Curriculum as Place

In this week’s reading “Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing” we are offered a chance to begin to look at curriculum as place. The paper published for the University of Toronto by Restoule et Al details a research project that followed Mushkegowuk youth and Elders on a 10-day river trip. The trip centred around the “reclamation of culture and indigenous knowledge” (2013, 68). The key to this reading in relation to ideas of curriculum as place is directly tied to the ideas of reclamation and indigenous knowledge. Curriculum as place can be used to describe the idea of learning that takes place within and in relation to a specific place. This idea ties in very well with concepts of Indigenous knowledge, as many Indigenous cultures believe that there is much knowledge to be gained from the land and the stories it holds.

At the heart of the research was the creation of radio interviews and zines that were used to “[bring] together the community, [foster] dialogue and [generate] space for socializing conceptualizations of the territory from a Mushkegowuk perspective” (Restoule, 2013, 75). These ideas of socializing conceptualizations from a Mushkegowuk are examples of reinhabitation and decolonization. At the core of reinhabitation are concepts surrounding ways to “identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments” (Restoule, 2013, 78).  Reinhabitation of the river takes place right from the beginning of the research. The focus of much of the data collected is on the “significance of the river and knowledge of the social, cultural, economic and spiritual meanings of the river” (Restoule, 2013, 75). The curriculum of place in relation to the reinhabitation of the river comes as the “Elders share knowledge with youth about ways to live off the river and land” (Restoule, 2103, 75). This sharing of knowledge of the land is not only relevant to the reinhabitation of the land but also to ideas about reconciliation and reclamation of Indigenous land and identity. Throughout the journey the Elders would note key sites. This reclamation of Indigenous identity becomes particularly relevant in relation to language as the Elders share ” many more place names than the English ones that appeared on printed maps” (Restoule, 2013, 76). The reoccurrence of the word paquataskamik through out the journey and its relationship to intergenerational language loss as a result of residential schools is fundamental in understanding how relationship with place is a fundamental element of reinhabitation. As the Elders bring back the language of their people they are working in a place of decolonization. The implications of language loss for “governance, land use, economic development and social relationships are vast” when looking at ideas of decolonization (Restoule, 2013, 78). These concepts of reinhabitation are critical because the “survival and health of Aboriginal communities are underpinned by direct relationships to land, a strong sense of community, and the drive to be self-determining people in all areas of life” (Restoule, 2013, 84). As we look at the learning that can come from the Experience the youth have with the Elders it is important that “they know who they are, are proud of who they are and where they came from” (Restoule, 2013, p.84).

As I think about ideas of reinhabitation and decolonization it is interesting to think of my own relationship in reference to curriculum as space. For many of the positive teachings that come from sharing the knowledge of Elders are only to be shared by Elders. This is one area where I begin to become aware of place. I think it is important to understand that even though I can be in the same place, I can know the names that aren’t on the map but the knowledge shared by Elders is different. This comes down to two main ideas that relate to concepts of curriculum as place. The first is the understanding that there are different ways of knowing. There are ways of knowing that are related to place and the historical connections that can’t be replaced by knowledge that hasn’t come from cultural understanding. The second is understanding the different concepts of place. As I move forward in my career as a teacher I will try to approach curriculum as place by understanding my place within the context of my teaching. That means being aware of the physical place; my place within the curriculum in terms of power, influence, etc.; and the place from which my students are coming. I think that knowing that there is knowledge that is culturally specific and should be shared only by those who have the right to that knowledge should be the ones to share it means that bringing in Elders and other members of your community to share that information can not be replaced. Also looking at curriculum through a lens that centres around your own biases and your own understandings of the content in relation to your students is essential in creating a learning environment that empowers all students and creates agency for social justice and change.

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