Laughing and Learning

Treaty 2 Territory – This week, FNT2T Life Long Learning met Local Nation Helpers to discuss and reflect on Learning (Education). LNHs participated in a visual activity to determine if they recognized images or people based on what they’ve learned in school and/or media. Some of those images included the Three Sisters, Buffy St. Marie, Sitting Bull, and a buffalo jump. The purpose of the activity was not to necessarily get all the answers correct, but to create an awareness among participants as to why they may not know what the image is or who the person is. Most people would recognize a picture of Stephen Harper but would they recognize a picture of Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear)? Thus, the purpose of the activity was to ask the question of not only what has been present in what we’ve learned and been taught, but what has been absent. What has been left unsaid.

Dialogue ensued with participants sharing their most significant learning memory. Most, if not all, shared that their best learning memory was with a parent, grandparent, Elder, and/or knowledge-keeper. The group discussed learning and education taking place not just within the Western standard, as many have become accustomed to believing, but everywhere including on the land and at home.

Participants discussed the education system(s) of their ancestors. Oral history taught through story was a large part of First Nations’ education. The group looked at teachings from other First Nations as well. Through his important work, Omushkego storyteller and philosopher, Louis Bird, believes that Windigo stories didn’t teach people how to be, they taught people how not to be (the stories would reveal to people the potential negative repercussions of certain actions and/or decisions). Values, morals and natural law were taught through such stories. Anishinaabe storyteller and philosopher, Basil Johnston, writes: “What the old storytellers meant to project in the image of the Weendigo was a universal and unchanging human disposition” (pp.111). Stories also taught listeners about the land and the territories of which they occupied as a people. Listeners learned about the animals, plants, waters, stars, seasons, and weather.

Participants further discussed the treaties. LNHs were asked five questions regarding the events and atmosphere around treaty negotiations including “Why was there a Memorandum attached to Treaty 1 and 2 in 1875?” Again, the purpose of this activity was not to know the answer, necessarily; but to ask the question of perhaps why we don’t know the answer.

The dialogue was very good. And although there was some discussion around significant historical events that have impacted First Nations (Indigenous) peoples, the group made each other laugh as they learned from one other. And laughing and learning always makes for a very good day.

Source: Quote is from Basil Johnston’s book, Think Indian: Languages are Beyond Price, published by Kegedonce Press, 2011.

NOTE: The spelling for Windigo and Weendigo reflect the individual storyteller and his Nation.


Leave a comment