Category: Truth and Reconciliation

Teaching hard truths in a positive way: Kâsinamakewin

Natasha Halliwell, a third-year Elementary Teacher Education student, can now add author and illustrator to her list of titles. A mom to 7 children, wife to Tyler, and former youth worker, Natasha along with two of her children, Tamika (14 years) and Keaira (11 years) created a picture book, Owl of US MATTER, which tells the truth of Canadian history “without opening the wound again,” in a way she believes will give “hope to future generations.”

The book is a culminating phase of a project that started with course work Natasha was required to do in her first year as an Education student, a Journey of Reconciliation assignment. Natasha says, “Learning about reconciliation in school was saddening; for me being Indigenous it was like picking at a scab. It was devastating. I had never even heard of the word reconciliation before I came to school. I didn’t know it was a thing… Learning about residential schools, learning about what happened, the stories, and being Indigenous, I was shamed. I was never proud to be brown-skinned. But then Dr. Fatima Pirbhai-Illich, I love Fatima, she is very passionate and very kind, and she showed me someone from a different colour that’s not Caucasian that cares authentically about Indigenous people and what happened and I thought that was unreal. She was taking the time to bead this little orange shirt as personal journey of reconciliation. I was required to explain what reconciliation was in my own journey. Since then, I’ve been brainstorming.”

Part of Natasha’s journey is having a mom and uncles and aunties who attended residential school. Though the experience at Lebret was positive for her mom because she made many close friends there, it was harmful for others in her family. One of her uncles started running away from residential school at age 7 or 8 and lived on the railway tracks for most of his life.

Natasha is proud of her heritage, living up to her maiden name Yahyahkeekoot: “It means nose to the sky. Be proud of who you are. Keep your head held high. My kokum taught me how to say my name … you have to clench your teeth tight and say it very fast.” She is of Cree and Dene background, with some Irish, Scottish, and French. Her mother is from Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation and her Dene family is from La Loche, Saskatchewan. From age 7 to 11 she lived in Thunder Bay, Ontario, learning Ojibway legends at the boys and girls club, while her mom went to university to become a social worker, and while under the care of her stepfather, a refugee from Cambodia who had escaped the Vietnam war. “He was all about outdoors and survival. He taught me how to fight and survival skills. I grew up wonderfully like that,” says Natasha.

When her mom and siblings moved back to Saskatchewan, Natasha found another influence in her life: her uncle Leo Yahyahkeekoot, a Cree culture teacher in Saskatoon.

Natasha says, “My Uncle Leo really impacted me, just the way you can teach. Even though we all have our negative sides to this history, we can reroute it to the positive. Yeah it did happen, and it’s not going anywhere; it’s almost like we ain’t there, we’re in a shadow, that’s where I felt I was shamed. We need to help each other to make it okay. We all have our dark history, but it doesn’t mean we can’t forgive.”

After learning about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Natasha was concerned about the way triggering information is taught: “I learned about PTSD. And I started going through it, and I’m like, this happened to me. Okay, this is my family. And I started understanding my life a little bit more. And caring. And then I think because I learned about it through school, I’m able to spot things that are triggers. If we are going to have a trigger, because anything to do with residential school or the past can trigger, it needs to be taught in a positive way.”

“Kâsinamakewin – time to forgive” is the message of Natasha’s book that she hopes will make teaching the hard truths of our shared history less triggering and more positive. “You have to let something go for something new to come. Forgiveness. Putting us all on that equal playing field. It wasn’t only us that had something taken, and had that change, it was everybody. It was every living thing, including the sacred grandfather rocks, for instance. This book will teach the truth equally. It’s easy to comprehend. Easy to read and talk about,” says Natasha.

Natasha didn’t know what to do with her 2-year curriculum project until she conceived of a picture book through another class: “I had this class with Denise Morstad, and my personal art project, the whole thing just took off.” The book is designed to connect to the Saskatchewan curriculum. Natasha says, “My book connects outcomes in the Saskatchewan curriculum for every grade. Plus I have my teaching resources. It’s a big thing all in one.”

For the illustrations, Natasha and her daughters recreated many historical images using owls. Owls were an unusual choice, given they are a bad omen for First Nations. Natasha explains, “I wanted to get rid of race, the separation, the blame. I thought about the owl. An owl has many species that look the same but are different. So I used owls as characters. I use to hate owls; some are associated with death for First Nations. But my daughters love owls. Tamika loves the great horned owl, and Keaira loves the snowy barn owl.”

“I never thought I cared about residential schools, reconciliation, or being Native until I started going to university. I use to hate being brown. I was ashamed, it’s hard being brown. Even coming here sometimes, because you are the only brown girl in class, and then you see the odd one and you get really excited. I was constantly reminded of my difference, and that’s what really brought me to my book,” says Natasha.

Natasha hopes to ease the path for her children and future generations to have a more positive healing experience with education on reconciliation and residential schools.

“I don’t want my kids to feel that shame. They have friends who are Pakistani, Black, you name it. They come to their birthdays. We order so many different kinds of food. It’s so multicultural. I don’t want that diversity to die. I want kids to be able to have that without feeling that shame or separation because of an old fact in history. And well, yeah, there are things that need to be made right in terms of compensation and the Queen, but those things will get dealt with once more people are educated. Right now it’s almost a forgotten truth. It’s a hard truth to swallow. That’s why I needed my book. How am I going to be a teacher if I’m going to pull out all of these facts that I’ve learned? I wanted to compact that and make a friendly little version. ‘This happened, it’s done now. Let’s move on.’ I made sure a lot of facts and information in the book, but at a really easy learning level,” says Natasha.

An invitation to read her book to a class of students has already been extended to Natasha, and she has accepted. She looks forward to future opportunities.

You can view and purchase Natasha’s book at https://www.blurb.com/b/11160722-owl-of-us-matter

Education News | Autumn 2021 issue


In This Issue:

A note from the Dean…..3
Stories about Indigenous education and unmarked gravesites in Canada…..4
Artistic expressions: masinahikêwin yêkâhk/ Writing in the sand poem…..10
Inaugural Gabriel Dumont Research Chair in Métis/Michif Education…..13
Education Students’ Society Truth and Reconciliation Week events…..16
Candidate for the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships Doctoral Awards 2021-2022 competition…..17
“I need to be in the quinzhee, not just talk about it!” Embodying our pedagogy…..18
Pimosayta: Learning to walk together slideshow…..21
Les étudiants du Bac mènent les activités de la Journée nationale de vérité et de réconciliation…..22
Le Bac student activities…..23
Funding and awards…..24
New faculty and staff…..26
Retirements…..27
Published research…..28

A conversation with Dr. Melanie Brice

In June, the Faculty of Education launched the inaugural Gabriel Dumont Research Chair in Métis/Michif Education. Dr. Melanie Brice was appointed to the Chair for a 5-year term. With the establishment of this new Chair, the first in a Faculty of Education in Canada, and many other endeavours toward Truth and Reconciliation, the Faculty continues to demonstrate a concerted and sustained commitment to teaching and research that is engaging faculty, students, and other education stakeholders in gaining a deeper understanding of our shared histories and a reconciliatory approach to a more just future.Dr. Melanie Brice’s upbringing as a Michif (Métis): “A Culture of Place”

Dr. Melanie Brice, a Michif (Métis) born in Meadow Lake and raised at Jackfish Lake, Saskatchewan, has a strong understanding of Indigenous histories, cultures, languages and literacies, perspectives, educational experiences, and cross-cultural education issues. However, Melanie didn’t start out with this understanding. “SUNTEP was pivotal in helping me see how all my experiences growing up were an important part of my identity. I knew that I was Métis and what that meant. With SUNTEP, I learned how to integrate these understandings into my teaching and how to explain them to others.” says Melanie.

“Most of my childhood recollections are around time spent at my grandparents’ ranch, north of Meadow Lake. I had a charmed childhood, living at the lake, and spending holidays at the ranch, riding horses and playing with my cousins,” says Melanie. Her family had instilled values that she understands as Métis: “I was always told, ‘Be proud. We are hard-working people.’ And constantly reminded that family is important,” says Melanie.

Genealogy is another interesting aspect of her Métis upbringing. Because Melanie is fair, her grandfather used to call her “wapistikwaan,” meaning “white head” and she wonders if he talked a lot about their genealogy because he knew there would come a time when she would be questioned. “Interesting, with everything going on around identity fraud,” Melanie says. “One reason genealogy is part of Métis culture is because we are always asked to prove our identity. We didn’t have the same recognition, rights, or status around the Indian Act.” Quoting 20th Century activist and Métis, Howard Adams, she says, “We are the forgotten people.”

From her genealogy, Melanie mentions ancestors such as Cuthbert Grant Jr, “considered warden of the prairie, one of the Métis leaders when Métis people became political with the Battle of Seven Oaks,” says Melanie, and Cyprien Morin and his wife Marie Morin who were among the first to settle at Meadow Lake in the late 1800s. “Hearing these stories when you are young, you realize, this is who your family is.” Melanie says, “That family is large, with many people descending from Cuthbert in the south and Cyprien in the north. I have family everywhere—many cousins as part of a large extended family. There is kinship among community.”

When thinking about how her upbringing gave her a sense of belonging, Melanie quotes bell hooks calling this sense “a culture of place.” “All of those experiences growing up,” she says, “and knowing you are related to so many people, shapes your understanding of how you see yourself and your place in the world, and the willingness you have to get to know other people and work with other people.”

The Misconceptions Around the Term “Métis”

Misunderstandings and misconceptions exist around the term, “Métis.” Melanie says, “I get frustrated when I tell somebody I’m Métis and they automatically think that means ‘mixed’ or worse, the derogatory ‘half breed.’ We are a distinct people with a distinct culture. We are our own, not half of anything!”

A pan-Indigenous misconception of what it means to be Métis has also been an issue. Melanie says, “I’ve been questioned my entire life about my identity.” However, Melanie looks at the questions she is asked, “Not as a challenge but as an opportunity to be able to share with people what it means to be Métis,” she says, adding that there are many variables involved in claiming the identity, not the least of which is to have connection with your community. “We have a nation. I don’t say I’m a member of the Métis. I’m a citizen in the Métis Nation. There is more than just genealogy and being accepted by a community. You also need to give back,” says Melanie.

The Importance and Activities of the Gabriel Dumont Research Chair in Métis/Michif Education

Melanie feels excited and thankful about being the first Chair: “I’m thankful to the Dean and GDI. Without the work they did, this Chair wouldn’t be possible,” she says. There have been similar chairs in Métis studies, in history and Indigenous studies, but this is the first in education.

It’s important, Melanie says, because “of the impact that education has on change, changing lives, influencing how we see ourselves and others.” Melanie hopes to bring a stronger Métis presence into curriculum, “impacting future generations with what we have contributed and continue to contribute to education.” She is excited to engage with other Métis scholars across the country to understand their research and the work they are doing to affect Métis/Michif education.

Another aspect of the Chair Melanie values is the opportunities it brings for enhanced academic engagement with GDI and SUNTEP. Melanie already has a long-standing relationship with GDI and SUNTEP as an alumna and former faculty while she was working on her PhD. She is excited that the Chair brings her back into teaching at SUNTEP. “Working with GDI and talking about what are some of the priorities right now, and how can we work together to achieve some of those priorities—That’s the really important piece: having something that responds to our community’s needs. The Chair can put those things forward.”

The Kaa-tipeyimishoyaahk–We Own Ourselves Project. Working around the issue of identity, one of the big projects that Melanie hopes to engage with as Chair is to research Métis/Michif Education. She says, “The word Kaa-tipeyimishoyaahk—We are a people who own ourselves (Gaudry, A. 2014)—was given to me by Michif elder, Norman Fleury. There has been a lot of research around Indigenous education. However, it is done in either a pan-Indigenous view or it is First Nations. There isn’t a lot of research on Métis/Michif learning. I definitely want to focus on bringing that into academia, supporting the teaching at SUNTEP.” The We Own Ourselves project is supporting this goal. Melanie is talking to elders and old ones, and Métis educators and scholars to find out what they need. She is also part of her own research project, learning northern Michif from a fluent speaker.

Language and Cultural Revitalization. According to the Statistics Canada 2016 census, with a rising population of 51.2%, the Métis were the fastest growing population in Canada between 2006 and 2016. However, less than 2% of Métis people speak the Michif language, making the Michif language one of the most vulnerable Indigenous languages in Canada.

Through the chair, Melanie intends to build capacity in Métis/Michif education by focusing on language and cultural revitalization along with research, learning, knowledge keeping, reconciliation, and inclusion.

Not everyone has had the same cultural experiences and opportunities as Melanie. Her daughters, whom she raised in the city, didn’t have the same experiences: “Even though I thought I did such a good job with my daughters, instilling in them a strong sense of their Métis identity, they didn’t have those kinds of lived experiences—cultural knowledge from being in community and at gatherings,” says Melanie. Over the years, Melanie has also seen a change in SUNTEP’s scope, in that when she went through the program, “SUNTEP taught Métis people how to be teachers. Now because of how successful colonization has been it is more like teaching students how to be Métis and how to be teachers.”

Melanie clarifies that the culture has not disappeared. “Culture is still there; it’s just not taken up in the same kind of way because of how families have moved away. That’s why it is important to be more explicit in terms of naming.”

Dreaming Big. Research on Métis ways of learning, knowing, and being is important; however, Melanie is concerned about the dearth of Métis researchers and PhD students. When asked to dream about the possibilities if unlimited resources were available, Melanie says she would like to see “fully funded Métis graduate students—students pursuing their PhDs without having to leave their communities or give up their income.” She recognizes that this would be tricky because there is value in doing a residency component; “Yet,” she says, “I can see where a move away from family and supports is a huge obstacle for potential students.” Another dream of Melanie’s is, “to adequately compensate our elders, old ones, and knowledge and culture keepers who are so pivotal to the research.”

Stories about Indigenous education and unmarked gravesites in Canada

Dr. Angelina Weenie is a Plains Cree from Sweetgrass First Nation in Treaty 6 territory.

My TRC story is not the typical story as I did not attend residential school; I went to Sweetgrass Day School. My parents attended Delmas Residential School. It is about 10 miles from our reserve. My two sisters and my brother attended Lebret Residential School. My other sister attended St. Gabriel’s High in Biggar, Saskatchewan. They each had different experiences. It is hard for me to write about others’ experiences. It is their story, and they are not here anymore. It is not my place to write about them, but they need to be honoured and not forgotten.

I do understand why I carry a deep sense of loneliness and sadness. It must emanate from my parents and my brother and sisters and what they went through when they were taken from their families and from their homes. My father was interviewed by the Leader-Post in 1990. He talked about how the nuns would call them savages.

Lebret is far from our home (about a 5-hour drive). Sweetgrass is west of Battleford, Saskatchewan. I remember when the big yellow school buses would arrive to pick up the children. I can only imagine how lonely, lost, and scared they would be to go so far away from home. I also have a photo from my sister Lorraine’s Grade 12 graduation. My parents, my grandparents, and the principal from our school travelled to Lebret. This was a grand occasion for my family. My grandfather stood proudly in his chief’s outfit (See photos below).

These memories are about how First Nations people believed in education. Education has always been important to us. The outcomes were different in many situations but, ultimately, First Nations people wanted their children to succeed. Our parents instilled the importance of education in us and supported us. We come from a nation of proud and resilient people.

_______________________________________________________

Dr. Anna-Leah King is an Odawa/Potawattimi originally from Wikwemikong.

When Angelina and I heard of the reveal of 215 unmarked gravesites at Kamloops, British Columbia’s former Indian Residential School (IRS) site, it affirmed horror for Indigenous survivors. In response, we hosted a feast at First Nations University (FNUC). This connected us as we knew we both had in one way or another the IRS experience in common and were pondering what to do and recognizing the sense of heavy spirit that was overtaking everyone. It was a positive and constructive measure.

This news report was only the beginning. A short time later, at Marieval Indian Residential School on Cowessess Reserve, Saskatchewan, another ground-penetrating search was conducted, which found 751 gravesites. The IRS survivors were always aware these gravesites existed and the news was no surprise. Some survivors have shared their stories with each other and with others who did not attend a residential school, but have not always been believed, even by their own people. Being believed about their collective horrific experiences that took place at Indian Residential School has been a long time coming. Some shared testimonials with the Truth and Reconciliation commission. In fact, this is where the sharing of these gravesites began. The then Chief Justice Murray Sinclair recommended in the TRC Calls to Action to have ground searches done at every residential school across Canada to finally reveal these gravesites publicly (TRC, 2015). And so it began, ground searches across Canada, to the 139 Indian Residential Schools, to uncover gravesites verifying the tragic end of innocent children’s lives who came to their deaths at the hands of abusive nuns and priests. The stories of these now Keteyak (Old Ones) will never be forgotten.

I remember my Elder and dear friend, the late Laura Wasacase, sharing some of the experiences she and her friends encountered at the Indian Residential schools. Some women heard the babies cry at night but there were no babies in the morning. Some witnessed horrendous physical abuse. Some saw a fellow student “fall out” the second floor window to her death, learning later of the possibility that she was pushed because the next girl held on tight and prepared herself not to “fall out” when left alone with an angry nun.

These ground searches at Kamloops and Cowessess were the first of many that would take place across the country in every residential schoolyard. The grand tally will not be known until all the ground searches are completed. As of today there are 1,800 unmarked graves estimated of which former Chief Justice Senator Sinclair estimates numbers could be anywhere from 6,000 to 25,000. The heartache and pain of the survivors’ traumatic memories stirred up is no less for the survivors of the survivors.

I thought about my mother and father who attended Spanish Indian Residential School in Spanish, Ontario. It was run by the Catholic Jesuit Order. There were two school buildings: Garnier was the boys’ school and St. Joseph’s the girls’ school. My father had chosen building maintenance for his obligatory chore. He told me one day when I was a young adult how he recalled making the crosses for the boys that died there during the school year. He reflected on the insensitivity of the “black robes” as they callously informed the parents of the passing of their child in that school year. My parents never shared much of what took place there until late in life when more news stories frequented the print media. My mother was in her 70s when she first began to share experiences. She and my Auntie would recall “Bologna Legs” as they referred to a nun who was particularly cruel to them.

These schools ran from 1870s to 1990s and some were open for over 100 years (Restoule, 2013). The Canadian government and the churches aligned forces to “kill the Indian in the child.” Assimilation was their point and purpose by order of John A. McDonald. The truth was, they exercised genocidal practises on the children in every form of abuse possible. Although many priests have been reported for their sex offences towards children, only some have been charged. The United Church of Canada in Sudbury, Ontario was the first to publicly apologize in 1986 for the atrocious wrongs that were committed against Indigenous children at these schools. The same cannot be said for the Roman Catholic Church. Of the 130 schools, most of them were run by the Roman Catholic Missionary congregations. The Vatican refuses to apologize despite Justin Trudeau’s efforts in 2017. On September 24th, 2021, at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, an official apology was issued for their role in the IRS, succumbing to public pressure (Warburton, 2021).

Click to download full Cecil King's full op-ed
Click to download Cecil King’s full op-ed

I conclude with my father, Cecil King’s, words with regards to reconciliation that he shared in a piece for the TRC. My father was encouraged to become a teacher in the 12th grade. This he did, spending 50 years in education as a teacher, professor, researcher, consultant and teacher of teachers. He is the creator and founder of the Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP) and former Dean of the Saskatoon Campus First Nations University. My father advises to strive for “bonnigi deh taadewin” an Ojibwe phrase meaning “the process of pushing the badness out of your heart.” He suggests that everyone needs to get out of the dialogue of the mind and speak from our hearts, including politicians, bureaucrats, and the general population, before any true reconciliation can happen (2015, TRC).

Additional Note: Dr. Cecil King will be publishing his memoir titled: The Boy from Buzwah in February 2022 through the University of Regina Press.

 

Orange Shirt Day / National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

September 30, 2021, Orange Shirt Day, will be the inaugural National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, “a time for reflection”, as Lori Campbell, Associate Vice-President,
Indigenous Engagement, has written.

The University of Regina is closing offices and courses so that the campus community can take time to reflect.

Read more of Phyllis Webstad’s story https://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html

Purchase an official 2021 Orange Shirt Day shirt at https://orangeshirtday.net/

#Orangeshirtday2021 #everychildmatters

 

 

Institutional racism and the implications for faculties of education


On September 30, (#OrangeShirtDay) Dr. Jerome Cranston (#UREdu Dean and Professor) was keynote lecturer for the University of Manitoba’s Distinguished Lecturer Virtual Series.  Cranston addressed how amid the current period of racial reckoning, those responsible for teacher preparation, preservice and in-service education, need to confront and (re)consider how higher education has reified systemic racism.

Le Bac student creating film series on Canadian languages

Le Bac #UREdu student Wahbi Zarry and Tony Quiñones have created a 1/2 hour film, 10 Days of Cree, which follows Zarry’s 10-day journey engaging with the larger community while working to learn the Cree language. This is the first of a planned educational webseries exploring Zarry’s experiences with Canadian indigenous languages

Interim President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Thomas Chase writes, “10 Days of Cree is a fine example of the quality work our students produce, and just as importantly, a fine example of reconciliation in action that should inspire and serve as an example for us all – particularly as we work to bring to life our new Strategic Plan, kahkiyaw kiwâhkômâkaninawak.”

Episode 2 on the Nakota language will be released in November. For updates follow Zarry’s Facebook site, Canadian Languages.

Canadian Languages is a webseries exploring indigenous languages of Canada through educational documentaries.

Click to read the University of Regina Feature Story