Reflections on Worldviews and the Story of the Bean! (November 9th)

First of all I want to summarize the Worldview section from our Treaty Essential Learnings, and then I will move on to some things that stood out to me while reading “Indigenous Knowledges and the Story of the Bean” (Brayboy & Maughan).

What I found was talked about most in this section is values that have had English words for quite some time, so obviously have some place in Western worldviews as well, and are highly revered in Indigenous worldviews. There are several sets of virtues, or mindsets you need to have to carry out a good life (or in one section it mentions to have the strength to tackle both good and bad situations in life). Some of the virtues from the tipi pole teachings that I very much value are: respect, happiness, and the importance of support in relationships. I think it is awesome how, in the past, there could be physical, daily reminders of the virtues they held so dear. First Nations people would see the tipis either when they were up, when they were being put up, or when they were being taken down to move on to the next place.

I also really connected to the teaching that life is constantly changing. Every second, life is different than the second it was before. However, it changes in patterns, and so a lot of things – like the seasons, for example – can be predicted in advance. I want to apply this Indigenous way of thinking to a very common theme when thinking of “history class” which is now called social studies – learning the idea that “history repeats itself”. Or, perhaps more importantly, we should be learning from history so that it doesn’t repeat itself. I don’t think the Indigenous teaching meant to argue that things will happen and we have no control over them, but rather that if something happens once, it might happen again if the conditions are the same – in some cases this is good, and in some cases we need to change those conditions to get different outcomes.

There was one part of this Worldview I came into conflict with…

I remember, a few years ago in a sociology class, comparing the “patriarchal Western culture” to the more “egalitarian First Nation culture” and I feel now that the arguments that were made back then were too black and white. I am definitely not disputing that Western traditional worldview was patriarchal… we all know that, for the most part, it was. However, the First Nations culture here explains how men and women were seen as “equal but different” with women looking after children and men being active in politics and providing for the community. I don’t believe the argument can be made that they were equal when only one gender gets to make important decisions affecting the entire community (they explain how the “situational leader” was “usually” “a generous man” – it is never explicitly mentioned that women got roles of power). I think that although they may have both been valued equally (and it’s arguable that Europeans felt that way too – I am sure many men genuinely appreciated their wives rearing their children and saw them as crucial to society, but wouldn’t imagine them in a government position, just as First Nations wouldn’t) the fact that one had a position of power with the whole community and the other could only influence their children, meant a clear reality of inequality. They say in this worldview that they were important for family cohesiveness – there are some women who want to be independent and perhaps would have wanted to contribute to society by hunting instead of child rearing – and was that accepted? In my past research, yes I had read that in some (or many, not sure) First Nations groups it was accepted. It is just unfortunate it isn’t explored more in-depth.

I thus realize that by only going off of the summary I have here, I cannot speak for all First Nations or Aboriginal groups. I believe some groups were more egalitarian than others, and some were even matriarchal, but with a patriarchal twist – the Iroquois women, for example, were in charge of choosing and removing the leader, so had considerable political power – but the face of the leader still had to be male, and the decisions directly affecting the community still came from the male. The women could only depose him if they heard he was about to make a move they didn’t like, or he already had. I guess I feel that, what is discussed in this one article, does not appropriately cover the diversity of gender roles in traditional First Nations communities.

In regards to the second article…

First of all, I want to say that it is great reading an article that talks about comparing and uniting Western ways of knowing/teaching with Indigenous ways of knowing/teaching, in places other than Canada. This article takes place in America, where I believe (I could be wrong) this gets talked about far less. “Performative” versus “relational” speaking with knowledge is discussed, with authors arguing that performative is Western and relational Indigenous. I relate this to the worldviews article where they mention the value of ‘humility’ in Indigenous worldviews – not ‘tooting one’s horn’ so to speak, or ‘showing off’, and I get the idea that the students thought teachers were showing off with their large words that are not used in everyday speech (p. 1).

Also, something I really connected with is how “teachers have historically been frontline actors in attempts to assimilate Indigenous peoples” (quote from article, p. 4) – it is people like us, teachers (who are now learning to incorporate Indigenous knowledge) who were once specifically utilized to erase Indigenous culture. Teachers are incredibly political figures – they hold a lot of power, and ultimately have the choice to teach according to several various trains of thought by deciding whether to include certain topics, or leave certain topics out (some of which may get shut down faster by authorities than others). Fortunately, modern societies are saying they don’t want to take any more oppression in its many forms, and so anti-bias is encouraged and reflected more and more in classrooms.

I appreciated how eloquently the author explained that they are not trying to place Indigenous and Western as binary opposites – in other words they are making a conscious effort not to offend anyone – but are rather saying that there are insights to be learned from both, and that both need to be looked at to get a “full picture” of life.

If I can sum up the meaning of this article using one quote, I would use the anecdote from the American Indian woman in the ITPP: “I can be smart and Indian at the same time”. Unfortunately I think a lot of people, both non-First Nations and First Nations, still do not believe that. She recounts the realities of society, experiencing racism, and instead society could have supported her culture and contributed to her positive self-esteem by acknowledging her background and the smart things she can learn from it.

I am a bit torn when the student teacher says “and we wouldn’t plant it in sand anyway; things don’t grow well in sand, and everyone knows that” (p. 9). I really want to encourage experiential learning. I disagree with her in an obvious way: no, children don’t come equipped with the internal knowledge that plants don’t grow in sand. They either have to be told, or have to do an experiment themselves. Normally we would do an experiment, so they could discover this actively, instead of receiving the information passively. However, because I also respect the Indigenous worldview not to waste life, I would feel a bit guilty trying to grow a seed that I know won’t grow as well and may not be edible at the end. Because I, too, care for the environment and want to be a good role model of both caring for the world and introducing students to examples of Indigenous worldviews, I probably would try to avoid doing this now.

I am actually planning a soils unit right now, and planting seeds is part of it – although I did not think “from the beginning” like this student teacher did, I was already thinking of the end purposes and valuing the plant, which shows I am incorporating Indigenous knowledge without knowing it. There is no need to do an experiment and let it go to waste, when with a bit of extra time and care, you can eat from the plant, and let it carry out its life cycle and die naturally. There is a two-fold purpose in my wanting to grow vegetable seeds: to teach students about the importance of soils, and how plants absorb nutrients through the soil with their roots; and to show students that they can do this on their own time – they can become a gardener (if/when they manage to find a garden or pot to grow stuff in) and take great pride in providing for themselves, if they so choose! Therefore we would grow the vegetables the best we know how, and try to get vegetables to ‘harvest’ and eat them.

In regards to still addressing the knowledge of sand being unfit for growing… we could deduce that conclusion after doing an experiment without plants, where we see which type of soil drains water fastest (it is sand). And then we could discuss how, because sand doesn’t trap water or nutrients for plants to absorb, the plant can’t be as healthy. But we could certainly discuss how some plants DO grow in sand – this student teacher was not thinking of the hardier types of plants that are adapted to live in sand, and was quite quick to shoot sand down as undesirable.

That is my summary, equipped with a lot of reflections. I’d love to see some comments! 🙂

(n.d.) Treaty Essential Learning #4: Worldviews. Retrieved November 9, 2015 from https://esstfall2015.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/worldview-reading.pdf

Brayboy, Bryan & Maughan, Emma. (2009). Indigenous Knowledges and the Story of the Bean. Retrieved November 9, 2015 at https://esstfall2015.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/indigenous-knowledge-and-the-story-of-the-bean.pdf

https://esstfall2015.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/indigenous-knowledge-and-the-story-of-the-bean.pdf

https://esstfall2015.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/indigenous-knowledge-and-the-story-of-the-bean.pdf

https://esstfall2015.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/indigenous-knowledge-and-the-story-of-the-bean.pdf

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