ECCU 400

Living Treaties as kihci-asotamâtowin weekly engagement #3: tâpwêwin and Decolonizing Curriculum Through Truth

During our class visit to Bert Fox Community High School in Fort Qu’Appelle today, Michael Koops delivered a very inspirational and thought-provoking talk regarding decolonization through curriculum. I had previously thought about how the current Saskatchewan curriculum could be changed to become more inline with First Nations ways of teaching. Methods such as place-based education and interdisciplinary teaching are very intriguing to me. On one hand, I absolutely adore the idea of not separating curriculum into subjects, but instead finding ways of teaching lessons that incorporate multiple disciplines. On the other hand, I struggle with how to do this while still meeting the necessary outcomes and not being targeted by administration for not following “proper” education protocol.

At the same time that I have been thinking about this, I have also wanted to represent my recent very high level learnings on nêhiyawêwin (Cree language). I watched a video of Reuben Quinn giving a captivating lecture at the Edmonton Public Library on the history of nêhiyawêwin. He presented the syllabics in a symmetrical way that I found absolutely beautiful. The symbolism and sacredness behind the circular pattern of the syllabics and how this aligns with the medicine wheel is so poetic and interesting. The four directions and their alignment with the four elements, four vowel sounds, and four levels of communication, as well as the seven syllabics pointing in each diagonal direction representing the seven directions that exist in each one of us (left, right, front, back, above, below, and inside) is so fascinating and seems like such a unifying and peaceful way of language.

Nêhiyawêwin syllabics

I wanted to show the link between accepted Saskatchewan curriculum and the decolonizing process of rearranging this to more closely represent First Nations ways of teaching. The ripping up of curriculum only to have the pieces transform into nêhiyawêwin syllabic is symbolic of the disrupting of normal ways of teaching, and introducing new (or old?) ways. Language is such an important part of any culture, but language is especially important to First Nations. The loss of their language is tragic and it’s so important that steps are taken to maintain it. I think a first step to encouraging the support and resources required for revitalizing their language, is to change what and how we teach Saskatchewan youth. The compartmentalizing of history, math, english, etc. as well as the even bigger problem of teaching incorrect and distilled history to students, needs to change. This change is how we can encourage tâpwêwin and a way to instill pride and esteem in First Nations students as well as uncover the truth about Saskatchewan’s and Canada’s colonial past to all students.

Amiskwaciy History Series. (2016, June 9). History of the Cree language part 1 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpvuED_hJTM&t=1736s

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