Richard Wagamese calls it. It’s up to us to create “the best story we can create while we are here”. The celebration of relationships with the earth, family, community and spirits as well as the embedding of history and survival techniques in story is what sustained our First Nations people for thousands of years pre- contact. The importance of embedding story in curriculum has been explored extensively by Kieran Egan at Simon Fraser University and has become a mainstream truth. What is new, is the rediscovery of the fact that embedding memory and history in story to make it meaningful is part of the legacy handed down to our current society by First People’s cultures. Learning about and acknowledging and integrating these foundational truths from First Peoples cultures is how we can truly reconcile our relationship with Indigenous people that has been seriously compromised in the process of colonization and the subsequent quest for economic advantage.
The First Peoples Principles of Learning were written by fnesc (First Nations Education Steering Committee) and the British Columbia Ministry of Education . Laura Tait did an amazing talkat The Changing Results for Young Readers Conference in 2013. It’s well worth listening to her 15 minute presentation, complete with pictures and stories from her family and Tsimshian community to bring life to the words.
For me, the concept that bounced out was the acknowledgement of more than one way of looking at the world. Imagine the wars based on religious intolerance that could have been averted if we had been able to grasp this concept. I think of all of the time it took me to grasp the concept of “sister- cousin” from my Indo-Canadian students. And for me it should have been easy. I grew up with a cousin who was more like a sister and even lived in the same house for a chunk of time. When I finally “got it”, I had to tell Babita, the student who persevered and patiently explaining the relationship of “sister-cousin”. She had persisted with the idea despite my insistent references to the definition of the word cousin. Her eyes were filled with the delight, or was it relief, of a teacher when a student finally understands the seemingly easy concept that has eluded them. It didn’t just take my willingness to try to understand but her patience and perseverance in hanging in there with me on the journey of discovery. We hold on to these little successes along the way. To end where we began, with the words of Richard Wagamese: “We change the world one story at a time.” Babita changed mine.