Boozhoo, Aanii, Amanda Hardy ndizhinikaaz; N’Swakamok ndi-daa, Teme-Augama ndonjiba; Mukwaa Dodem, Anishinabekwe nda’awi.
Identifying myself in my language acknowledges my family, my clan, my culture and my history. It fosters a strong sense of belonging, something I sought for so long. This is not something I have always had in my life. I feel immense gratitude for the people, experiences and lessons that have afforded me the confidence, pride and the capacity to identify as an Anishinabee Kwe (Native woman).
When I introduce myself in my language, I am honouring the work of those before me who made this possible for me and so many others. Those who preserved and shared our language and culture successfully resisting acts of genocide committed against Indigenous Peoples.
Learning and sharing the truth of the impact of residential schools and other horrific acts committed against Indigenous People is a vital first step in reconciliation. Additionally, deepening our understanding of how intergenerational trauma occurs and how it manifests in our students may help us in developing a broader understanding of the current barriers our students experience. These can seem overwhelming or even unattainable tasks.
For me, I try to look at one piece at a time. I ask myself, “What is one action I can take today that might make a difference?” Speaking my language, learning and sharing my culture, and acknowledging my Indigenous identity is not something that Indigenous People across Canada have been always able to do. This seemingly simple act of identifying myself holds deep meaning for me and many others, illuminates my sense of pride and supports community healing. It is incredibly powerful to acknowledge who I am, and to speak my truth as we work towards reconciliation together.
As a suggestion for addressing difficult conversations, I’d like to offer one of my favourite ways ~ picture books. Picture books offer teachers opportunities to introduce topics, generate thinking amongst their students and to teach many concepts over the course of a unit. Below you will find the titles of some from my personal collection. Check them out:
Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab Kinew
When We Were Alone by David Robertson
Not My Girl and When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokaik-Fenton
I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kasser
Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi’s Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell
In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation I continue to develop my self-understanding and I hope that as an Anishinabee Kwe, an educator and a mother, I may encourage Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and educators to embrace who they are and reflect on the actions they may take towards reconciliation, however small they may seem.