Practice

Rationale for Territorial Acknowledgement for Rising Tides Anthology

 

This artifact is the territorial acknowledgement that I crafted with my partner, Levi Wilson, for an anthology that is in the process of being published by Caitlin Press, called Rising Tides: Reflections for Climate Changing Times.  We wrote our pieces separately and then combined them (my words are in italics, while Levi’s are not), in much the same way that we co-facilitate place-based workshops on Galiano Island for students, educators, researchers and other groups. We take turns, listening, supporting and building on what each other offers. It is an example of my practice of making education more inclusive for First Nations students and their families, as an ally, accomplice and co-resister with my First Nations partner (Swiftwolfe & Shaw, 2019). Last year, Levi and I taught at the same school, and together we were able to tag-team to build relationships with our students and support their learning in a way that is quite amazing – he as a classroom teacher and me as an inclusive education / exploratory teacher.

 

I look forward to being able to read this acknowledgement out to my students from my copy of the published book – to both my students who miss “Mr. Wilson” as well as the learners who are new to our school and who do not yet know him. Both types of my Indigenous students are inspired and more likely to be engaged in my lessons when I share what I have learned from and with my partner, as he is a well-respected First Nations teacher. For my non-Indigenous learners as well, I think my practice of deconstructing the myth of the “perfect stranger” (Dion, 2009) helps to disrupt harmful stereotypes about Indigenous peoples and their role and value in society.

 

Like our students, workshop participants find our approach to co-teaching very helpful and inspiring, because we model what they do not even realize reconciliation and allyship can look like. We are highly sought after by organizers who hold events on Galiano, such as Dr. Catriona Sandilands, the editor and facilitator of the writers’ workshop that led to the creation of the Rising Tides Anthology. This artifact embodies the work I put in to negotiate the logistics and cultural translations required to enable events and projects like this to include the presence and voice of First Nations knowledge-keepers such as Levi and members of his extended family.

 

However, this work can be taxing on our relationship as well, as we can end up talking about challenges in education to the exclusion of all else. It often feels more empowering to me to guide settlers on their journey of reconciliation whereas it can be much more emotionally demanding for Levi to parry their latent racism with patience, humour and skillful analysis. I try very hard to work with organizers to minimize opportunities for participants to express colonial assumptions before they have a chance to hear from him and rethink some of the most commonly held myths and stereotypes about Indigenous knowledge and peoples. It is an exhausting yet rewarding practice to create space for his voice because the adults we touch often hold positions of influence in our society and I know that changing their practice just a little bit could have huge implications for the next generation, both in and outside of the classroom.   

 

References

 

Dion, S. D. (2009). Braiding Histories: Learning from Aboriginal Peoples’ Experiences and Perspectives. UBC Press. 

 

Swiftwolfe, D. & Shaw, L. (2019). Indigenous Ally Toolkit. Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network. Retrieved from:

http://reseaumtlnetwork.com/resources/

© 2019 by Emily Menzies.