Bitterroot as a metaphor for decolonizing education


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This presentation was delivered by Starleigh Grass on October 25th, 2012, at the University of British Columbia Okanagan hosted by the Equity Office. To learn more about Starleigh's work you can visit

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Bitterroot as a metaphor for decolonizing education

  1. 1. Bitterroot as a metaphor for decolonizing education Starleigh Grass October 25th, 2012University of British Columbia Okanagan
  2. 2. Recognition of territory• We are on unceded Okanagan territory• Thank you to the Okanagan Nation for their ongoing hospitality• Limlempt to Carmella Alexis, Dr. Jeanette Armstrong, Dr. Bill Cohen, Marlow Sam, Dr. Brent Peacock for their ongoing leadership in academia and for being inspirations in my own life
  3. 3. Properly introducing myself• Tsilhqot’in – gold• Tletinqox-t’in, Yunesit’in, Tsi Del Del• E-li Jeff – knowledge and land justice• Nita Grass – education as empowerment• Mother/aunt – education as an obligation to the future
  4. 4. Resistance as an inheritance• Hardline • Insolence• Unreasonable • Menaces• Religious • Troublesome and fundamentalist disorderly extremist • Glavin, T. (1992). Nemiah: The Unconquered Country. Vancouver, BC: New Star Books.
  5. 5. Professionally introducing myself• Aboriginal Strategic Plan Implementation Committee• FNESC – EFP10/11, EFP12• Educational Advisor for McGraw Hill• Professional development facilitator• K-12 humanities teacher in communities with high percentage of Aboriginal students• Literacy coach – Lillooet Tribal Council• Curriculum development• TA Leyton Schnellert• BCTELA – journal co-editor Pamela Richardson• GAA Jeanette Armstrong, Bill Cohen• Twinkle’s Happy Place
  6. 6. Why bitterroot?
  7. 7. What are we doing here?
  8. 8. 5 stages of decolonizationLaenui, P. (2000). Process of decolonization. In M. Baptiste (Ed.) Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press. Pp. 150- 1601) Rediscovery and recovery2) Mourning3) Dreaming4) Commitment5) Action
  9. 9. Medicine wheel Baptiste, M. (2000). Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.• Mapping colonialism (West)• Diagnosing colonialism (North)• Healing colonized indigenous peoples (East)• Indigenous renaissance (South)
  10. 10. 25 Indigenous Projects Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. New York, New York: Zen Publications.• Reframing• Envisioning
  11. 11. Non-linear transformative praxis Smith, G. H. (2003). Kau Papa Maori:Theorizing Indigenous transformation of education and schooling. p.13 Resistance Transformative Conscientization Action
  12. 12. Awareness is not enough• In anti-racist education, being aware of racism and different perspectives is not enough. One can be aware, and yet continue to perpetuate oppression.• Gorski, P. C. (2009). Good intentions are not enough: A decolonizing intercultural education. Intercultural Education 19(6). P515-525. Retrieved from education.pdf
  13. 13. What are we doing here?
  14. 14. Reframing the roots of inequity in education
  15. 15. PSE growing Grade 12 gap 50% Inequitable distribution of public resourcesAchievement discrepancyAssociation of Colleges and Universities Canada. (2010). National working summit on Aboriginal post-secondary education. Ottawa, Ontario: Association of Colleges and Universities Canada in associationwith the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation. summit-aboriginal-pse-2010-12-15-e.pdf
  16. 16. Locating responsibilityKuokkanen, R. (2007). Reshaping the University: Responsibility, Indigenous Epistemes, and the Logic of Gift. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press. Student Community Institution Outside factors
  17. 17. Invisibility• Academia presents Indigenous thought as inferior to Eurocentric thought• Strips Aboriginal students of their heritage and identity• Succumb to eurocentric thought,• Youngblood Henderson, J. (2000b). Postcolonial ghost dancing: Diagnosing European colonialism. In M. Battiste (Ed.), Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision (57-76). Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.• or else?
  18. 18. Teaching populationWilful ignoranceKuokkanen, R. (2007). Reshaping the University: Responsibility, Indigenous Epistemes, and the Logic of Gift. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.Sanctioned ignoranceRegan, P. (2010). Unsettling the Settler Within. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.
  19. 19. Liberal individual ideology• Power blind tolerance discourses which do not explicitly address racism only serve to blame Aboriginal students when it is the institutions that are failing• There is room in the curriculum for decolonization, but teachers aren’t making it happen• Orlowski, P. (2008). "That would certainly be spoiling them": Liberal discourses of Social Studies teachers and concerns about Aboriginal students. Canadian Journal of Native Education 31 (2). p110-129.
  20. 20. Culture as a means of assimilation?• Integration of culture into the classroom for the sole purpose of increasing literacy and numeracy achievement in order to better integrate indigenous peoples into the neoliberal market is a neocolonial version of education for assimilation• Kostogriz, A. (2011). Interrogating the ethics of literacy intervention in indigenous schools. English Teaching: Practice and Critique 10 (2). P24-38.
  21. 21. If these are the roots of inequity, what are the solutions? And what role do I play in solutions?
  22. 22. IK Self determination and decolonizationCulture
  23. 23. Indigenous knowledges are inherently disruptive• Requires epistemological and pedagogical shift that inherently undermines the privileging of Eurocentric thought• Experiential, student centered, place based• Mason, R. (2008). Conflicts and Lessons in First Nations Secondary Education: An Analysis of BC First Nations Studies. Canadian Journal of Native Education 31 (2). pp 130-153.
  24. 24. Cultural integration• Indigenous knowledge base increases high school completion• Nazeem, M., Puchala, C., Janus, M. (2011). Does the EDI Equivalently Measure Facets of School Readiness for Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal children? Social Indicators Research, 103, 299-314.• Being culturally connected increases post secondary completion• Drywater-Whitekiller, V. (2010). Cultural resilience: Voices of Native American students in college retention. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 30 (1). p1-19.• Communities with a cultural continuity have lower suicide rates• Chandler, M. J., & Lalonde, C. (1998). Cultural continuity as a hedge against suicide in Canadas First Nations.Transcultural Psychiatry 35 (2). 191-219.
  25. 25. Community connections• Make connections to Aboriginal communities• Learn about the histories of Aboriginal communities• Orlowski, P. (2008). "That would certainly be spoiling them": Liberal discourses of Social Studies teachers and concerns about Aboriginal students. Canadian Journal of Native Education 31 (2). p110-129.
  26. 26. Self determination and decolonization• University classroom climate is a strong indicator of drop out rates in post-secondary• Lindsay, W. G. (2010). Redman in the ivory tower: First Nations students and negative classroom environments in the university setting. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 30 (1). p 143-154.• Shifting the purpose of education as a means to explicitly to address ongoing injustices shifts classroom climate and teaching attitudes
  27. 27. It is being done• Self governed Aboriginal post-secondary institutions, developed with the purpose of building capacity to meet the needs of decolonization, have a higher success rate than mainstream institutions• Stonechild, B. (2006). The New Buffalo: The Struggle for Aboriginal Post-secondary Education in Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.
  28. 28. It is mandated in this institution• "UBC has an obligation to assure that an accurate and developed understanding of Aboriginal histories, cultures, and perspectives is integrated into its existing curricula," (2008 UBC Aboriginal Strategic Plan).
  29. 29. How do we hold this institutionaccountable for these changes? And what role do I have in this process of change?