Haboun Bair, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning
March 21, 2018
Instead of introducing ourselves by highlighting what we do, Jennifer modelled a way for us to connect to who we are: our most relevant identities are our connections to people and place.
I’ve never stopped to think about what I could learn from a rabbit.
On my way to and from work, I walk through my usual route on campus. When I see a snowshoe hare sharing a path with me, sometimes I’ll slow my pace and tread softly. I want the hare to know this is a safe place, so I shift to the edges of the snowy path to make space. But I sense the hare is stressed–and quite frankly so am I, now running late for a meeting. I try to speed things up by emitting stillness, but the hare notices I’m still moving. I inch closer and the hare flinches, indicating an inevitable exit plan is in the works. The salt beneath my boots crackles, and the hare and I part ways.
On my way to and from work, I think about walking “parallel paths,” the central metaphor for reconciliation in ii’taa’poh’to’p (the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy). This strategy outlines seven commitments for establishing an allyship “that honours Indigenous peoples’ stories, knowledges, and traditions and the renewal and development of authentic relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities.” (ii’taa’poh’to’p, 2017, p. 5).
On March 1, the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning hosted a workshop towards this end. Jennifer Ward (University of Alberta) facilitated a workshop on Indigenization and Teaching: A Workshop on Pedagogies, Protocols, and Worldviews. Her teachings provided a foundation for us to begin thinking critically and creatively about how Indigenizing our campus benefits everyone. The ways forward may not be under our noses, they may be closer to our belly buttons.
tante ohci kiya, who are you connected to?
Positioning herself on a map, Jennifer opened with a Cree “belly button teaching” about her history, childhood, family, and connections to the land in the city of Roseburg, Oregon. We learned of her Umpqua, Algonquin, and Walla Walla ancestry. We also learned that after she moved to Edmonton, Alberta, she was adopted into the Cree community who have become an extended part of her belly button story.
The belly button teaching is a great example of decolonizing our teaching and learning practice. She cited Universities Canada Principles on Indigenous Education which defines the practice of decolonization in the following ways:
- Decolonization restores the Indigenous worldview
- Decolonization restores culture and traditional ways
- Decolonization replaces Western interpretations of history with Indigenous perspectives of history
In this small but significant example of decolonizing pedagogy, we identified ourselves with a counter narrative: instead of introducing ourselves by highlighting what we do, Jennifer modelled a way for us to connect to who we are: our most relevant identities are our connections to people and place.
She then used an anonymous polling tool (Mentimeter) for us to share how we felt about this experience. The varied responses (see picture below) reveal the benefits and challenges of this alternative way of identifying ourselves through our personal relationships and histories, both an Indigenous way of connecting with each other and a step toward reconciling our historical relationships.