When I work in my field I use a lot of circles.
My work in using circles is a way we are familiar with back home. Knowledge Keepers & Elders back home in the traditional territory of my mom, in Pic River First Nation, nestled in the boreal forests along the north shore of Lake Superior, use circles often as they work. Its something I have come to know and understand as my norm.
Our Elders always understood the power of two things: being together with family and promoting unity and harmony as teachers.
When I was twelve, I remember first going home to Pic, and attending ceremonies: naming, sweat lodge, and other ceremonies. It wasn’t until I taught a group of learners in Thunder Bay Ontario where I introduced myself in my language, including my dodem, and where I was from, that it occurred to me, “this is the first time I have ever introduced myself in a culturally responsive aka the way I introduce myself in my circles that are cultural, ever” Whaat… really.. I had never introduced myself and my cultural lineage in a post secondary institution culturally. Nope. Never as a teacher, definitely as a learner. Being the teacher and setting the tone for the class this way set the class up for a different level of sharing. This is what culturally relevant teaching looks and feels like. It feels like home.
As I grew older in life, I would be invited to other places sometimes rejected as well, the rejection that I faced hurt. The rejection was not something our Elders would agree with and something they knew well, and definitely strived to protect us from it. The rejection of not being from the community and then not being invited because we or our family did not meet that criteria, which essentially rejected us or left us out, was a common theme in my life, especially being mixed race: see Bill C 31, see favouritism, see nepotism, see alienation, for your own definitions.
Humility has taught me that inclusion is a universal right. Inclusion and kinship are related. My angle of relationality stems from this place of ensuring that all stories that learners bring to the space designated to teach about Indigenous Knowledge
Working in the field and area of Indigenous Knowledges and with hope to do my part in repairing, helping to build bridges, and support Best Practices in sharing and creating spaces for Indigenous Knowledges. Being in my home territory of Thunder Bay was important for many reasons. For one reclaiming was a part of it.
It mattered because I needed to find a way to be respectful to my many roles: mother first and always, educator, teacher, consultant. The mother first story always seemed to poke poke thanks to the many years and layers of lateral violence women experience especially those of us who are career based women when we are forced to chose: job vs. kids. The mother story was also significant this is my common denominator to every other Indigenous mother; just because you launch out there in your areas of expertise, you never lose your being Indigenous. If anything, it becomes more pronounced in your work and areas of expertise. Why would we do things any differently?
Realizing my own research in Indigenous Methodologies and decolonial efforts in research and at the university level, meant, I had a role to play. Seeing the lack of expertise in this area made me want to offer my support more. Additionally holding space to share knowledge with all learners wanting to learn about Indigenous Methodologies was aligned with what and how I had taught, as a qualified educator. Holding space meant being respectful to the voices and stories that made up my research: Indigenous youth, Indigenous Mothers, Indigenous Fathers, Grandparents, Leadership. Holding respectful space mean chosing the design that would make sense for two things: healing & building creatively and story sharing, that could move towards influencing design or future work and projects. Holding space for me was about being accountable to my relationships, to the mothers who I felt kinship relations to.
One area my work has focussed upon is social justice. When social justice became too much, I turned to methodologies that made sense for the issues and areas, and personal experiences, as well as doing and being respectful to the lived experiences of those I work with. Evaluating to ensure the way I worked with the Elders was respectful, engaging and thoughtful was how I worked. Respect as Design was a way I felt was always important, and following protocol. There was no other way to design my work with the Elders where my role was more like Granddaughter- Scholar-Artist-Friend. My experiences with the Elders whose presence was so important to me and ensuring things were done correctly, in a culturally ethical way.
Ensuring respectful ways are also followed with learners and those I have worked with means I follow not only my heart, but I never leave that behind. My heart is at the centre of my work. Because of this I ensure that spaces I work in suit my work, like a surgeon or an other expert needs a space or a lab, to work in that can help support relationships, connection and healing as well as transformation. Yesterday when I came across from the University of Calgary which speaks to the necessity of proper learning spaces that value and are respectful to the learners:
Fluid classrooms: The importance of flexible learning spaces .
This aligns itself greatly with my business and me wanting to ensure spaces reflect that need for comfort, and healing when engaging in critical. Dr. Poitras writes:
“Her research into teaching difficult subjects in that type of classroom helped design the graduate class being taught in the bright and airy Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. “Students have the freedom to sit and reflect on the stairs or mull things over with peers in the hanging pods. They have all kinds of places to go on their own or sit with someone,” says Poitras Pratt. “Students need to be able to step away from what can be emotionally intensive work.”
Open, naturally lit spaces can make it easier to discuss difficult topics.
As well as having abundant natural light, the space is abundantly flexible. The walls, technology and furniture can be easily and quickly moved to suit the subject matter – theories of decolonization in the morning and creative expression in the afternoon. “We transform the space all the time,” she says
When I approach my work from a consulting base, space becomes a huge consideration.
From my angle as an Indigenous Educator, Consultant and mother, going outdoors and finding Learning Sites on the Land is the most ideal. The one thing I have seen is the desire to Indigenize spaces, especially the ones we frequent so they truly become alive with our stories and experiences, and not in a dominant manner but in a way that makes sense for our children and our families, but also importantly to facilitate healing and relationship building.
Finding places that have and hold good vibes, are safe for the learners and accommodate needs of those I am working with. Better, finding natural light and beautiful studio like places to work in. Or, best, travelling to the site location and working with current spaces. My preference though are like any practitioner or teacher would want: an ideal learning location and site that matches the outcomes and learning that will take place.
Having reciprocity is as much as receiving reciprocity. Critical thinker and researcher, bell hooks writes:
Working from an angle of love in sharing Indigenous Knowledge is about knowing the knowledge keepers, respecting the value that parents bring as experts with so many diverse gifts of knowledge. We carry so many titles. Reciprocity is that recognition. To be continued.