Learning Through an Indigenous Lens: Highlights from Faculty PD

Posted by Admin on March 21, 2022 at 2:05 PM

Beth Alexander's visual representation of the workshop: Learning Through an Indigenous Lens.

Linden faculty were captivated by their recent professional development session, Learning Through an Indigenous Lens, led by Jennifer Brant, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.   

Dr. Brant began by discussing the importance of moving beyond land acknowledgements, and ensuring that our words are supported by actions. Her work positions Indigenous literatures as educational tools to move students beyond passive empathy and compassion, inspire healing and wellness, and foster socio-political action.

“It’s not enough to include Indigenous literatures in the curriculum,” said Dr. Brant. “It can be taught in a very wrong-headed way. We need to teach Indigenous literatures alongside theoretical frameworks that talk about themes like treaties and sovereignty.” 

She believes that sharing stories is crucial, citing an unknown participant in the Truth and Reconciliation hearings who said, “By listening to your story, my story can change. By listening to your story, I can change.”

Dr. Brant urged Linden faculty to explore the works of Beth Brant, including A Gathering of Spirit: A Collection of Writing and Art by North American Indian Women. Beth Brant invited women from a wide variety of Indigenous communities to share their stories, including communities where Indigneous women are often over-represented and silenced, such as prisons and psychiatric facilities.

“As an undergrad, when the professor said things like ‘we’, ‘you’ and’ us’, I always felt outside of that,” said Dr. Brant.  “When someone describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium as you look into the mirror and see nothing. And yet, you know you exist and others like you, and that this is a game done with mirrors. It takes some strength of the soul to stand up and demand to be seen and heard.”

In small groups, faculty discussed themes and images in Indigenous poems, before coming back together for Q&A. Faculty were curious about common mistakes made when teaching Indigenous literatures, and how to incorporate Indigneous ways of knowing in STEM. 

The session was arranged by Tara Silver and Melody Barclay. Both are members of Linden’s Indigenous Education Committee, and Melody is a former student of Dr. Brant’s. 

"Dr. Brant's class offered me the opportunity to engage more deeply with Indigenous literatures,” said Melody. “I am adding the 's' on the end of literature because she explained that it is important to acknowledge the diversity of Indigenous literatures. We remember that there is no singular Indigenous perspective or way of being, and that this plurality exists in literature as well."

Dr. Brant asked Linden faculty for their favourite books by Indigenous authors. Here’s what we popped into the chat:

  • An Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • The Marrow Thieves; Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
  • The Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley
  • Legacy by Suzanne Methot
  • Pocahontas and the Blue Spot by Monique Mojica
  • The Book of Jessica by Linda Griffiths and Maria Campbell
  • 500 Years of Resistance by Gord Hill
  • Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga
  • Unsettling Canada by Arthur Manuel
  • The Water Walker by Josephine Mandamin
  • Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
  • Braiding Histories Stories; co-written with Michael R. Dion
  • The Break by Katherena Vermette
  • Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
  • Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

Linden faculty not only include Indigenous literatures in the curriculum, but they are also committed to teaching and learning that responds directly to the TRC’s Calls to Action #62 to #65 for policy-makers, school administrators and educators. These include the development and implementation of learning resources on Indigenous culture and current issues, teacher training and the sharing of best practices and building intercultural understanding.