This week’s prompt for our reading asked us to list examples of reinhabitation and decolonization from Jean-Paul Restoule, Sheila Gruner, and Edmund Metatawabin’s article titled “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing”. It also asked us to consider how we might adapt these ideas or consider place in our own subject area and teaching?
The first instance of reinhabitation I found in the article was the passing of traditional knowledge. The article shares the experience of youth from the Fort Albany First Nation community as they embark on a 10-day river trip with adults and Elders from their community to learn about their traditional territory. While on this trip the Elders share their knowledge of many things such as living off the land. For instance, an Elder shared their knowledge of communicating with animals to determine water quality and weather conditions. Years of forced assimilation severed the relationships between adults and youth and made it difficult for Elders and adults to pass down their knowledge to their youth. With this trip, the youth, adults and Elders were able to connect with one another and traditional knowledge could be passed down. Another example of decolonization I noticed in the article was the reclaiming of culturally significant sites through language. Language plays a significant role in distinguishing cultures and building community. The renaming of sites in Cree previously named by European settlers is significant because it not only gives the inhabitants of the land knowledge of the Cree language but also allows them to reclaim what was once theirs. These examples allowed for the Youth on the trip to understand and build connections to land they walk on.
This article allowed me to reflect on what teaching methods and experiences I might use in my classroom to support reinhabitation and decolonization. The powerful connection between language and land stood out to me in this article and is something I wish for my students to also consider. I may ask my students to examine their place and consider Cree origins and meaning behind the names they use in everyday conversations; names such as ‘Wascana’ ‘Saskatchewan’ and ‘Canada.’ I hope to use this discussion as a starting point to explore how the historical treatment of Indigenous people and their land in Canada directly correlates to the contemporary situation of this country.