This past week we had the privilege of listening and reflecting on the knowledge shared with us from Elder Alma Poitras. Elder Alma shared with us about the natural curriculum. What resonated with me is the connection to the land in the teachings of the natural curriculum. Elder Alma discussed learning from the animals, including the beavers’ actions and the ants, to determine the weather. I learned that ants cover their anthills when it is going to rain. She shared the importance of learning from our senses. Elder Alma shared teachings of the moons and how each moon of the year has a name. These teachings remind me of a book purchased for all our schools to share these teachings called When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Calendar – Pisimwasinahikan by Bernice Johnson-Laxdal. This book highlights the moon calendar of the northern Cree and is written in English and northern Plains Cree y-dialect. As I reflect on this shared knowledge, it reminded me of the importance of including multiple perspectives from both Indigenous ways of knowing and western ways of knowing and teaching these perspectives as equal.
I asked Elder Alma the question, “What role can settlers play in learning or teaching Indigenous languages, and is it appropriate?”. Alma shared with us that historically there were settlers that learned Cree to be translators and negotiators. She also shared that she believes that it is important that non-Indigenous people can learn Cree and not to be narrow-minded. She said that there is too much English. We need to be more visible with Indigenous languages because language is the root of identity, to who we are. This knowledge about language reminded me of a previous opportunity of hearing from Linda and Keith Goulet, who shared that it is crucial to provide Indigenous language opportunities here. This is because this is the place where we can get Indigenous languages to thrive and survive.
Within the article, Treaty Education for Ethically Engaged Citizenship: Settler Identities, historical consciousness, and the need for reconciliation, Tupper (2012) emphasizes the importance of Treaty Education to help all students and their role as Canadian citizens and relationships with one another. Tupper highlights the importance of learning the history and the relationships with First Nations peoples of the past to broaden our understandings of social reality and engage differently as citizens of Canada (p. 146). This knowledge is essential because it contributes to our historical consciousness and their roles and responsibilities regarding relationships with Indigenous peoples. Part of this understanding is doing the often uncomfortable work of understanding the significance of being a treaty person, but not dwelling in the past, but acknowledging the past and how that informs how we move forward in relationship with Indigenous peoples.