MAIS graduate students co-write chapter with AU Professor

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This past week, Dr. Reinekke Lengelle met up with Master of Arts- Integrated Studies (MAIS) graduates Charity Jardine and Charlene Bonnar to celebrate. Together, they teamed up and wrote a chapter in an upcoming book which will be released in November:

Lengelle, R., Jardine, C., & Bonnar, C. (2017). Writing the self for reconciliation and global citizenship: The inner dialogue and creative voices for cultural healing. In F. Meijers, & H.J.M. Hermans (Eds), The Dialogical Self in Education. (pp.) New York, NY: Springer.

(IMAGE) credit: Mufty Mathewson

The three were invited to have lunch with photographer Mufty Mathewson who works on the REDress Photography Project. Conversations followed about First Nations education (a first-nations educator from the Catholic School Board was also there) and the importance of changing the narrative to promote reconciliation efforts.

Dr. Lengelle notes that the meet up was not only to celebrate as the book is in production now, but also to connect with more people from the community involved with reconciliation efforts. The ‘method’ to explore reconciliation in this book chapter is based on the work in MAIS 616: Writing the self and MAIS 621: Narrative Possibilities. The idea is that we cannot ‘reconcile’ stories that we have not reconciled in some way with ourselves (e.g. internalized racism that we don’t want to have, but discover we have – even if we’re from the group we have unexplored judgements about).

Two excerpts from the book:

“From my research on First Nations people, I concluded that the heartbreaking social issues of suicide, violence, and drug abuse are directly related to loss of identity through the effects of colonization (de la Sablonierre et al., 2011). Also, it is clear that education cannot create real cultural change if it remains focused on repressive, reproductive learning. As my own experience taught me, youth experience confusion about their identities and are offered few ways to heal that confusion. I felt I didn’t belong with the confident, glamorous white people I saw because we were brown and came from the bush. I didn’t belong with my Native peers who spoke lively Cree and engaged in more daring and fun activities, while I was a quiet bookworm and teacher’s pet. I definitely distanced myself from the broken Natives I saw around town: drunk, grubby, and shameful. In dialogical terms I see that for my people some I-positions likely say “I-as proud to be First Nations,” while others say “I-as worthless, shameful, addicted, imperfect, abused.” This latter internalized narrative (i.e., an I-prison), which mostly supposes failure on the part of Native people from the “voice” of the dominant culture of Canada, cannot be reconciled with the human desire to be found worthy. In more poignant language, a narrative that cannot be reconciled on a personal level is per definition a story that cannot contribute to reconciliation.” (Charity)

 

“In order to begin, I must question the deeply ingrained and assumed realities about Indigenous peoples that stem from the cultural stereotypes with which I grew up and the colonial education I received. As a white woman raised on Treaty 6 land,[1] I struggle to reconcile the teachings of my 1970s-80s colonial public school education with the reality in which I find myself in the new millennium. In dialogical terms, I-as-white was the dominant cultural I-position I grew up with and I-as-culturally-aware-of-the-Other was a position in need of development and articulation. As part of the self-reflective process, I engaged in an autoethnographic process of re-storying (for full details, see Bonnar, 2016). The research method of autoethnography and “re-storying” is culturally appropriate because storytelling is an essential part of learning and teaching in many Aboriginal cultures, and as one of my mentors reminds me, in the oral tradition, we learn indirectly through the telling and re-telling of stories. As a member of the dominant culture, I have the opportunity to give voice to the assumptions of the colonizers and try to undo them in myself, thereby creating possible solutions based on new conceptions. However, in order to achieve this, I needed to examine and write my first story, which I soon learned was a story with colonial and racist undercurrents. (Charlene)

 

The chapter concludes in part with these thoughts,

“The stories told here show two particular dimensions of the cultural and individual healing that are required in order to work towards the educational goals described. The colonized must see where she/he has been “sutured” into the narrative of inferiority and shame—a story that, as Charity describes, cannot and should not be “swallowed.” And the one bred to be the colonizer must see how she/he has been “sutured” into the assumptions of dominance and guilt. The way out of such I-prisons is through deeply felt self-understanding, thus realizing we have been shaped by fearful stories that have taken root in our selves. Such stories must be uncovered and questioned in order for a bridge between conflicting selves and conflicting others to be constructed.”

Charity Jardine’s final MAIS project has just been completed. She will convocate in 2018. Her final project is entitled, “Narratives of First Nations Education: A Critical Examination of Pedagogy, Failure, and Reconciliation.”

 

Charlene Bonnar has graduated with MAIS and was at convocation this past June. Her final project was about examining the narrative she grew up with as “a white girl on treaty six land” and how this needed to be explored for her to work more effectively as a student advisor at Lakeland college, Lloydminster. It’s called, “Âsokan – “Bridge”: Building the Bridge to Reconciliation, One Story at a Time”

 

A copy of the chapter can be requested from: reinekke@athabascau.ca

[1] Treaty 6 is an agreement signed on August 23, 1876, covering 50 First Nations across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, which made provisions for the right to education and self-determination of First Nations people.