Treaty 2 Territory – What would an Anishinaabek school look like? This is a question being pondered at this time by FNT2T LLL. One may feel that a school such as this would or should be taught solely in Anishinaabemowin. Another may feel that both languages should be offered, but that Anishinaabemowin be the main language.
Certainly, many First Nations communities and schools are doing the important work of revitalizing their own language(s) through language programming, language as a subject, and immersion. Many First Nations parents, grandparents, community members, and leaders hope for the next generation not only to revitalize their own language but to be able to walk in both worlds. Perhaps, some feel that it is most important to focus solely on our own language(s).
When we discuss the gifts of our young people, we know that there are those who are gifted in retaining a language, learning and practicing culture, living off the land, the Arts, academics, sports, and much more, so it seems that a school should offer what is representative of its students. “If students do not attend school, they can’t achieve. If students are present in school but not engaged in the learning process, they won’t achieve. Improved achievement for Indigenous students is a goal for all involved in education – parents, teachers, administrators, and students alike. But we must be thoughtful and reflective in charting the path to get there” (pp.176, Goulet & Goulet, Teaching Each Other: Nehinuw Concepts & Indigenous Pedagogies). Thus, this type of important planning and work takes time.
One term that is often used when it comes to Indigenous education is holistic. What does this mean? Does it mean to focus on (and nurture) the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of students? If so, how? Perhaps it means planning the school day around nurturing all of these areas for students–ensuring that all students partake in various learning (and fun) activities that feed into their overall well-being. Maori scholar, Linda Tuhiwai Smith cautions that in their important and necessary work in decolonization Indigenous peoples be cautious in “claiming an authenticity which is overly idealistic and romantic” (pp.26. Decolonizing Methodologies). Hence, goals should be realistic and achievable.
Education comes in many forms. Not just what we’ve come to understand as (formal) education. And it can be used a tool. “[O]ne of the contradictions of schooling is while it can be an institution of colonization, it also has the potential to decolonize (Smith 2000) and support the development of self-determination for Indigenous students and their communities” (Smith qtd.in Goulet & Goulet, pp.200, Teaching Each Other: Nehinuw Concepts & Indigenous Pedagogies). So a last question could be, “What does an Anishinaabek school look like that centers our language and culture, and perhaps places the Western (mainstream) at the peripheral?”
*Painting (image) by Renata Meconse, Pinaymootang First Nation
Last modified: November 26, 2019