What a great SAGE! I was so lucky to be a part of both the Manitoba Social Sciences Teachers Association (MSSTA) and the Manitoba School Librarian Association (MSLA) conferences. It was also nice see my good friend James Allum (pic) who is the new Minister of Education. Congrats! Great to have a historian as our minister!!
Some of the participants in the sessions I ran today asked if I could share some of the resources on Ecological Literacy and HBC/Idle No More. You asked, so I deliver:
With recent events in Canada related to the Idle No More campaign and an often nasty national dialogue related to First Nations struggles in this country, I have started to wonder if resistance and rebellion, depending on your loyalties, are a part of our narrative and who we are. The 19th century, with two Métis resistances, one war against an oppressive empire to the south, two major rebellions in the Canadas, nationalist revolutionary movements in Quebec in the 20th century, and now an indigenous resistance based on a general angst, speaks to an uneasiness we have with oppressive and unresponsive governments. In nearly all cases, governments have taken for granted the legitimate concerns of minority and vulnerable groups of people who are about to be displaced our lose their culture. Right or wrong, these movements are a consistent feature on our historical landscape (this is my opinion, not a truth).
Recently we have explored the history of Red River since 1738. We understand the relationship between First Nations and Europeans, the treaty signed between Selkirk and Peguis, and how people tried to share space. We also learned what happened when Canada did not talk to the Métis when looking to engulf the Northwest into Confederation. We are able to answer the question: Why is Louis Riel the father of Manitoba?
But things were also happening in other parts of British North America. The United States at some point tried to march through Upper and Lower Canada – see the PBS film below:
By the 1830s, there were rumblings of rebellions and these hit a feverish point in 1837 and ’38. Here is a great resource on the Rebellions of 1837/38. We know that there were rebellions in the maritime colonies, the Parliament building was burned down in 1849,there were two Metis rebellions in the Northwest, a massacre in Montreal, an FLQ crisis in Quebec, several First Nations protests and now the Idle No More movement (I will supply articles on these in class, but do not want to post them as they are copyrighted. I don’t want my friends at Canada’s History to beat me up). Are we a nation of resistance and/or rebellions? What does this mean in terms of the development of Peace, Order, and Good Government? Has this rebellious nature created our democracy? Please respond initially via this blog and then we will do some formal writing next week.
Here is my attempt at creating an interactive and evolving Idle No More textbook for educators and students across the country. A major goal is to engage all in higher-order thinking and writing about this historic movement. As per my previous post, I find this a critical time to examine our collective history and see what we need to do to move on. With any issue, there are many perspectives and many which are ill informed. In order to think critically about any issue and to seek out what is significant, we need to have a basic understanding of the forces at work. Over the last few days, I have put together a few resources to help us understand, at a basic level, what Idle No More is, what Bill C-45 is, what Canadians are saying, and what First Nations leaders are saying.
I hope that we can build this resource over the next few weeks. Please feel free to comment below and suggest links that would be useful. I also welcome the thoughts on Idle No More from students and teachers around that world that are constructive and are meant to construct knowledge.
The Idle No More movement speaks volumes as to our understanding of our history and our relationship with each other. John Ralston Saul suggested that we are a small “M” métis nation; one shaped by our indigenous roots – but this history was rewritten in the 19th and 20th centuries. If this is the case, perhaps the Idle No More campaign is a wake-up call to this relationship and to the reality that Canada needs to fess up to some ugly truths. Our story is complex and involves a lot of players; the solutions may be equally perplexing and painful. As an educator and someone who likes to read history, Idle No More is of great interest and personal investment. Many of my friends are of First Nation descent, and I am grateful for being included in their stories. I am sure they are equally overjoyed to be part of my European-mutt-Roma story. Over the winter holidays, I have struggled as to how to investigate such a movement in my classroom and within my own consciousness. Where do I start?
The first step I have taken is to solicit the input of leaders in Canada within the movement. I have sent the following questionnaire to Sheila North Wilson of CBC Manitoba, Waub Rice of CBC Ottawa, Michael Champagne of CKUW’s Inner City Voices, and Niigaan Sinclair from the University of Manitoba. My hope is that the podcasts created by these participants will shape a would-be textbook and provide us with an inside look at the motivation and inspiration of the movement. Now for the pedagogy…
There are two main issues when dealing with such a movement in the classroom: the social and the cognitive. They are interrelated, but both need to be addressed in order to provide an educative experience that is both positive and transformative. By social I refer to the attitudes, expriences, and baggage we bring into a learning community – both as teachers and students. Can we get past the point of “the other” in order to reconcile our stories? I think that as teachers, this comes down to developing the imagination within each student in order to create an empathetic learning environment. Simply stated, how do we move beyond fundamentally racist attitudes, whether established at home or through other experiences, and create opportunities for critical thought and reconciliation? There is a clear gap in this development, given the material which showed up at the #idlenomore rally in Winnipeg on December 31st (photo tweeted be Sheila North Wilson). The example below is extreme, but there are far more subtle examples of historical resentment present in all facets of our society. As teachers, can we constructively deal with attitudes from students and teachers which ignore the fact that we are a métis nation? Can we help students get beyond the idea that “Indians get all this free stuff?”
By the cognitive, I refer to the critical thinking and rigour involved in furthering our understanding of our collective stories. Idle No More represents a huge idea and sub concepts which could dilute any message. As January 7th approaches (the first day back following the holidays), I need to create an environment whereby we can attack the BIG questions and answer them with rigour. By rigour I refer to William Doll’s explanation: “purposely looking for different alternatives, relations, connections” (Doll, 1993). I find often that inquiry and project-based learning can attack huge ideas whereby they are watered down and simply become an exercise in free-for-all-ism. What I want to do, particularly with my Grade 12 Global Issues class, is to pose 3 or 4 major questions that get to the essence of this movement. I suspect the rigour will take care of itself once these questions are established and the learning is directed by the community.
In all, I want this investigation to inspire empathy, critical thinking, and an understanding of “the other” and of each other’s stories. I want to teach my students how to look at certain movements with logic, compassion, and not to immediately polarize debates. Part of this success will be based on my openness to have my assumptions challenged. Perhaps, as Idle No More has, this educative experience will bring more Canadians together and will help perpetuate a constructive dialogue between colonized, colonizer, and everyone else. To be continued….