Reflections from Metis, Indigenous & Inuit CALP practitioners
Lori St.Cyr, Community Learning Network
The month of June is a time to celebrate and honor Indigenous people in all ways. When I think about this very important month, I think about the Metis, Indigenous & Inuit CALP practitioners, I think about who they are, their communities and their life experiences. Some of them may call a Metis Settlement home like I do, some may have deep connections to their home communities & culture while others may have never set foot on their traditional homeland. Some were raised in urban centers, others in rural communities, some had a traditional upbringing, and some are only now discovering their Indigenous culture. As Metis, Indigenous & Inuit people who work in the CALP system our life experiences may differ, but we all have one thing in common, we all identify as either Metis, Indigenous or Inuit CALP practitioners.
As the Metis & Indigenous Liaison it is important to me to raise awareness & understanding of Indigenous people, communities & organizations in order to aid in the building of meaningful relationships/partnerships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples, communities and organizations. It is important to me to raise other Indigenous voices within the CALP system. I have asked the Metis, Indigenous & Inuit CALP practitioners to answer 3 questions to help inform the work we all do. Below are the questions I have asked and their individual answers.
What are 1-3 things you feel are important for non-Indigenous CALP practitioners to know about Indigenous learners, organizations or communities?
- Indigenous learners can be very shy and usually don’t like to talk about themselves, they can be easily intimidated, and they are more hands-on learners. Visual learners.
Indigenous communities are close-knit.
- Indigenous people and communities are diverse, and they have all been affected by colonialism in different ways. What may be appropriate in one community may not be in another.
- Generations of Indigenous people were denied an education and instead forced into Indian Residential Schools. To be a true ally and support Indigenous peoples in the CALP system, we should take the time to know and understand this history. We should all recognize that these experiences may have led to distrust in education, and be thinking about our role in CALP to help build that trust again.
- We love to laugh in Indigenous communities! Whatever the lesson is, make it fun. If you experience some gentle teasing from learners, it means they are accepting you.
- I feel it is very important for CALP practitioners to understand systematic racism and cultural awareness. The need to be aware of intergenerational trauma and trained to better understand indigenous people/communities.
- I would like to see CALP practitioners and any other organization that is coming into an Indigenous community to do a little bit of homework prior to coming in. There is a big difference between a First Nation Community and a Metis Settlement. For example, if you come to a Metis Settlement and tell me that you are going to “Band office” to meet with the “Chief”, that shows ignorance towards the community and its members. If you want Indigenous learners to learn from you and your programs, you should be willing to do the homework and know the community you are trying to serve.
- The language around identification is important to me. I often hear people say "Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit", and it's become even more prevalent with land acknowledgments. I realize there is no ill intent, it's just a bugaboo for me.
- As a Metis person it is important to me to be recognized as a Metis. I have a very strong connection to who I am as a Metis woman and a very strong idea of what being Metis is to me, my family & my community. When someone refers to me as First Nations or a Treaty person this tells me that my identity is not important, and I feel that I am not heard or seen as who I truly am. As Metis, we were not embraced by either side of our blood and we had to find our own way of knowing and being in the world. I feel it is important to allow individuals to tell you how they identify and that we use the terms that they themselves identify as.
What are 1- 3 things you as an Indigenous CALP practitioner feel would benefit Indigenous learners in the CALP system?
- Indigenous learners would benefit and build more learning opportunities if the model for learning was not standardized. Indigenous learners are more visual and oral. We learn by seeing and through conversation. Teachings that offer opportunity for discussion and teachings that implement more visual cues than just text, will benefit Indigenous learners. Also, leave room for laughter, Indigenous people love to laugh. At times this may come across as rude; this is not the intention. More often than not, humor is used to ease tension.
- A support system offered by other Indigenous people, so they do not feel intimidated or timid or even distrust. I am not saying by any means that they should NOT trust non-Indigenous people, it just takes a long time for them to gain that trust due to systematic racism.
- Relationship is key, always strive to make the learner feel supported and encouraged. You may be the first person who makes them feel supported in learning.
- Meet the Indigenous learner where they are at. The Indigenous learner may be comfortable with their Indigenous identity, while others may not. Ask how you can support them and be willing to learn together.
- Oof...this could be a very long list, but I think what learners would benefit from most is our continuation to learn new ways to serve them without always coming from a severe deficit perspective. More strengths-based practices would be nice to see.
- Allowing space for learners to bring in their extended family as a support. Many Indigenous people feel comfort and safe with other Indigenous people around them.
- Having Elders and children in the room should be normalized when working with Indigenous learners and communities.
- Learning should be holistic and for everyone in the family
Is there anything else you would like to share that you feel is important for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous CALP practitioners to be aware of that are working with Indigenous learners, organizations, boards or communities?
- It is important to take the time to understand how our colonial history has impacted generations of Indigenous people, and reflect on how you are actively working toward decolonization.
- Relationships are key, take the time to build genuine relationships, which leads to better engagement.
- Two very different cultural worlds and we all need to be aware and respect those differences and perhaps educate ourselves.
- I personally think that we are all here to work for the same reason and that's for the Learner. If we focus on the Learner, everything else falls into place.
- I didn't know where to put this, so I'll put it here: many individuals are currently working on more cultural attachment pieces of their lives, myself included. In a perfect world, each community that serves aboriginal learners would have access to community Elders or Knowledge-Holders.
- Relationships first
- Food is important to Indigenous culture. We are taught when someone comes to your home or community the first thing you do is offer food and refreshments.
- Sitting in circle is important and allows for all voices to be heard. Circle is a place where everyone is equal.
- Take the time at the beginning and the end of workshops, teaching opportunities, gatherings to allow each person to speak into the room. By doing this it allows for connections to be made, it allows for the Indigenous people to feel a sense of belonging and it creates a space to build relationships.
Thank you to all that shared your thoughts to my questions, your responses have given me things to think about, to consider and to share. I am truly blessed to work with so many wonderful amazing CALP practitioners.
If you would like to discuss or further explore any of the ideas or comments that were shared, I would love to sit in circle with you.
Metis & Indigenous Liaison
Community Learning Network
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