Entering Spaces in Anishinàbeg Knowing Through Currere A Response to Kanu and Glor by Robin Milne for EDU 6460 Curriculum, Culture, and Language

Entering Spaces in Anishinàbeg Knowing Through Currere A Response to Kanu and Glor by Robin Milne for EDU 6460 Curriculum, Culture, and Language

I arrived in the harbour at quarter to eight, ready to pick up my fellow crewmembers; I was the captain and we were travelling on my ship. Although I had never met them before, I was told that they were educated, good company and equally interested in the treasures of the new world. Although this world was strange to each of us, we had heard wondrous stories of the fortunes found within. One-by-one, I welcomed my crew aboard. Our anticipatory excitement combined with our anxiety of the unknown brought a noticeable, yet gentle tension to the air. Soon after, however, we were all sharing stories, which calmed a mood that was perhaps further provoked by the assembly of new introductions. We all felt in good company. Just after eight, with the thermometer on my vessel reading negative 23, the last of my crew boarded and we set sail northeast towards the sun that was now rising over the civilization and home that we were leaving behind.

My ancestors had made a similar journey when they crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of the treasures of the new world that we now call Canada. Yet, despite the parallels in our “search for riches”, the wealth that I sought in my expedition was the opportunity to perhaps undo some of the results of theirs. While I believe the imagery is apt, I was not in a ship sailing towards some new world starkly removed from my home – I was in my car driving to a world only 130 kilometers removed from my doorstep. I was not hunting for material wealth, I was seeking an existential connection with an untapped cultural resource richly steeped in a knowledge that has sadly become fragmented from the rest of Canada as a result of colonial hegemony. After two very quick hours the new world – the Algonquin reserve in Kitigàn-Zìbi, Quebec – was before me, and I was being warmly welcomed by Anishinàbeg (the people) as they invited me into their school (kikinamadinan).

The school was quaint and lively with the activity of students from grades 1 to 12 filling the concourse of the halls. Several teachers had their classes out in the open space that made up the heart of the school and were managing to seamlessly integrate students across grades. Eagles, trees, a flock of Canadian geese and the lone wolf made up just some of the Canadian topography painted right into the walls as if to erase the boundary between inside and out. As I followed the stream painted onto the ground that flowed throughout the school, I could feel the soft gaze of students attempting to process my presence as the proverbial “other”. As my eyes drifted to theirs, they were met with an intrigued, yet bashful smile that turned into a timid little wave that welcomed me to the school. Others were slightly bolder, greeting me with the type of hug I would only be comfortable instigating with a dear friend. While the principal readied her presentation of the Algonquin Anishinàbeg culture, language and curriculum, I was living and experiencing it all around me.

Now, as I write this reflection and attempt to recount the details that bring this experience to life, I find myself going through what Kanu and Glor (2006) forward as the process of currere – an active, lived form of curriculum as “an existential experience” that may “disclose and examine such experience so that we may see more of it and see more closely” (pp. 104). Currere is necessarily autobiographical and involves four temporal or reflective moments in studying educational experience: the regressive, the progressive, the analytical and the synthetical (Kanu & Glor, 2006). As I explore my experience in Kitigàn-Zìbi to “recapture it as it was [so that I may consider it] as it hovers over [my] present” (Pinar et al., 1995, cited in Kanu & Glor, 2006, pp. 105), I am afforded the opportunity to relive my experience, share it autobiographically, read it, relive it, and reflect on it more deeply. Chambers (1994) explains that sometimes, when we remember and retell our stories, we find that we may only be telling a version that we have allowed ourselves to remember and in this regressive moment of realization, we may analytically interrogate the meaning, and imagine possible futures (Kanu & Glor, 2006).

As the process of currere provokes me to reread, relive and interrogate my story, I realize the treasure found in my experience at Kitigàn-Zìbi stems from slipping into a crack in “know/ing”. Here, Aoki (2000/2005) explains, “as we crack the word know/ing, we are left with different readings: ‘What is to know?’ or ‘Differing ways of knowing’” (pp. 326). As I listened intently to the principal describe the cultural and lingual relevance of their locally developed education system that is based on the seven grandfather teachings of honesty, truth, love, respect, humility, bravery and wisdom that each aim to nurture the students mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, I found myself slipping into the space between Western knowledge and Anishinàbeg knowledge. I moved deeper still and laterally within this space when Bertha, an Algonquin elder and residential school survivor stood up in front of me and expressed her gratitude for our presence and desire to learn about her culture. She proceeded sharing a story where two non-Aboriginal women had approached her expressing their gratefulness for the Algonquin Anishinàbeg that welcomed and taught the first Europeans how to survive off the land, for if they hadn’t, they would not have survived and the two women wouldn’t be here now. “That should be in our history!” Bertha explained as she adamantly expressed the need to rewrite our history.

While this moment struck a chord with me at the time, it is only now, as I look back on my entire experience reflectively through currere, that I slip into the crack between Western knowing and Anishinàbeg knowing. Only now do I understand why I felt so welcomed in this school and why my ancestors must have felt so welcomed upon arriving on Anishinàbeg shores. The ideologies of Anishinàbeg culture are so connected to the “lived topos of here” (Chambers, 1999, pp. 142), and this directs how they collect knowledge, perceive it, and use it in knowing. Aoki (2000/2005) explains that Aboriginal worldviews place a premium on the spirit and being, and their culture is therefore based on “inclusiveness and connectedness through the life force in all living things” (pp. 326). It is this way of knowing that I refer to when I describe the treasures of this culture, it is this way of knowing that my ancestors have marginalized, isolated and fragmented to make space for the Western way of knowing, and it is this way of knowing that we may all benefit from by entering this space.

As I re-enter the present to complete my cycle of currere, my thinking shifts to create a synthetic moment that brings everything I have been reflecting on together (Kanu & Glor, 2006). The space in know/ing that I was invited to by Anishinàbeg brings my attention to the importance for Canadians to revisit historically isolated dichotomies so they too may start to interweave their knowing into a renewed intercultural dialogue that is based on commonality. When we consider that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people have been interacting for hundreds of years, it becomes easy to accept Donald’s (2004) notion that “surely, something significant has passed between them during this time that has directly impacted the culture and identity of both” (pp. 50). We are connected by the space between Aboriginal culture and Western culture, but it is time that more of us entered this space. Seeking out opportunities to expand our own narratives involves sharing and listening to others with thoughtful attention, and here Kanu and Glor (2006) reminds us, “by uncovering biographies, there can be an empowerment and a movement away from cultural authority and cultural reproduction” (pp. 106) and towards new interwoven imaginations. It is our job, then, as educators and curriculum theorists to cultivate new, culturally responsive curricular spaces that shapes how Canadians know, while realizing that the act of shaping is a dynamic and interwoven process that cannot be simplified by the typical colonial instrumentalities of previous generations.

References

Aoki, T. (2000/2005). Language, Culture, and Curriculum. In William F. Pinar & Rita Irwin (Eds.). Curriculum in a new key. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Chambers, C. (1994). Looking for Home: Work in Progress. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 15 (2), pp. 23-50.

Chambers, C. (1999). A Topography for Canadian Curriculum Theory. Canadian Journal of Education, 24 (2), pp. 137-150.

Donald, D.T. (2004). Edmonton Pentimento: Re-reading history in the case of the Papaschase Cree. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 2 (1), 21-54

Kanu, Y. & Glor, M. (2006). ‘Currere’ to the rescue? Teachers as ‘amateur intellectuals’ in a knowledge society. Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 4 (2), pp. 101-122.