Category: Indigenization

Opening a doorway to culture through equine assisted learning

Mishkwiingwese (She Blushes), Kelsey Moore, Zhiishigwan (Shaker/Rattle), and Angela McGinnis stand at the entrance sign, which commemorates the four grandmother mares from which the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies at The Red Pony Stands® Ojibwe Horse Sanctuary descend. The seven ponies who reside at the Sanctuary, which is located near the Qu’Appelle valley, contain the two original bloodlines, the Keokuk and Nimkii lines. Their lineages date back to the four Original Mares from Lac La Croix First Nation and Bois Forte Band of Chippewa that were the last remaining in the world (Lilian, Biizhiki, Diamond, and Dark Face) who were strategically bred to a Spanish Mustang Stallion (Smokey) in 1977 in order to save the breed from extinction. (Source: www.theredponystands.com) Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

What is the connection between horses, educational psychology, and Indigenous youth and culture?

Reconnecting with cultural and traditional ways of knowing and being is increasingly seen as a significant part of the healing and learning process for First Nations peoples, whose culture has been historically and systemically oppressed by the colonization process. Language revitalization has been a key focus of cultural preservation and reclamation, but Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) is a relatively new and less understood approach to learning and healing, at least among the scientific community. For Indigenous peoples, however, horses have long been viewed as carriers of knowledge and healers. The preservation of the critically endangered Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies, then, is part of the process of cultural reclamation and preservation, and thereby healing and learning, as relations between Indigenous horses and peoples are (re)established.

Dr. Angela McGinnis, an Assistant Professor of educational psychology in the Faculty of Education and an Indigenous Health Researcher, and her graduate student, Kelsey Moore, are conducting SIDRU-funded research to better understand how and why Indigenous youth benefit from working with Indigenous horses, specifically the seven Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies being cared for by Angela and her partner Cullan McGinnis at The Red Pony Stands® Ojibwe Horse Sanctuary. Founded by Angela and Cullan, the Sanctuary “is an Indigenous owned and operated not-for-profit.” The Sanctuary receives some financial support by private and corporate sponsors and donors; however, these supports do not cover all of the costs: Angela says, “The majority of the work and expenses fall on my partner (Cullan) and I to keep the ponies happy and healthy, both physically and spiritually. Our mission is to protect, promote, and preserve the critically endangered Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony breed.”

Angela, Cullan, and the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies all originate from Treaty 3 territory in Northwestern Ontario. Horses have been part of Angela’s life from her earliest memories at her home in Fort Frances. “I have a picture of me on a horse before I could even walk,” says Angela. Her parents were caretakers of Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies and Nez Perce horses. Angela credits her father as a mentor who has taught her a great deal from his knowledge of working with horses.

Reconnecting with her Métis/Ojibwe cultural identities has been a focus of Angela’s education and healing. Cultural connectedness was a central concept in her research at Western University, where she received a PhD in clinical psychology in 2015. As part of her doctoral research, Angela developed a measure to assist in determining the extent to which cultural connectedness is associated with health and well-being, specifically among First Nations youth. Angela’s findings indicate that cultural connectedness is a positive predictor of mental health. This is critical knowledge because, as Angela says, “the mental health and well-being of youth is one of the most urgent concerns affecting many First Nations communities across Canada.” Angela views her work in educational psychology as “a perfect fit” for the research in which she is engaged. She says healing and learning are inseparable: “You can’t have healing without learning, or learning without healing.”

Doodem (Clan), who is standing, is a 5-year-old sorrel stallion from Kichi Noodin off Ishkote. His genetically matched breeding partner, seen in the foreground, is Aazadi (Cottonwood Tree). Because the ponies are critically endangered, careful DNA testing must be done before the ponies can be bred to ensure their preservation. Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

Since completing her doctoral research, Angela has been seeking to understand how cultural connectedness can be developed through, what she calls, “real-world experiences,” which include strengthened relationships with the land and all its “more-than-human” creatures, particularly the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony. Broadening health research to include the more-than-human world is important to Angela because, she says, “We need to situate well-being within a larger network of social relations, with both the human and more-than-human worlds. We need to focus beyond the individual and extend our understandings about health and well-being to living in relation to all else, not just for the present but for future generations as well.”

With her expertise in psychology and her passion for the preservation of the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony breed, Angela is perfectly situated to bridge, in her words, “often seemingly conflicting world views… I understand Western mental health perspectives, but this work requires an understanding of Indigenous perspectives of holistic wellness to fully understand the role of the ponies in the resilience process.” Angela likens the loss of contact with Indigenous horses experienced by Indigenous communities to the loss of family members: “Part of their family has been ripped away,” she says. Reconnecting Indigenous youth and adults with Indigenous horses brings about “indescribable moments,” says Angela. These moments spark the ‘I remember when…’ stories told by Elders about the ponies and traditional ways of life and are, Angela believes, charged with healing potential. “These are moments that could potentially change someone’s life. To see that happening in front of you, it’s a privilege.” Angela felt especially privileged to hear of the repatriation of the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony to Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, from which her partner, Cullan, originates. She says, “I was completely moved by the return of three black geldings to this community.” During a recent visit to see the community’s ponies, Cullan had opportunity to meet the geldings for the first time. Angela says, “The reunion of these family members was so powerful—an emotional reuniting. The bond between the geldings and Cullan was instant. It’s a culturally specific relationship that dates back to pre-Colonial contact. This type of relationship can’t be replicated with any other breed of horse.”

Family Reunion. The three Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies from Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation gather around Cullan (Waabinaanikwad) McGinnis at first meeting. Photo credit: Angela McGinnis

Reunions such as these lead to the beginning of relationships with the more-than-human world, and are what Angela calls a “doorway to the culture,” which can help youth make other cultural connections, such as ceremony. For instance, Angela and Cullan’s relationship with the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies at the Sanctuary has meant that they have sought guidance from local traditional Elders and engaged in horse-specific traditional ceremonies held in communities, such as the Horse Dance. Angela would like to share the doorway experience with her Educational Psychology students: “I want to help students step through that doorway. That’s how we understand how to help others, by experiencing it ourselves. And in return we help the ponies. That’s the whole mutual helping process, helping the horses in their fight against extinction. We need the Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies as much as they need us,” says Angela. She plans to start bringing her students out to the Sanctuary for classes in Spring. A 20-foot tipi will be raised as Angela prepares to bring her students in contact with the ponies and the land.

Master’s student Kelsey Moore, who received a B.Ed. in Indigenous Education from First Nations University of Canada, is now undertaking her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Regina under the supervision of Dr. McGinnis and the mentorship of Life Speaker Noel Starblanket. Kelsey is Métis and grew up in Yorkton. Her lifelong passion for horses began with several summers spent working with youth at horse camps and riding stables and continued with her experience of getting to know the Curly Horse breed at her inlaws’ farm. Her thesis research question perfectly intersects with Angela’s interest in understanding and offering evidence-based research to explain how and why Indigenous youth benefit in both educational outcomes and mental health, through establishing relationships with horses and how Equine Assisted Learning programs can be successfully culturally adapted.

Angela, Mishkwiingwese (She Blushes), and Kelsey demonstrate a teamwork exercise, learned at the EAL certification course. Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

Kelsey and Angela are amazed to have found each other. Angela says, “What are the chances of me finding a student who wants to work with Indigenous horses?” The two researchers are working toward the same ends as those involved in language revitalization: “We are all tackling a shared goal: Cultural preservation,” Angela says. The actual preservation of the critically endangered Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony extends as a metaphor for cultural and identity preservation: “Their mere presence is a counternarrative to the colonial narrative of the extinction of Indigenous horses to the Americas,” says Angela. Indeed, the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony’s survival itself inspires hope. But beyond that, Angela feels that interaction with Indigenous horses gives “Indigenous youth opportunities to connect with horses who have resilience and strength, like their own, that they can identify with, a culturally specific story,” she says.

What exactly is Equine Assisted Learning (EAL)?

Snowshoe and Starblanket (2016) state that EAL “is a relatively new approach to knowledge acquisition that draws primarily on the tenets of experiential learning, that is, learning through hands-on experience with the horse (Dell, Chalmers, Dell, Sauve, & MacKinnon, 2008).”

To deepen her understanding of EAL, Kelsey received EAL certification in August at Cartier Farms, near Prince Albert. Cartier Farms teaches that establishing an experiential hands-on working relationship with horses, with their sensitivity, non-verbal communications, resilience, and forgiving ways, can be an effective approach to learning, to self-knowledge, and to self-evaluation.

Angela, who has been guided by the traditional Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and communities with whom she has worked, sees the potential for healing and learning in culturally adapted EAL. Angela views horses as “more-than-human co-constructors of knowledge.” Horses have much to teach us about the land and living on the land, she says. Elders and Knowledge Keepers have taught Angela that, with their four feet always on the ground, horses have a greater connection with Mother Earth, and through this connection, the Creator. Thus, traditionally, horses have been considered a source of maintaining and recovering holistic wellness.

Upon the arrival of Angela’s first Pony at the Sanctuary, a beautiful stallion, affectionately named Sagineshkawa (Pleasure with my Arrival), she says, “I realized that I should not rush things. I needed to slow down and have humility, especially around a powerful being like a horse…This was the horse that I had to pay attention to and listen to spiritually.” Angela is grateful to all her ponies for their patience in teaching her. Kelsey’s experiences with horses have similarly given her the understanding that she must “slow down and be present in the moment,” she says. “Helping humans slow down is a way that the horses care for us,” says Angela. She views the horse-human relationship as one of mutual caring: “We are caretakers of them and the land, but the ponies also take care of us.”

Yet, there is an urgency that requires speed in this research due to the need for Indigenous youth to be able to access culturally adapted healing and learning programs. As a mother of a toddler, Kelsey had intended to move a bit slower with her research, but she says everything is moving much quicker than she planned or expected. Kelsey’s research, using what Angela describes as “a pure Indigenous research method,” seeks to understand the spiritual and cultural connections between Indigenous youth and Indigenous horses. Incorporating ceremony as research, Kelsey is documenting her interactions and deep listening experiences with the ponies, along with the conversations she has with Elders and Knowledge Keepers to make sense of what she observes.

The two researchers are already envisioning and talking about future plans. Angela says, “We hope to apply for an operating grant to help Kelsey set up her own Indigenous-centered Equine-Assisted Learning and healing program in the community, following the completion of her academic work.”

The Sanctuary has recently gained international attention. It will be featured in a short documentary film currently being produced by National Geographic as part of the Natural Connections Project. The film will document how EAL contributes to the well-being of First Nations youth. Through the film, Angela hopes to showcase “how Indigenous communities are using horses to connect with culture, strengthen positive relationships, and learn through activities with horses and nature.”

By Shuana Niessen

Credits for photos below: Shuana Niessen 2018

New Indigenous Speaker Series

Whisperings of the Land is the theme for a new Indigenous Speaker’s Series towards understanding Indigenization. Indigenous people have always had a close relationship to the land. There has also been an historical disruption in land relocations, land desecration and pillaging for economic gain. Our presenters will relate to how the land speaks to them.

The first speaker will be Dr. James Daschuk, author of Clearing the Plains.

January 23, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. (noon)

Education Building, Room 210

The Indigenous Speaker Series is open to all Education faculty, staff, and students.

Math 101 Mini Math Fair — Indigenizing math concepts

Sessional instructor, Shana Graham, with some of the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP – Regina) Year 1 preservice teachers and their Mathematics 101 Mini Math Fair (final project) posters.

On December 11, 2017, Math 101 students held a mini Math Fair, presenting their posters which reflected the Indigenization of mathematics concepts. (see photos above)

The concept of Indigenization is identified as “one of the University’s two overarching areas of emphasis” within the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan (https://www.uregina.ca/strategic-plan/priorities/indigenization.html). Depending upon the definition consulted, Indigenization may or may not be considered the work of settler/immigrant Canadians for it involves first-hand revitalizations of First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages, legal systems, and ceremonies, among many other aspects. Indigenization, however, lies in relation with decolonization and thereby challenges all Canadians to work at disrupting and changing current institutions and systems, including those educational. Thus, as a doctoral candidate of mathematics education, Shana Graham has been studying Indigenization and decolonization so as to inform her dissertation research which involves (re)imagining possibilities for mathematics education.

The idea for the implementation of a Mathematics 101 final project as poster and Mini Math Fair was informed by Show Me Your Math: Connecting Math to Our Lives and Communities, a program developed by Dr. Lisa Lunney-Borden and Dr. David Wagner (http://showmeyourmath.ca/). While a final poster project is not unusual within education courses, it is unique to a Mathematics 101 course. Decolonization, however, encourages considerations of context/community, which for this particular mathematics course involved only preservice teachers from the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP-Regina). Thus, in adapting/decolonizing curricula for context/community, the arguments presented for changing the Mathematics 101 final evaluation from exam to project were accepted by Dr. Shaun Fallat, Head of the Department of Mathematics & Statistics. The support of Dr. Fallat and the Dean of Science, Dr. Farenick, need be acknowledged for reconciliatory acts may not otherwise be possible without the support of such powerful individuals.

Darian Laliberte (Math Bingo in Cree)
Math Bingo in Cree
Jeanne Haywahe (The 7 Chiefs)
Dylan Joachim (1953 Inuit High Arctic Relocation)
Kaleb Desjarlais (Comparing Canada’s Land: Then and Now)
Mike Langan’s The Mathematics Behind the Hudson’s Bay Company (absent from the group photo)

 

 

International graduate students bring diverse viewpoints on Indigenization of adult education classes

The Education graduate class – Trends and Issues in Indigenous Adult Education – includes students from Brazil, Canada (including Nunavut and Quebec), Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, and Sri Lanka. The class was led by Dr. Cindy Hanson (front left), Associate Professor of Adult Education/Human Resource Development in the Faculty of Education. Seated next to Hanson is elder Alma Poitras who spoke in the class. Photo by Costa Maragos – External Relations

By Costa Maragos

Graduate students with diverse backgrounds have come together with a common goal of decolonizing adult learning.

The graduate course, Trends and Issues in Indigenous Adult Education, explores research, theory, and the practice of trends, issues, and perspectives in Indigenous learning.

Students from six countries were in the class from Brazil, Canada, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The diversity speaks to the higher number of international students who are choosing to further their studies at the University of Regina.

Having such a mix of backgrounds and viewpoints in one class made for some eye-opening perspectives on trends and issues involved in decolonizing adult learning in order to improve Indigenous education.

The class was led by Dr. Cindy Hanson, Associate Professor of Adult Education/Human Resource Development in the Faculty of Education.

“The class was important in this case because it was a coming together of international and Indigenous students in a very organic way and with a broad range of understandings regarding history, culture, and politics in Indigenous Adult Education,” says Hanson. “The course offered an opportunity to put this into practice. Experiences from the field of adult learning were built into the content.”

Many also feel little has been done to build structures and programs in communities for adult learning about decononization and Indigenous issues. They see this class as a good start. The students appreciated the participatory approach to Hanson’s class, allowing for discussions.

The students frequently exchanged and shared ideas on indigenization of education from their perspectives. Shown here are Nadeeka Obada Lekamlage (l) and Twana White (R).

José Wellington Sousa is from Brazil and is working on his PhD in Adult Education at the U of R. He has earned a BA in Economics and a Masters of Science in Administration at the University of Amazonia in Brazil.

“The class was a great example of what is going on in Canada right now. I can see the diversity in the classroom. We can learn from each other. We had many nations and sharing and reflecting on Indigenous education,” says Sousa. “In Brazil, we are kind of behind in the discussions of decolonization. So we are not even talking about reconciliation and addressing the injustice. I see this class as an opportunity to understand and learn.”

Issah Gyimah, who earned his Bachelor of Education at the University of South Africa, grew up in the post-Apartheid era. He’s taught in South Africa, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. He started his studies at the U of R in September.

“Coming from Africa and knowing about Apartheid, colonization, and racism, I have learned a lot from here and this class,” says Gyimah. “It has changed my perspective on how I see things. This class is a good foundation.”

Gyimah points out that adult education in South Africa is a growing area and a field that is not completely developed.

“We’ve been looking at children, but adults have influence on the children. There is a backlog of adults who did not get an education so this has left a big gap in South Africa,” he says.

“You realize with such a diverse class…you become more conscious about the impact colonization has on people.” -Student Cantelle Renwick

Pauline Copland earned her Education Degree from Arctic College in Nunavut. She’s working towards her masters in curriculum and instruction at the U of R. Her first language is Inuktikut.

“From the readings and talking to my classmates, I learned things about our Canadian history, even my own history, like residential schools. It affected who I am without knowing,” says Copland, who appreciates the class diversity. “Compared to where I went to school, coming here looks like the whole world is here. The diversity is really nice, meeting people from different countries.”

The class includes one student from Saskatchewan, who sees her experience and diverse views as an asset that will help her down the road.

Chantelle Renwick has a Business Degree from the U of R and a graduate diploma in teaching from New Zealand. It was her experience in New Zealand that started her passion for Indigenous education. She’s working on her masters in Indigenous Education.

“What we hear over and over is that colonization has happened in so many part of the world and that Indigenous people have been dealing with the loss of culture and language,” says Renwick, who is an instructor of Office Administration at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Regina.

“You realize with such a diverse class the different history and different feelings and perspective that the adult learners bring to the classroom. You become more conscious about the impact colonization has on people.”

The final class December 5, in the presence of elder Alma Poitras, featured a discussion about what the students learned and how it could be applied to their workplace or personal lives.

The classes also featured speakers including elders, a speaker from the Office of the Treaty Commission, a Metis lawyer storyteller, a talk by the U of R’s James Daschuk author of Clearing The Plains, and a fieldtrip to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum led by curator Dr. Evelyn Siegfried.

“Decolonizing adult education is a current theme in the field of adult education and a critical perspective on how to do this with a range of learners is important,” says Hanson.

The University of Regina has enjoyed an increase of graduate students. As of the Fall 2017, 1,902 graduate students are furthering their studies at the University.

New Chair of Indigenization

Dr. Anna-Leah King Photo credit: UR Photography

The Faculty of Education’s commitment to Indigenization is reflected in our strategic plan. In light of our commitment, the position of Chair of Indigenization was created. The Chair of Indigenization was offered to Dr. Anna-Leah King and she has accepted.

Among other responsibilities, Dr. King will provide leadership; oversee implementation of the Faculty Indigenization commitment; liaise and support the work of Elders, old ones, knowledge keepers; provide guidance to faculty, staff, and students with respect to protocols and create opportunities for faculty and staff to engage in learning and professional development with Indigenization.

Congratulations Dr. King!

Alanis King Speaks to Education Reading Students

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Alanis King, an Odawa playwright, director and educator originally from the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, was a special speaker for Dr. Anna-Leah King’s Reading Education class. Alanis (sister to Anna-Leah) is the first Aboriginal woman to graduate from the National Theatre School of Canada, and she has been Artistic Director of Askiy Productions, the Debajehmujig Theatre Group, Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto and Saskatchewan Native Theatre where she taught risk-prone inner city youth life skills through drama. She has produced, toured, directed and developed a wide range of plays in many First Nation communities across the continent.

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(l-r) Alanis King and Dr. Anna-Leah King

This evening, Wednesday, February 15,  in the Classroom Building (CL 112) at 8:00 p.m., Alanis will be reading in the Playwright’s Reading Series, hosted by the Media, Arts and Performance (MAP) Faculty, in partnership with the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild with the assistance of the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Math Education Students Craft Indigenous Games

Dr. Gale Russell’s EMTH 300 students crafted some Indigenous games of chance, which they also had fun playing once they had created them. Beyond learning math content, preservice teachers, who will work with children in their future math classrooms, must learn how to make learning accessible, fun, engaging, and culturally responsive. Students accessed these games at http://mathcentral.uregina.ca/rr/database/rr.09.00/treptau1/

Photo Gallery (Slide cursor over the photo below and click on the arrow to see the next photos)
Math Education (300) Students Craft Indigenous Games

#TreatyEdCamp 2.0: Bigger and Better

An astounding number of preservice and in-service educators (over 300!) gathered together on Saturday, October 1 to take advantage of a great opportunity: to learn about treaty education at #TreatyEdCamp 2.0. Treaty education is mandatory in Saskatchewan curriculum and #TreatyEdCamp is professional development delivered “by teachers for teachers,” allowing educators to learn about treaty and how to implement treaty education in their classrooms.

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(L-R) Katia Hildebrand, Raquel Bellefleur, and Meagan Dobson, Co-Organizers of #TreatyEdCamp

Katia Hildebrandt, Meagan Dobson and Raquel Bellefleur co-organized this second annual #treatyedcamp with the help of UR S.T.A.R.S. and many volunteers and with financial support from the Faculty of Education and the Aboriginal Student Centre.

Before participants went off to concurrent sessions (27 presentations over 4 sessions this year), Mike Desjarlais sang and drummed a song of remembrance, a reminder to participants to think of their loved ones who have gone before them. Dr. Jennifer Tupper spoke on the importance and need for treaty education, reminding participants of the recent murder of 22-year-old Colten Boushie of the Red Pheasant Reserve, which highlighted the racism that is prevalent in Saskatchewan, “still touching us all.” Education about what First Peoples have gone through at the hands of government — broken treaty promises that resulted in such losses as the loss of language and culture, loss of children to residential schools, and loss of loved ones to intergenerational trauma effects– will help to make changes that honour treaty rights, and someday will hopefully eradicate the issue of children in foster care and youth in gangs.

Brad Bellegarde, a Regina hip-hop artist and journalist, brought the Keynote presentation, “Hip Hop is the New Buffalo” after a lunch of soup and bannock. Bellegard expressed his desire to see the smiles on the faces of First Nation youth as they find relevance, self-expression  and the ability to fight oppression through Hip Hop music. (See his video: https://youtu.be/TGZSBx3Ye5c). He also showed a youtube to demonstrate how music can bridge cultural gaps, creating opportunities to collaborate in schools.  He encouraged teachers to ask about what they don’t know, just as he did when he went to Germany and Chile. “You’re teachers; you’re just like a big gang,” he said, “you can support each other.”

(See photo album by sliding cursor over the photo below and clicking on the arrow key)

#TreatyEdCamp 2016

If you couldn’t make a session, watch for the notes that will be posted for each session here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1auBuAsi3sTIhfcaXBsoHz7aNdaO0z_W9mX8LViyXfEU/edit#