Welcome to Truths and Reconciliation through Education
We are pleased to announce the upcoming release of our book in spring 2023 with Brush Education.
Adrian shares how his memory of a climbing trip to Mount Athabasca in Jasper National Park in 2018 was brought to new understandings through learning the history of the Park and the colonial forces that shaped its formation. By partnering with the Metis Nation of Alberta and using art to reflect on how place shapes identity, Adrian reflects on his position as an outsider in relation to Métis history. By merging images of fur trade history with the modern use of the Park, art facilitated the re-imaging and re-picturing of the landscape and highlighted how the land connects us through time. Ethically creating this art meant seeking a formal collaboration with the Métis to ensure an authentic understanding of Métis history and ways of knowing using a strength-based approach.
As a student services professional, Mandie tackles the difficult topics of white fragility, racism, and unlearning as part of her reconciliatory experience. In supporting Indigenous colleagues, and shouldering some of the emotional labour required to alter unjust systemic disadvantages, Mandie shares multiple insights into some of the fears and concerns non-Indigenous people may experience in their own unlearning and relearning.
Amy (Leedham) Thompson
Inspired by Robin Kimmerer’s (2013) teachings around bean vines, Amy has learned we must aspire to grow by reaching beyond the safety of like-minded individuals and instead grab onto the more resistant ones. Most importantly: no one thing exists in this world without the help or the life force of another and we must not give up on those who resist. Finding this truth, and through the inclusion of others, reconciliatory ways are being found.
Andra has been a special education teacher with a focus on severe behaviour, learning disabilities, and trauma-informed practice and intervention for many years. Self-described as an apprehensive settler-educator, Andra utilized critical self-reflection to examine concepts of decolonization, restorying, counter-narratives, and power and control. Weaving narratives from her first steps into reconciliation, her family’s history, a helpful mentor, and our graduate program, she argues that successfully facing fears can lead to transformative learning. The lessons learned through her service-learning project offer a much-needed perspective to non-Indigenous educators new to reconciliatory practice.
As an Inuvialuit woman with Finnish, Irish, German, and Swedish ancestry and working as a separate school teacher, Ashley explores her positionality and background as a child of an Indian Residential School survivor. She examines the disconnection from her Inuvialuit family, traditions, and culture that resulted from her father’s attendance at an “elite” residential school. In relocating to an urban school in southern Alberta, Ashley shares how she has been taught the customs, traditions, and culture of the Blackfoot People of the Treaty 7 territory and accepted as a family member in her new home and community.
Erin Cavallin, Helen Domstad, & Harmony Jeffery Gordon
As a trio of public educators of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ancestry, Erin, Helen, and Harmony set out to work with WinSport, a leader in recreation and athletic development in southern Alberta. Guided by the foundational knowledge and teachings received in the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Education: A Call to Action program, their pathway to working on reconciliation with this enthusiastic community partner was reoriented to pinpoint decolonization as the trailhead. With all parties focused on relationship building, reciprocity, and a willingness to take risks, all travelled their own journey towards reconciliation.
As a former learning and instructional design specialist at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning (and now Vice-Principal at an urban school), Haboun addressed the apprehension of many post-secondary educators when asked to decolonize and Indigenize their curriculum. As a woman of colour, Haboun felt she could relate to injustices but another part of that walk felt unfamiliar. Inspired by the Call to Action program and Battiste’s book, Decolonizing Education Nourishing the Learning Spirit, Haboun co-facilitated a book club where Indigenous and non-Indigenous educational developers and designers spoke to, learned from, and witnessed the complex interconnections of everyday encounters in this setting.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) set an extremely high bar when it declared that reconciliation “must become a way of life.” While it reflects my commitment to the reconciliation process, it creates an unease and uncertainty in setting out to truly – authentically – do this work. At its essence, the TRC mission mirrors the ongoing tension between my social location as a settler and my desire to not only honor historical wrongs, but to develop a praxis that enacts change In the process of my own learning. I ask myself who I am and what is my responsibility, as a settler, to the reconciliation process?
My interpretation of the role of critical service learning (CSL) – in the context of the TRC principles – is to nurture trustworthy, deep and authentic relationships with Indigenous people based on the ethics of social justice. As a settler (and as a former student at the Werklund School of Education), CSL beckons me to honor the TRC’s Calls to Action by creating an opportunity to learn about a community partner’s needs in a relational, first-hand, and significant way, evoking empathy, caring and compassion, but perhaps more importantly, ultimately moving me to develop a rigorous social justice way of life. CSL is an organic process, pushing me to question and reflect on my ethics, values and motivations in my desire to be an ally to Indigenous peoples.
In a reconciliation context, CSL emphasizes Indigenous epistemologies that challenge positivist, Eurocentric epistemological violence in order to change systemic racism, classism and patriarchy brought about by colonialism.
In order for my learning to be truly transformative, I must continuously lean toward those learning opportunities found in Indigenous ways of knowing, which evoke extra-rational awakening not previously available to me.
I seek to listen and see deeply, respecting Indigenous protocol, in a humble and vulnerable way becoming open to – and aware of – the falsehoods of colonial history.
Jennifer Brooks is a settler Canadian originally hailing from unceded Sekani territory in north central British Columbia who spent three years working at a B.C. offshore school in Doha, Qatar. In this international context, Jennifer found three themes emerged during her time as an international teacher of a Canadian curriculum and a student in the Call to Action program. These three lessons were: the openness of my students to learning about Canada’s history of colonization, the vast differences in educator familiarity with, and understanding of, Canada’s past, and the discovery of a need for action outside of Canada in response to reconciliation.
Jennifer Paulson is a mathematics teacher currently working with a public school board in Alberta. Her teaching practice is grounded in principles of reconciliatory education and guided by a desire for Canadian public education systems to address colonial inequities so that educators and communities may collaboratively work to restore dignity to Indigenous knowledge systems and meaningfully meet the learning needs of all students entrusted to their care.
As a Tsimshian woman from the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation in the northwest coast of British Columbia, Kerry embarked on a journey of self-discovery through the Call to Action program. As an Indigenous woman whose intergenerational trauma had imposed doubt on her self-worth, Kerry shares her journey through the four directions of her life learning. Her story relays how the recognition of her own value and contributions to Indigeneity have empowered her.
Laura and Lorie Houle
This chapter discusses an Indigenous approach to reconciliation through critical service-learning pedagogy. Based on literature and discussions throughout the Indigenous Education: Calls to Action program at the University of Calgary, the authors’ goal of the critical service-learning project was to explore the idea of meaningful relationships within the work of reconciliation. Meaningful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous is a vital piece in the work of reconciliation where it could be a guiding aspect in a critical service-learning project.
The authors reflect on their experiences working through critical service-learning pedagogy in an Indigenous school within an urban center. The authors discuss the difficult process of being an Indigenous person through this process while working to build meaningful, reciprocal relationships with their non-Indigenous community partner. The authors conclude that a different approach to relationship building should be considered as Indigenous educators partnered with a non-Indigenous community partner in an Indigenous setting. They question how to create this relationship in a good way based on the Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. The authors would like to discuss the possibility of creating a framework that will help to guide Indigenous educators seeking relationships with non-Indigenous community partners.
The Indigenous Education graduate program included a year of exploratory learning in preparation to undergo the complex work of reconciliation. The final critical service-learning project allowed for a new and distinctive opportunity to challenge the self in relation to this work and presented a unique opening to endure a project outside of my realm. I worked with an oil & gas, utility, and structure company for the duration of 4 months, in which their projects spanned across Canada and had a deep impact on Indigenous Peoples and communities’ resources. This chapter discusses the various ways in which I witnessed Indigenous engagement and consultation being met and how the training, skills development, and hiring of Indigenous employees was being addressed. My identity as a Métis woman allowed me to push boundaries by providing an Indigenous voice to their business practices – this included the integration of oral communication, relationship building, and meaningful and mutual responsibility. Reconciliatory initiatives moved beyond the implementation of Call to Action #92 and the legal duty to consult, to an intentional and systemic corporate social responsibility to understand Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing. My initial plan transformed numerous times throughout the course of the project and required many opportunities of self-reflection to allow for the braiding and re-braiding of personal, Indigenous, and western ways of knowing.
Marianne Wolf Leg
I am a full-blooded Status native woman registered with the Siksika Nation. My father is the late Reverend Mervin Wolf Leg(1946-2014) who was a proud Siksika elder from Alberta. My mother is June Wolf Leg(nee Boucher) from Lhtako Dené Nation in British Columbia. Both my parents went to Residential School for over a decade of their lives. After they met, I was born, the eldest of seven; we lost one of us in 2015 to a drunk driver. I have been an educator for over twenty years; a native educational assistant, special education assistant, and teacher. I have three daughters, two sons, and one stepson. I live in Tsuut'ina with my husband Peter Crane.
For too long, settlers have been doing the talking and telling in their relations with Indigenous Peoples. Listening, active listening, is what is needed now – especially when significant stories are shared that evoke and provoke deep reflection in individuals. Teaching in a large urban district in Calgary, Michael enrolled in the Call to Action program in 2018 hoping to respond to the calls issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commision (2015). Listening to Indigenous peoples and their stories shook and stirred me out of my paralysis and my previously held perspectives and provided a path forward.
This chapter and auto ethnographic response is a focus on the inclusion of
Indigenous cultural connection and lived experience within systemic and educational practices.
Witnessing, hearing, observing and listening to Truth sharing of lived experience within
Residential Schools, hospitals, Foster Care, jail, poverty, violence and substance use will
be vital sources of direction for identification of trauma-informed practices, harm reduction
initiatives , decolonizing pedagogy and the lessening of stigma for adverse lived experience for
all people. This response will serve as a connector for educators and policy makers and Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to include Indigenous voice within classrooms, programs and systemic processes. It is a personal and education-based response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report and Calls to Action as well as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry Final Report and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
In her long-time role as a kindergarten teacher, Michelle Bamford was inspired by her young students to meet the neighbours living across from her workplace in the Tsuut’ina Nation. She thought if her young students could meet Tsuut’ina early learners, Elders and Indigenous teachers, perhaps these relationships could have a positive influence on their respective parents. In learning and discovering truths about colonization and reconciliation in Canada through the Call to Action program, Michelle felt the time was right for local settler families to get to know the community that has lived right next door to them – nearby, yet still unknown.
The difficult work of exploring positionality as a critical first step in reconciliation formed an integral part of Michelle’s learning around reconciliation. As a Métis educator who is exploring her cultural roots, Michelle has often felt that others made unquestioned assumptions about her identity and positionality. Her engagement with an Indigenous grassroots critical service-learning partner created space for a mutual sharing of what being Métis meant to those involved in the project. This exploration in a safe space allowed for a renewed sense of identity and lessoned the feelings of insecurity and shame previously felt. Today, she is far more comfortable and secure in identifying as an Indigenous person and member of the Indigenous community.
Taking the first steps on the path to reconciliation, created an awakening in myself that I had never felt before. Through the process of exploring reconciliation and community, what was illuminated was the fact that this was not about others, but about myself. Through critical self reflection, a difficult journey began that continues to impact every aspect of my life. I was forced to take a good hard look at my own self, and my own story. Forced to get comfortable in the uncomfortable of who I am, and who I believed I was.
Reconciliation became a journey to discover myself, and to challenge every truth that I believed. This was the beginning of an unsettling that had awoken a longing and a need to uncover an authentic self that had lived in the shadows for a long time. My own inner story that had been hidden, began to emerge. Exploring reconciliation, uncovered a path to the discovery of my voice, my stories, my truths, and my identity.
These are the first steps of my journey.
The Eeyou-Eenou-Northern Cree concept of the mind’s eye honours a person’s ability to see past, present, and future and draws on the principles of relationality and interconnectedness. The ability to free oneself from despair using mind power translates to the act of untying the mind’s knot or, in other words, setting hope free. The work of reconciliation similarly requires Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons working together to first untie the knot of past harms, acknowledge negative perspectives, and then accept responsibility for effecting change.
As a woman from mixed Indigenous and non-Indigenous ancestry, Nyre sheds light on the hardships she faced as an Indigenous woman and the resilience she has gained through her own reconciliatory journey. Nyre shares how she represents the fourth generation impacted by residential schools and how she is working to break this cycle of trauma for future generations. By partnering with an urban Indigenous youth organization, she draws on principles of Interconnectedness and her own positionality to help empower future generations.
Sarah Beech & Darren Vaast
This reconciliatory project started with a child’s red dress, hanging on a tree, on campus. It was left there to create dialogue and awareness for others; rather unexpectedly, the dialogue continued with the same red dress hanging in a middle school classroom. A provocation. An invitation. A question of how to spark awareness with students around the disappearance of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people, and support a movement to remember and honour the lives of those who were taken before their time. Led by two middle school teachers, Darren Vaast and Sarah Beech, the Heart to Heart Project took on a life of its own as students took their classroom experiences around Indigenous history and artistically responded to the injustices uncovered in their learning and shared these lessons with family, friends, and the wider community.
My transformative learning in the Indigenous Education: A Call to Action course was rooted in the opportunities for “making” afforded to us a learning community. As a class we were invited to make performances, poetry, visual art, and photography. We were invited to create safe spaces for listening and for speaking, to create connections to the land, to create partnerships, and to create shared visions. Collaboration on a Metissage performance required us to navigate and hold space for multiple ways of knowing. In my own journey it was handcraft, specifically the making of flint and obsidian points, that opened the door for a critical service-learning collaboration with Siksika’s Chief Crowfoot school. It was through the encounters and relationship-building in our Call to Action classroom and the organic sharing of who we are and what we do that this came about. The co-creative projects and critical service-learning experiences necessitated critical reflection on identity, ancestral history, whiteness, white gaze, historical trauma, ethical relational work that holds space for differences, Self/Other, and ontological humility.
This paper explores a question that was asked by an Indigenous classmate on the first day of our first class in the MEd. Interdisciplinary Program. The question "Why are you here?" was asked of me in the Indigenous Education: a Call to Action class. As a non-Indigenous student, I struggled with my answer. Do I have an answer? Is there a right answer? It was and is a good and important question, and one that has stuck with me through three years of subsequent study. My answer has morphed and changed completely time and time again. My answers make me uncomfortable, they inspire me, they challenge my understandings and actions, and my place in the world. The answers to that question were foundational as I navigated a relationship with an Indigenous community organization. A relationship that was built easily and smoothly for the purpose of a service learning project, and that continued beautifully for two years subsequent to that. One day, an event occurred between the organization that I work for and them that triggered memories and experiences of trauma, oppression, colonialism, marginalization, and residential school. It exposed the tentative and fragile nature of a friendship that holds the sometimes invisible weight of historical and present day policies, practices, actions and realities. How we responded and what we experienced individually and together to move forward can very much be grounded in exploring the question of "Why and I here?".
As an Indigenous educator, Tammy Brant has spent over 20-years supporting students and colleagues throughout rural and northern Manitoba. Through the enactment of her service-learning project, Tammy details how her journey of re-connecting to her own Indigenous ancestry represents the first step in authentically engaging within such a partnership. Although theoretical concepts involving voice, reciprocity and transformative learning are well thought out in academia, far less has been noted regarding the responsibility of participants to honour their own voice. This chapter explores Tammy’s personal reflections on an unanticipated journey towards finding her authentic voice through this reconciliatory work.
Tammy braids together three strands of my story: the first is my personal journey of connecting to my own Indigenous background; second, I highlight the power of relationships and the important contributions that Elders bring to our lives and understandings through the story of my capstone project; and third, I explore the pedagogical power of stories. I then bring this braid of understanding to discuss the ways that reconciliation work has taken on its own generative power in my life as I respectfully prepare and engage.