What might it look like to engage with your pledge at a different level as per Westheimer’s types of citizenship? How could you engage at a justice level?
Personally Responsible Citizen – I think, at this moment, I am a personally responsible citizen. My pledge was to learn more about Indigenous history so that I can teach it more fluently to my future classrooms. I am well on my way in terms of learning about Indigenous history though I still have a long way to go. I know that I have definitely matured when it comes to the way I think and the way I speak when such topics come up. It’s interesting how often it actually does come up and I am proud of the times that I speak to others about it.
Participatory Citizen – This is the type of citizen I am trying to work toward being. I believe that I would be a participatory citizen when I am teaching Indigenous history and topics to young students in the classroom. I see this as actively participating in shaping the viewpoints of young minds. I would love to be the person to help students see these topics in many lights, not just what the dominant groups of society have put in their heads.
Justice Oriented Citizen – Although I think that teaching students about Indigenous topics can be seen as justice oriented, I think that I would need to take this all one full step further. This is the type of citizen that I would need to work to become. I would have to become an active voice in the public outside of classrooms. I would need to organize and volunteer in separate events throughout Canada. I would have to make a commitment to become an activist in the particular area. I don’t see this as a negative thing at all, though I don’t see myself venturing down that route in the future. But who knows what the future holds.
Over this past week I have been reflecting on the amount of knowledge I know and the ways I will present it to my future students. I have had a great time learning about Indigenous history. I find it very interesting and I have had many deep conversations with friends regarding the issues surrounding Indigenous history and the SK school curriculum. One of the reasons I wanted to learn about Indigenous history was so that I would be able to respond to the backlash I hear from people. I am around a lot of people that respond negatively when they hear anything Indigenous in the news. You know the type. Middle aged white men in Saskatchewan. This is the biggest thing that I am struggling with. I am a person that doesn’t necessarily struggle with confrontation, but I struggle with being the loudest in the room. The people who resist Indigenous movements, the ignorant, are incredibly loud. I find it incredibly difficult to get through to these people because they do not accept anything I have to say. They tend to be so stuck in their ways and I tend to view these people as lost causes and I can only hope to educate the next generation – which is great because it is what I plan to do. Though, moving forward, I would like to figure out a way to get through to the older generations…
My feedback was about what I expected. The two people who had given feedback mentioned that they could easily identify what I meant in my pledge – to learn more about Indigenous history and apply it to future lesson plans. They had mentioned that it’s evident that I’m learning from my resource, Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk, and one person mentioned that they are going to read it one day. They had made it clear that I need to incorporate a clear connection to the formal outcomes in the Saskatchewan Curriculum; this was something I was aware of shortly after making my initial pledge, I just forgot to include the actual outcomes. They had also challenged me to incorporate this material in my lesson plans during my pre-internship. In conclusion, this is the feedback I completely expected from my peers. I will make sure to add clear connections to the SK curriculum and I am going to work to incorporate my knowledge into my lesson plans.
This week has been busy to say the least. I have been swamped by the ever increasing pile of assignments due very soon. Despite this, I’ve still managed to get some reading done this week. I read another chapter in Clearing the Plains and I’m finding that the more I read and learn, the more comfortable I am talking about it. Anyways, in chapter 4 Daschuk walks us through the dire situation that gradually took over North America. Violence, disease, migration, and climate are among some of the stressors people had to face during the early 1800s. Trading has become a game of wits – alcohol being a major influence in the game. Daschuk explains that many First Nations were duped into alcohol addiction which effected their trading efficiency. Also, overhunting became a huge concern for all parties. There was a definite resentment of the Iroquois who were notorious because of their overhunting for pelts. Daschuk also walks us through the volcanic eruption of 1815 that effectively changed the climate throughout the year. I’m am still thoroughly enjoying this read and I’m looking forward to learning about the things that happen as I reach a more contemporary time.
This week I’ve continued reading Clearing the Plains and I had the opportunity to attend the Treaty Ed Camp at the University of Regina. In Clearing the Plains Daschuk explained the ongoing spread of disease during the fur trade and the dire situations that the First Nations faced due to a scarcity of food in the 1770s. He illustrated the growing feud between the First Nations and the ‘Canadians.’ Due to the mistreatment that the First Nations experienced, certain groups wasted no time to retaliate against the Canadians and, at times, attacked members of the Hudsons Bay Company. During that time, travel through the plains became so dangerous that people opted to only travel at night to avoid being seen and ultimately killed. These problems coexisted with the overwhelming smallpox epidemic that killed anywhere from 50-100% of tribes. The spread of disease was due to the introduction of horses that were a means to travel swiftly from posts which allowed smallpox to thrive over long distance.
In addition to my reading, I also had a lot of food for thought at the Treaty Ed Camp. One thing that stuck with me was a comment one student shared about treaty education in classrooms. She explained that we, teachers, have a tendency to try and hide treaty ed in our lessons. We have the habit of trying to trick our students into learning it and not being honest in saying “we are going to learn about _ today.” I thought it was an interesting comment and I had never thought about it that way before. Also, a common theme throughout the camp was that there was never any passion when we were taught treaty ed, if we were even taught it at all. In the future, I am going to make a commitment to actively find new ways to teach and incorporate treaty education into my lesson plans in order to have my students efficiently learn the material and have an impact.
This week I read chapter 2 of Clearing the Plains. The reading involved information about the smallpox epidemic throughout North America in 1600s through the 1700s. I had forgotten about the term “Virgin Soil Epidemic” or VSE which is used to describe a new disease that had been introduced to a population. This term was brought up because Daschuk had introduced the topic of disease in North America. He explained that Smallpox was the most catastrophic, though there was the spread of measles and influenza at that time. I found it interesting that the spread of disease was not as significant as I thought it was (there is no mention of the blankets yet). Although disease was brought over from the French and European settlers, the trip over the Atlantic Ocean was long enough for most diseases to run its course. The diseases that did survive the trip caused considerable damage though. Early trading between the First Nations and French colonies had reportedly reduced the First Nations population by half. Due to trade, the spread of disease gradually moved west and had similar repercussions. It was not until the introduction of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) that the spread of disease slowed down. Since the HBC built trading posts at the mouths of important waterways, trading of goods and disease was exclusive to those locations. The men at these posts would stay there for many weeks at a time and the disease they contracted would naturally run its course before they could expose it to the greater population.
I am still learning a lot from this book and I am finding it much easier to retain information learning it this way than from listening to someone talk about it!