In the article titled Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing written by Jean-Paul Restoule, Shelia Gruner and Edmund Metatawabin I can see the process of reinhabitation and decolonization as soon as the researchers start to develop relationships and communicate with the Mushkegowuk Cree community about what they would like the framework of the project to look like. The researchers were starting by interacting with this Cree community and acknowledging things that they had to say.
I then thought there were other examples of this when the authors explained that both elders and youth would be put on this project together; what better way to preserve knowledge than to have elders teach it to the next generation. The activity too (creating radio documentaries) which I related with the traditional practice of oral story telling was, in my opinion, was a good way to honour this knowledge.
Another key part to the reinhabitation and decolonization efforts made by this project was the river excursion. This allowed for elders and youth to physically be on and connect with the land; a type of hands on learning that does more than just develop a student academically- focusing more on connecting to spirituality and the land. Accompanying this river excursion were lessons taught by the elders to the youth about how to live off the land and allowed students to investigate “…history, language, issues of governance, and land management…” (p. 75). Throughout this excursion and the project, elders also placed significant emphasis on traditional Cree language and the improper use of words used mostly by the younger generation. It was pointed out that colonization and residential schools played a crucial role in this language-loss and that young people using the ‘correct’ traditional language can support strengthening their abilities to form linguistic connections to traditional lands.
This project allowed people of both older and younger generations to come together to learn about, practice and celebrate their culture by sharing and learning knowledge from one another within their cultural circle. The ways of knowing that are essential parts of their being, were held at the forefront of this project, and a safe space to ask questions, seek answers and interact with the environment as well as each other was provided. This safe space enabled participants of both generations to further develop their ways of knowing. “The river trip helped members of the community share linguistic, cultural, historical, and geographical knowledge” (p.81), was said in the text and it can be observed that there was more than just one area of growth.
While reading this article I thought of an Indigenous studies 236 class I took last year (I think it was 236… not one hundred percent certain though. The professor was Andrew Miller and I 10/10 highly recommend this class). The class was about Indigenous environments, ecology and economies and we had discussed throughout the course this idea of ‘cultural landscapes’ meaning that First Nations people have a way of looking at the landscape and seeing, feeling and connecting to it in a way that Western society has never been able to. They are able to look at a river, for example, and see more than just a body of water. They see a force that has agency and is able to both give and take away life. It can be a mode of transport and communication with other communities (p.81). The river is also appreciated for being a home for many animals who sacrifice their lives to feed the humans such as waterfowl, fish, or beaver. They recognize and connect to the river and its’ landscape on a deeper level than people of European ancestry have ever been able to comprehend, and it is important to remember that just because we cannot see something, does not mean that it isn’t there. We, as future educators, need to remember to honour the ways of knowing that Indigenous peoples possess and to incorporate it into our lessons as often as we can- this is just one small step int he gigantic act of attempting to reinhabiting/decolonizing society.