Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Review of "An Indian Woman of Many Hats"

The article "An Indian Woman of Many Hats" by Christina Stanciu, has a slow start outlining the background of Laura Cornelius Kellogg, an Oneida writer, thinker and activist.  Cornelius Kellogg was a founding member of the Society of American Indians who worked to share her idea about how to make a better future for indigenous peoples starting at the turn of last century.  As the article  moves on from the background sections it gets more interesting. 

Image result for Laura Cornelius KelloggCornelius Kellogg was known as an "Indian princess" and "Indian Joan of Arc" by the media.  She also traveled extensively through Europe and thought seriously about how to find a way through colonization.  It is amazing to think of this woman pushing forward at a time when women did not yet have the vote, facing racism and the damage to her culture.  There is a kind of hope that comes through her actions.  This was before the entrenchment of the policy of disappearance and the introduction of residential schools and she was putting forward an alternative vision.  How different the last 100 years if people had been listening.

Cornelius Kellogg asked to be presented to the British court and was denied, called out Buffalo Bill on his stereotyped performances of Indian people and wrote a novel about the lives of her people before Columbus came.  She fought for implementation of her idea of industrialized Indian villages where people would own lands, work as they could and receive as they needed.  She wanted to introduce a modern economic system for indigenous peoples where the value of the people was the most important thing.  She envisioned an economy where the Indian could labor to his best advantage and where, "Tribal economies ... were no longer static, isolated in remote parts of the country, but active players in modernity's new industrial demands."  She did not want to copy the capitalist modern vision, but rather to interpret these ideas while maintaining indigenous ways of being and values.  She noted that this could even be a model to teach the white man.

Cornelius Kellogg was proud of being an Indian and commented often in the media about the harm that had been done to indigenous peoples.  While she wanted to be a writer she decided that actions were going to be more important than words and she would defer her writing until things were better for her people.

She appears to have been a clever rhetorician, in her rebuttal speech to the official speech at the unveiling of the Black Hawk statue she wrote, "...the race is not here to-day.  The race is not here to rejoice with me for this great moment..." (the race being Indians) and continued her speech by challenging the trope of the vanishing Indian, noting that, " it is to the mind of the artist we must turn to for justice to the American Indian..." noting that the statue was turned towards the East, from where the Indians had been driven from their home.  In closing she highlighted that while the statue might be mute, she hoped that it might nevertheless be an instructive piece of history rather than something only passively admired.

Cornelius Kellogg refused the label as a "new Indian" given to her by the media, as she saw this as part of the rhetoric of the vanishing Indian, instead describing herself, "...I'm not the new Indian, I'm the old Indian adjusted to new conditions."  The descriptions of her work and thoughts helped me to better contextualize some family stories.  My great uncle was accepted to Oxford and I always wondered how that would be for a man from rural Alberta, at the "edge of civilization", but though they were farmers they were not uneducated, but were Metis people trying to find a healthy and sustainable blending of the older and newer worlds.  This uncle decided against more schooling as he too felt it was more important to take action.

Cornelius Kellogg also worked on education reform, and spoke about the need for balance, to learn from the white man, but with a self respect which maintained and utilized the strengths of the indigenous peoples in areas such as, "..profound thought, literary merit and logic."  She appeared before the League of Nations in 1919 calling attention to the ongoing oppression of the indigenous peoples in contrast to the efforts that were occurring to help others oppressed under European regimes. 

She also worked towards women's suffrage and, I loved this line, "Besides her oratorical skills, she used her social capital and calculated fashion statements to attract public attention, so she could be heard speaking about her life's work: her plan of Indian self-government and sovereignty."    So over a hundred years ago, you had an indigenous woman who was managing her media image in order to share her message.  It is pretty humbling really. But also an inspiration, to get writing, to share our ideas, to be proud about who we are and maybe get some fabulous hats.

Métis Hope 1

Not to get bogged down in focusing on fear, I thought I would explore Métis Hopes for a while

(2014-06) There's a dinosaur in my house:
Cross section
Photo by _quango on Flickr
Métis Hope 1: I hope that my house is a safe and welcoming place for everyone.  Even lonely stegosauruses.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Blurry face

I am still deeply into the band "21 Pilots" and this lyric reoccurs in my mind so I wanted to interpret it.  I also liked that the lyric also mirrors the common metis art style of faceless figures.

Metis in the city 

Métis Fear 140

rafal olbinski:
rafal olbinski
Métis Fear 140: not every circle is your friend.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Métis Fear 139

Métis Fear 139: underestimating all my relations

Same words

Gangster in a sun dress
written up speaking notes
bout "continual improvement"
while wondering
where my circle is at.

"Loyalty is everything"
Winnipeg Boyz knows what matters
"A legitimate business man still yellen "fuck the cops.""

Gotta use the template
Gotta choose the right words, but the language aint mine.
Gotta make a "story"
without any people
or "all my relations"
just unembodied actors.

No responsible parties,
no tricksters to come teach us.
No growth
just the same words
arranged newly


Friday, August 26, 2016

Métis Fear 138

Métis Fear 138: no matter how we try our roots could still be seen as a liability.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gender queer flag

My daughter identifies as gender queer so I wanted to design her a flag. 

Dog dreams and more work

A dog emerged out of this doodle.  I am always fascinated by our dog and wonder what he is thinking and dreaming about.  Is he bored to be a dog?  Does he wish he could do other things like literary criticism and sad we don't ask?  Or is he just happy as a dog who gets to eat and go for walks?  Joel teases me for caring about this, but it comes to me over and over, the same questions with the cats.

I want to encourage you to visit Halfbreed's Reasoning and her post about her relationship with her body.  This is some powerful story medicine.  You might also want to try the post "Kiyam" (Cree for "let it be").  I really liked numbers two and four.

"2. you should be resilience and resistance and infinite; you should be huckleberries and canned moose meat

4. my name is rugaroo. my name is wihtikow. somewhere along the paths’ of my mothers’ these stories got intertwined and i think they meant them as a precaution and not a guide on how to find yourself."

Sometimes I feel that witigo inside me very keenly.  Always grasping and hungry.

On another note, I found this Muskrat list of indigenous children's books interesting.

I found a new to me designer "Twindian Designs"

Finally, with a trigger warning, I can't get this article about a murdered trans-woman out of my head.  I don't even have words.  There is so much to be done.  I am heartened to see the contributions of others, through sharing their stories and ideas.  Thanks to those who contribute to the circle.

Métis Fear 136

Matt Blease:
Matt Blease
Métis Fear 136: Emotions are hard.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gender bending Skeletor, discovering fire and rainbows

There seem to be more wild animals in the neighborhood this year.  We live right downtown so it surprises me how many animals live around us.  A very surprised raccoon came upon a group of 20 people watching the fire works and freaked out.  We have skunk spray out front at least once a week.  The squirrels come in and look through our kitchen.  Joel woke up with one sitting on his chest one morning.  While they can be frustrating sometimes, it seems a good sign that our four legged brothers and sisters are still there for us to learn from.

We spent the weekend as a family.  Friday we went to Queercon 2016 and it was great to see everyone being who they were, not worrying about labels.  I have periodic shame about not shaving my legs and those folks were a real inspiration.  Hair or no hair I am the same person.  Overhearing the young non-gender binary persons talking made me happy about the future.  I colored in a gender bending Skeletor and Sophie and her friend had fun trying old gaming systems and hanging out. 

Saturday we went to Lumiere, the local lantern festival and watched all the little kids dressed up as fairies and knights, as well as a girl ghost buster and mutant ninja turtles.  There is a lot of memories there.  It was the only place Runa got lost at as a little person and it was where she first discovered the wonder of fire.  She was about two, in a little orange fairy costume, when she picked up a huge stick and declared "I have a big stick".  She carried this stick around for a long time and when we came across a lantern  she set her stick on fire and said, "Big stick on fire" with the creepy tone of voice and her little eyes overfilled with pleasure.  This time the kids mostly ran around on their, but it was good to be together.  To build another year of memories.

In a way my favorite part of that experience each year is the walk home down a very dark path.  For a few minutes, the few lanterns are the only light and the sounds of the wildlife crowd around and we are not longer in the city but exist in a primeval place of darkness.  The cicadas make sense.  The tree shadows become mysterious.  We must make our way into the unknown.  I am glad to share these moments with the children.  We got home in time to watch the fire works, taking over the streets from the cars.  These moments made me very happy.

Sunday was our anniversary and the Pride Parade.  The rain kept the crowds down but the parade was great.  It was the first year attending since Sophie has identified as a-gendered and it was tender in a different way.  It was a hope for her to find her place, whatever that will look like.  It was great to see friends and colleagues out.  The girls and I talked about Orlando and how there are sometimes in life where it is not ok to be neutral.  We got a lot of candy and rainbow swag and it was awesome to be with so many happy people.  I have a lot of memories at the parade as well, all those years of taking the girls when they were in their strollers.  It is fun to not have to worry about them running into the streets. 

I have also spent a fair amount of time this week watching a show called "Consumed" on HGTV.  The host visits a family and takes away all their stuff and makes them live without it for a couple of weeks before she works with them to get rid of their excess stuff.  It is like the show Hoarders but with less ick factor as the people are less obviously mentally ill.  Each episode follows a formula, the family hates having no stuff, they find they are a really happy family without stuff, then someone refuses to let things go, there is an intervention about this and then they purge.  They show the family three months later, happy and unified.  It is strangely compelling. Is getting rid of my stuff all I need to do to have a functional family?  Is this middle class pandering, for people who can afford to get rid of stuff?  Is getting rid of stuff "in" right now, cause later they will be able to sell me more?  Why do I like this show even thought it is staged and maybe manipulative?  What does that say about me?  Runa likes it too and said, "Is this to make us feel better about how much stuff we have?"  My house may have issues, but I do not have an out of control addiction to Tupperware, so I am ok?  Maybe a guilty pleasure is just that, but I can't help thinking that there is something deeper there.  What do you think? 

Métis Fear 134

Funny pics, humour quotes, funny jokes, jokes funny, hilarious funny …For more…:
Métis Fear 134: by 2040 we will see the return of the Red River cart for carrying baggy pants.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Métis Fear 133

Ryan Heshka:
Métis Fear 133: I am worried where my monster has gotten too.  Won't anyone carry me away?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Didn't know I needed leisure studies....

Did you know that "Leisure studies" is a real discipline?  Sounds like something your 20 year old cousin living in his parents basement tells people he does.  I really wanted to read this article, "Rec needs a New Rhythm Cuz Rap is Where We're Livin'" as it was about rap and indigenous peoples, another of my areas of interest.  It was so awesome. It is written by Brett Lashua and Karen Fox, and looks at how an, "...autoethnographic strategy for self-reflection..." can be useful for investigating issues in leisure theory, especially as it meshes well with Indigenous ways of sharing stories and learning.  Basically they are saying that researchers need to recognize the role they are playing as researchers and actually participate in and engage with the communities they are studying in order to understand these people.  In this case, they are engaging a group of indigenous young people who like rap.

This article has a great sense of voice.  The authors situate their initial discomfort - they are middle aged white people who do not understand what rap means to these youth.  The perspective of the authours are told in their own voices as quotes in the main article.  Lashua and Fox speak about the need to really listen and quote research showing, "...listening as vulnerability to the radical alterity of the other."  The article tells chronicle the changes the researchers experience while completing this study and propose solutions grounded in these experiences.

The story that stays in my mind from this article is of a young girl showing the researcher an alley.  She is happy and talks about how great this space was as they had been able to come here, have fun and be safe.  The researcher talks about their reaction to seeing this "dirty alley" and being appalled to think of kids being there, while simultaneously overlaying the stories of the girl about how this alley was safer than the alternatives and how was a place with good memories.

I loved the discussion about rap in this paper.  They note the popularity of Rap with indigenous youth as both the act of rapping and the communicated messages are actually, "...powerful forms of storytelling," with stories told both through the music but also the performance.  They discuss how the layers of the song and the responses of the listener were a kind of dialogue, maybe even a separate language.  They note that this interplay of sounds and complicated play of beats mirrors our human experience, where we are faced with  our vulnerabilities and differences.  Where learning involves remaining in relationship with the uncomfortable and different.  That it is about challenging ourselves in how we respond to the kinds of difference we are faced with in our lives or in the music.

They also speak to the role rap plays as, " expression of political and social struggles around Aboriginal-Canadian culture and identity."  They allude to the questions of vocabulary and created space where something that was formerly unsayable can be spoken, if only by some people (certain previously negative colonial words are reclaimed).  Through this construction, a power is created for those who may otherwise not have power in their lives.  They also paraphrase Lipsitz from, "We know what time it is,"in how rap draws attention to the realities of urban life for marginalized peoples and offers up their perspectives of these experiences.

The researchers started out by listening to the rappers rap.  One researcher comments on learning about the "mash up" where disparate songs are brought together to form something new.  She notes that this became a powerful metaphor in her work as it offered a path forward for exploring the combination of disparate identities and cultures together.  

Lashua and Karen Fox also spoke to the call and response nature of rap and how this metaphor gave space to investigate the roles that they play as researchers and the need for research to be an interactive process with time for active listening, and time for responding.  They aimed to mirror this with an internal dialogue about the spaces they inhabit and the layers of themselves.  They tried to experience the music as a researcher, as a person, as a member of a community (woman, queer...) to understand these layers and how they interact, and to see what a whole has to say as opposed to just understanding the, "research lens".

This work to me felt like living Bruno Latour (see my blog post here).  Latour questioned the idea of scientific impartiality at a time when that was the standard.  He argued, that the scientist, even if unintentionally would have an impact on his research, and that maintaining this illusion of impartiality was not helpful.  It felt like Lashua and Fox decided to take on this challenge.  They don't reference Latour, and it has been some time now since this works came out, so perhaps the link to Latour is deeper in the history of this discipline or just in my imagination, but it was pretty cool to see.  It also goes to the question of voice that I keep trying to understand, as it related to my role in writing this blog and in how I want to communicate professionally as a Métis person.

They quote a rapper talking about preconceptions and they note how this often can influence their research.  For example, the cite the wide variety of reasons the students have for rapping that they might not have fully considered previously, including resistance, attachment to alternative lifestyles and efforts to blend traditional and modern/urban realities.  Lashua and Fox talk about how they came to see how the skills and talents of the rapper could be understood as leadership capacity that could be harnessed in other spaces.

They explore the research about how rap can be part of a practice of decolonization, where people are telling their own stories, in their own voices and controlling how they are represented, which can affirm new or emerging identities.  They explain that while, "...conventional concepts of dialogue imply a "sameness: (i.e., attempts by the listener to find commonality or to require the other to fit into pre-existing categories,) dialogue potentially becomes an instance of violence or harm.  To listen to the alterity requires attention to the responsibility the listener has for the Other and ask, "what does listening require differently of me?" 

This strikes me in the wider context of another paper I recently read by Corntassel, Chaw-win-is and T'lakwadzi called, "Indigenous Storytelling, Truth-telling, and Community Approaches to Reconciliation", where they stress that reconciliation is not about saying that bad things happened and then moving on, but that it is about taking on a series of hard conversations about how we live with the bad things and while working to redress the imbalances resulting from the full harms from the original bad thing.  This relationship of this dialogue, with the process of creating rap makes a lot of sense.  Rap can be violent to the listener, asking a lot of concentration, demanding a willingness to stay with something that is not comfortable, to see where the rapper is taking you and to experience what they are creating.

Lashua and Fox return to the value of the autoethnography and of letting go of the idea that research is going to solve problems, but to see it rather as a path which can bring new questions to light and uncover different paths.  Fox quotes Denzin "Performance Ethnography", " If the world is a performance, not a text, then today we need a model of social science that tis performative."  This just oozes school of Judith Butler.  So exciting.  See some of my posts about performativity here, and here)  The response of performativity to a performative world makes sense to me.

Lashua and Fox speak about how this approach allowed them to better understand/listen to what the students got out of risky behavior instead of focusing on trying to stop it.  They listened to the rap to understand where the students were coming from and what they saw as valuable, and they came to see the wider role its creation played in reproducing/reclaiming indigenous identity and culture.  The researchers note that their ideas of what was appropriate leisure was dramatically altered by the relationships they made conducting their research.  They felt that this approach allowed them access to the fuzzy border spaces and enabled them top ask new questions as they were able to gain trust and re-contextualize previous knowledge and assumptions.  They consciously worked to move beyond binaries , that certain leisure activities were good or bad.  They she the example of "proper language".  What if "fuck" is the appropriate word for your lived experiences?  Is it a "bad" word?  Are attempts at social modifications going to be successful without understanding the why?  Maybe social modifications aren't even the right response.  Maybe working through our middle class social discomfort with the word is a feasible response? 

They note that anger and violence have a negative connotation in our culture and the general impulse is to try and quiet it or label it as inappropriate.  But Lashua and Fox argue that rap allows a space for these feelings to be expressed, and that their expression may be a helpful  for those who are struggling in their lives.  They caution that in having this dialogue, they have striven for equality, so that it is not an exercise in making the Other more palatable.  In listening, you might hear things you don't want too know.  They end with a sad footnote, where the new planned community center for this population has no space or equipment for rapping, but had a room for "coral music and meditation," as well as a gym stocked with socially acceptable sports equipment, which many of the community served are not interested in.

I loved this piece.  Maybe I am not critical enough, but there is so much to think through and implement in this article.  I play both roles as social scientist and a Métis loving rap while thinking about identity and healthy life in the urban context.  This article suggest how these disparate things maybe able to coexist healthily, not at war with each other but combining to create a space for invention and creation.  So maybe listening to Shibastick talking about hunting moose while I work in my cubicle is part of the decolonization process.  What helps you peel back the edges of those liminal spaces?

Métis Fear 132

☆ Monkeys in my Head :¦: Mark Bryan ☆:
Métis Fear 132: I fear that I am this child.


Found this at a local park to warn away grass abusers but I thought we could use it for the country.  Maybe I need it on my wall?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Métis Fear 131

Métis Fear 131: It is all reductive and self referential.

Urban medicine wheel

Found this vignette on the way to work this morning.  It struck me that this was really an urban medicine wheel.  The red is cloth, the black a banana skin, the yellow a wrapper and the white cigarette butts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cicada problems

I am still battling my anger with the Cicadas and trying to learn what I can from the time we are spending together.  I realized that my anger means nothing to them.  As mad as I get sometimes, they never know.  Only I am affected by that anger. Keeping a hold on it is only hurting me.  Maybe I need to keeping listening to these relatives.
  Image result for cicada art

Métis Fear 130

Hipster Raccoon by CreativeScratchings (via Etsy):
Hipster Raccoon by CreativeScratchings (via Etsy)
Métis Fear 130: the local wildlife have questionable taste in beer.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Friday, August 12, 2016

Métis Fear 128

photography by katerina plotnikova:
katerina plotnikova
Métis Fear 128: it is impossible to meet societies expectations for relationships with a deer.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Métis Fear 126

Illustration by Aitch, Bucharest, Romania. iL:
Métis Fear 126: that our pets rule over us.

If you can't cry...

I was browsing the "Indian Country" humor page

Or after another night of working through my cicada feelings...


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Living Actions

Today I will review the article "Leisure-Like Pursuits as an Expression of Aboriginal Cultural Strengths and Living Actions," by Yoshitaka Iwasaka, Judith G Bartlett, Benjamin Gottlieb and Darlene Hall which appeared in the journal "Leisure Sciences".  The findings from the study are not really that interesting, but the methods they used to get their findings provides lots of food for thought.  The authors set out to operationalize, " aboriginal-guided decolonizing examine the leisure-like lived experiences of unban-dwelling Metis and First Nations women and men living with diabetes." 

This study was led by a First Nations person and the majority of team members were also first nations.  The research team was aware that the words they used were westernized terminology and they took pains to address this issue where they could.  For example, they speak about why they did not use the term "Leisure" and instead used "leisure like" as the conventional definition of this term has certain connotations that were not appropriate in this context, i.e. a strict break between work/leisure.  They choose the term "leisure like" as it allowed them to include activities that have leisure similar nuances, but may not be identified as leisure by participants in the study.

They wanted to decolonize the research process and create a space in the study where indigenous people could express the full value of their own life experiences and identify the role of their culture, free from a research process that was inherently colonial in nature.  In particular they reference, giving value to storytelling in the methodology and embedding it as a way of knowing.  While not explicit in the text, this effort is about building trust between the researcher and those participating in the project. 

They spend some time describing the need for decolonizing research which I will not cover here.  It may be, that as a trained social scientist, I am biased in my analysis, but the measures they put in place to support the study seem to be a good step forward on the path of decolonizing this kind of research. 

The perspectives of all researchers were brought together in collective discussion and decision making with the aim to support a culturally appropriate process that was also rigorous and practicable.  Non -Aboriginal researchers were coached on the rationale and specifics of the approaches used.  The interviews were intended to be broad, focusing on the person and their story, not just the collection of a limited set of information.  They totality of the person and their experiences was to be honored.  The researchers explicitly did not assume that the diagnoses of diabetes was a principal factor in the lives of those interviewed and the diabetes was addressed as a part of the whole person.

The approach they used to analyze the information from the interviews was of particular interest to me.  It is how I have always done my analysis, so it was very interesting to see it codified, and to now have a reference I can use in the future.  The interviews were transferred onto index cards, with all key statements coded with key words, the original quote on the back of the card and the original context easily available to the researchers if required.  These cards were grouped by the interviewers under symbol header cards through a collaborative discussion session.  Analysis was reviewed and finalized during a two day interpretive workshop which included additional relevant Aboriginal professionals.

The findings themselves were pretty generic, for example, that urban dwellers in the study have many ways to support themselves through living actions related to culture, spirituality and community relationships.  I did however quite like the addition of the term, "living actions" in this analysis both as it removes those "leisure like" activities from any possible pejorative place that might be related to things like "art" or "spirituality" while simultaneously speaking to action/self determination and the modern nature of these activities, i.e. being an indigenous person is not only about being stoic on a mountain top.

In closing they reflect on the nature of this research experience as a whole, which is fitting given the project at hand, and they note the capacity building that was required for the non-aboriginal researchers.  They also noted that studies have found that this kind of decolonizing methodology is a promising way to understand areas of inquiry that may be based in culture such as health and well being (or beading according to my autocorrect).  This route is not an easy one, as it must navigate the issues of power inherent in these kinds of teams and studies. While they see that the coaching was a useful aspect, they also recognize that it may not be familiar to many researchers and they look to identify the wider benefits that could be accrued through greater sharing, not only for aboriginal peoples, but for all historically oppressed peoples. 

Stephen Paul Judd

I was looking up the work of Stephen Paul Judd and came across this piece which was new to me and was a wonderful encapsulation of the issues of colonization and the intertwined connections to capitalism.

Image result for Art of Steven Paul Judd

I also appreciated this work "Mindians" which is available on his etsy site as a print or as a patch here.

Métis Fear 125

OMG!! This is Hilarious!! One Crow needs a better View I guess!! LOL!! :):

Métis Fear 125: sometimes being needed costs a lot. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Cicadas, story medicine and the $5 that asks questions

Turquoise Cicada....these are the noisest  little bugs that invade alot of weather bugs:
I am a bit ashamed, but there is one relation that I am really coming to hate.  Every night, as I hear the cicadas tart, I try to find a place of appreciation for this relative, but I just find a hatred of their little song.  If they sang without stopping it would be annoying, but I could tune it out.  The stop and start and stop and I can't let it go.  What lesson are they trying to share with me?  I have tried so many things to drown them out and they still get into my head.

I found five dollars on the street last week and wanted to give it to someone "deserving".  What a lot to unpack there!  What hubris, that I should presume to judge another like that.  I have been keeping my eyes open for an indigenous person on the street that I could pass this on too.  I haven't found one yet.  What does that mean?  Am I looking for some stereotyped "other" that does not exist?  Every time I see the bill in my bag it makes me think.

I am working through "First Wives Club" by Lee Maracle.  I generally avoid short fiction but the promised humor in the title drew me in.  These stories are very good.  Each one leave you with something to think about.  The sense of place and voice are strong.  For me, BC is still home.  The mountains, rivers and space are what my heart follows.  Maracle captures this element well and I learned more about the history of that place from her narratives.  I am reading this book concurrently with an article by Jeff Corntassel, Chaw-win-is and T'lakwadzi called, "Indigenous Storytelling, Truth-telling, and Community Approaches to Reconciliation" and Maracle is pulling very similar language into her text.  She does not see colonization as a past force to be moved beyond, but an ongoing current condition with real life consequences that need to be addressed.  In one story she talk about the feelings of the character on experiencing the end of a negotiation for a land settlement.  Knowing that "...because settlement is fait acompli, we can only negotiate the best real-estate deal possible."  The text is poignant when  imagining her ancestors who would have lived where Vancouver now stands.  In all my visits to Vancouver, it never occurred to me that this was some one else's homes.

In the same story she takes on themes of partnership with Canada and the tension, as indigenous peoples are apart, yet are not immigrants (the dominant narrative).  The unease with a dominant (christianized) culture who preached and still does, "do not kill" but does not live this out in their practices of capitalism. (spell check helpfully capitalized christianized for me!)  She notes the struggle of being last to the table, and while she wants to take a place, she remains wary of what the real consequences of that decision might be.  The table is not of her people and the damage to her culture may be great.

Even suspicious of short stories, I am really enjoying this book and find a lot of story medicine in it. 

Métis Fear 124

Craig Kosak, Premonition:
Craig Kosak, Premonition
Métis Fear 124: I worry that away from its natural habitat my buffalo will get cold.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Métis Fear 122 Procession_front_final.jpg:
 Métis Fear 122: ever feel like there is a party on and someone forgot to invite you?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


A few weeks ago I read, "Landscapes of Literacy The Challenges of Reading Cree-English Dual Language Picture Books as a Decolonizing Strategy," by Joanie Crandall.  In this article she explores the role of the teacher as a learner and how reading dual language picture books can be a means of examining identity while also being a strategy for decolonization which can engage both mainstream and indigenous readers.  This article is written in a nice style that made it easy to read and since the author share her own experiences, there is a sense of authentic voice and I know why the author is interested in the topic. 

Crandall starts by sharing her experience as a white teacher going to work in a remote Cree community.  From this place she came to an awareness of how some students were struggling to, "...negotiate cultural discontinuity daily."  She cites the body of research showing that affirmation of a child's first language and culture in the classroom, can help them with both questions of identity and improve school success.  In order to put this research in practice, Crandall worked within the community to explore the issues and searched out appropriate texts in Cree, choosing those that focused on family, community and "negotiating cultural discontinuity." 

In the article she describes this process and how it interplayed with her idea of identity and the mutability of that self conception.  Through the experience of teaching in this community, she says that she saw her role shift to that of a "Teacher-learner" and she became aware of how her role in interpretation of knowledge was rooted in her past and changing as she experienced new things.  In this section she quotes work by Paulo Freire (1971) and it me think of our role as parents and the frustration I sometimes feel with myself as I am running just to learn enough to be able to teach the children.  This is very vivid in our practices of decolonization as we try to bring new language, stories and experiences into the home.  This conception of the, "teacher learner" is helpful, in that it is a reminder of our place in the larger circle and is really a call to return to the indigenous idea where the "teacher" is not someone over someone else, but is a role that we each play while simultaneously being a learner.  Maybe coming from a line of teachers I am particularly stuck in that idea of the supremacy of the teacher?  Anyway, I needed the reminder.

Crandall further explores how dual language picture books can be used as a decolonizing strategy.  She argues that while these books may appear simple, they actually offer a rich opportunity to explore layers of meaning in texts, both through the move from one language to another (code switching) but also in the act of moving from the written word to the pictorial.  She thinks that this exploration can be equally effective with young and old learners. I notice that with the rise of the internet these skills have become a more common requirement.  I know that my daughters were both taught in school to read the context of a text/advertisement as well as just the words.  I have also worked with people who were not even aware of these other levels, let alone literate in them and it was frustrating.  Having a full range of tools to express ourselves and understand the world is the best option.

I also wonder if giving equal value to the pictures may also be a more culturally sensitive way of teaching in an environment where observation of the natural world is more important? Crandall feels that this is a part of Aboriginal people's cultural narrative and that this approach would be helpful on those grounds as well.  She talks about the advantage of this approach as an educator, as it opens a space for the teacher and student to share their experiences as learners and for the teacher to even model engaging with uncertainty and exploring uncomfortable ideas.

There is a quote towards the end of the article that really spoke to me, "The children seeks to find the answers to questions about his place in a society much different from the one of his predecessors."  I have invested a lot of time in understanding my answers to these questions, but I know that they may not be the answers for my children.  How much of my knowledge is relevant to them?  Am I better off teaching them about how to look for their own answers than to give mine?  The later lets me be "wise", apart in some way as I am further along in the journey.  The former, perhaps is a better reflection of how a healthy reality should be.  We all learn from each other.  I am better when my children pose their "Whys" to my truths.

Crandall also argues the possibility that through use of pictures and dual language there is a possibility to, "...subvert forms of systemic oppression inherent to Eurocentric canons."  She argues that teachers who do not question their own assumptions about the world end up reproducing forms of learning and development that may be harmful to their students and support existing forms of oppression.  She notes that this self reflection is especially important for non-Aboriginal educators working with aboriginal students, reminding us that school success is built on cultural capital, language skills and euro-centric assumptions about how learning works.  These elements are not evenly shared among all students. 

This section caused me to question my interactions with the school.  As I have written before, I feel that going to see the teachers has become a very performative act, and that we are suspect as parents as there are times when we prioritize other things over school (I note that the same suspicion is not extended when a child travels with their parent frequently).  For us, dealing with a child's mental health issues and teaching healthy life balance is sometimes more important than school.  Snow/slow days can be valuable.  I want to think about this issue and our approach some more.

I think that this style of dual text-picture is also supportive of other kinds of students, both those who maybe new to Canada, and those with learning disabilities.  Crandall also mentions that it provides a natural space for dialogue with a corresponding value on listening.  She feels that this approach can be helpful as a means of decolonization for both student and teacher, and can help to break down the historical dynamic of the outside teacher expert who comes in to educate.  She notes that this whole process is girded by a willingness of all participants to explore notions of power and hierarchy, and to create a space to better understand what happens on the edges of these concepts (do we need Agamben now?  A picture book on the state of exception perhaps?).  It requires a willingness by all participants to be uncomfortable and ask questions.

This article provided a number of helpful prompts: to remember to embrace the role of teacher-learner as a parent; to be less reticent to ask questions in the school context around values; and a reminder to keep reading picture books and practicing Cree with my children even as they are older and it is harder to get them focused.  This work is too important to ignore given the depth of conversation that is possible from these exchanges.

Métis Fear 121

Seb ' Niark1' Art:
Métis Fear 121: sometimes the house can feel like a beast.

Cree Language Resources

I have started compiling a list of resources for studying Cree.  If you have any others, please share and I will add.

Cree Literacy Network Blog with lots of resources and links
Cree Language Lessons and check out their resource page
Wikipedia in Cree 

Christmas Carols in Cree

Cree language facts for editors of English and French: Gender

Online Cree for children
language plans
Vocabulary list
Introduction dialogues

ACHIMOWIN PROGRAM - daily radio program in Cree