The article suggests that a “critical pedagogy of place” aims to: a) identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation); and (b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization) (p.74). List some of the ways that you see reinhabitation and decolonization happening throughout the narrative. How might you adapt these ideas / consider place in your own subject areas and teaching?
The article takes place during a research project on social, cultural, and economic perspectives of people on the Kistachowan River. The river and the surrounding area both played a role in determining said perspectives. Gathering information project for this data involved youth interviewing Elders, strengthening intergenerational bonds and the transfer of knowledge. These processes are foundational in the ideas of reinhabitation. Youth, adults, and Elders travel along the river, and ways of living off the land are shared. An Elder speaks of communicating with the animals, using their calls to determine things from water quality to the type of weather approaching. These traditional knowledges are the type that have been lost to youth, and can hopefully be recovered in these reinhabitation processes. It will serve to reestablish a “sense of connection land, culture and life” amongst youth. Further acts of reinhabitation are attributed with ancestral Mushgegowuk languages – Elders note that the traditional word for the group’s territory and it’s environment was no longer being used by youth. Instead, they used a simplified word, one that doesn’t hold the traditions, or maintain the historical identity of the band. If youth were to recover the traditional languages, they would be able to better grasp intergenerational knowledge passed on to them using similarly weighted words.
Decolonization is found in another part of the project, one based around the reclaiming and renaming of traditonal lands, or add more to the barren English-language maps. To Elders of the community, they suggest “every curve in the river has a name”. European colonization had simplified, removed, and Anglicized these ancestral names, and now these acts of renaming and reclaiming work towards achieving decolonization. This project brought together Elders and youth in ways that have been hard to come by since colonization and the ensuing gaps in intergenerational knowledge transfer caused by residential schools. These processes and projects help achieve decolonization through this connecting manner, fostering positive relationships in and around the community.
In my own subject area of teaching, Chemistry and Sciences, I have long wondered how to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and ways of knowing into my lessons and discourse. Ideas of a critical pedagogy of place can be brought into play when I can engage students in a field trip or outdoors activity. For discussions on chemical reactions, students can be taken along a waterway, or into a nearby park. Indigenous science is heavily observation based, and so I would engage students to follow along and try to see what I see. To find evidence that because plant x is in state y, chemical reaction z must have occurred. I would place on emphasis on getting outdoors, being in the moment and in a “place” as fundamental to the scientific process.
Discussions on environmental sciences and sustainability, taking care of the Earth, while used in our Western curriculum these discourses are appropriate for and tied to Indigenous ways of knowing in science. The idea of reciprocity and living in harmony with the land is a common theme in most Indigenous beliefs, as they lived off the land for so long prior to colonization. Further advancements in our environmental education curricula in Canada need address the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and worldviews. The perspectives of our Indigenous people, who were able to live sustainably with their environment for hundreds of years, would be useful in decolonizing Western education and high-consumer lifestyles. An emphasis on place, and developing a sense of wonder for the natural world will be required in our education systems in order for this to occur.