and culture.

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