What does it mean to learn from a place? The article read for this week’s class shed light as to how a place can educate, connect, heal and start conversations amongst a group of people. Restoule, Gruner, and Metatawabin wrote an article entitled “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” in which they set out to seek a better understanding of how these people view land, environment and life. In the article the authors were able to see ways in which progress was being made regarding rehabilitation and decolonization.
The project described in this article had several examples of way the Mushkegowuk people reconnected with their land. First, the entire project was based on a 10 day river trip with elders, youth and adults of this Indigenous community. In addition to this, an audio-documentary was made regarding the perspectives these people had on the impact of the Kistachowan River as part of their history. There were also skill building workshops that were organized for the Cree youth. These workshops included interviewing community members, research methods and the creation of magazines and audio tapes. Through these projects and excursions, the youth were able to gain an understanding of how the land and river related to their community and well-being. Elders were able to share their knowledge with the youth of their community through this experience.
Two decolonizing projects discussed in this journal are that of renaming and reclaiming. Elders of the community shared their stories of the land and the relationship between it and the native language of their people (Inninowuk). During the trip down the river, areas of land had been replaced with English terms and names. As the journey down the river continued, Elders would name the Inninowuk name given to the specific area of land or bend in the river. Additionally, there was a huge focus on the work paquataskamik – a cree word used to describe the whole, natural environment. By focusing on this, the people were retaining the relationships between the rivers, lands and communities. During discussions, Adults and Elders who attended residential schools spoke to the impact it had on them and what life was like prior to contact.
Connections to Education
Learning from land and place beyond institutional walls is a return to traditional Mushkegowuk modes of teaching and learning.Restoule, Gruner & Metatawabin, 82
This journal hits the nail on the head when is comes to experiential learning and creating connections between learning and a child’s community/roots. Activities such as the ones described in the journal allow for youth to experience education and history, not simply learn about it. In a classroom, this idea or pedagogy can be adapted to any culture or community prevalent in the classroom. As a future teacher of schools on treaty territory, I could use the traditional teachings of the Indigenous people of the area to create a hands-on learning experience for my students. In my teaching, I want to be able to use ideas and project to allow students to create relationships and learn beyond the four walls of the classroom. In the journal, there is a quote that says “connection to nature is important to children’s intellectual, social, physical and spiritual development…[and] cultural identity” (Restoule, Gruner & Metatawabin, 70). I think this speaks for the importance of nature in the classroom. This is something I want to remember as I head into my future career.