Why “Taking Your Seat at the Fire?”

ERAC FireAfter a moment of silent reflection, Leona Prince states, “When thinking about the journey of Aboriginal Education in the province of BC, we are starting to understand the importance of collaboration and knowledge sharing. Aboriginal culture is polyphonic, meaning that it requires many voices to sustain it, and therefore so does Aboriginal Education. These voices need to be a network of diverse narratives if we are going to truly begin the work of reconciliation. ‘Taking our Seat at the Fire’ is a vision of all of us taking our seats together and being inspired by our similarities and differences. It is a call for all of us to take ownership of the responsibility of contributing equally to our future in education.”

The new BC curriculum reflects the broader societal growing awareness of the rich history, traditions and cultural practices of Aboriginal people and their role in the country. Classroom and students are a way to bring broader awareness and understanding to the future. “Through the process of reviewing the Ministry of Education document Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives and staying true to the framework of the FNESC guidelines for the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning, we were able to find a way to contribute to BC Educators in a meaningful way” states Prince.

As part of the Professional Learning Team, Monica Berra and Leona Prince, presented at the IT4K12 2016 “Taking Your Seat at the Fire – Continuing the Conversation Around Culturally Responsible Resources”.

“We began this work 3 years ago, as colleagues in School District No. 57 and ERAC supported our work around culturally authentic and relevant resources,” states Berra. This was first defined by FNESC in their 2008 publication English 12 First Peoples. ERAC redefined how resources were evaluated with these added criteria in 2014 and restructured the process by which Aboriginal Resources are evaluated. At IT4K12 2015, Prince and Berra presented on Culturally Authentic and Relevant Resources, which highlighted the work done to date. As momentum grew within the organization around Aboriginal Education, it culminated in the creation of the ERAC ABED Support Site.

ERAC abednew“The site framework of the natural elements, although grounded in the ideals of the Medicine Wheel, was chosen because of the inclusive nature of fire, water, earth and air. We all have our own personal connections to each of these, especially in BC where we have these in abundance. It really emphasized the privileges as residents of BC to have such beautiful natural surroundings, but also the responsibility to the land,” Prince relays.

The idea for the presentation was rooted in both Monica and Leona’s connection to their personal histories, their families and the lands that they both grew up on. Every detail in the presentation speaks to the importance of connection and collaboration. The photos of Leona’s two daughters on the lake side home where Monica spent most of her life highlights the importance of shared knowledge and collaboration. It is also a nod to the cover of Bev Seller’s ‘They Called Me Number One’, a story of personal significance to Berra.

Both Monica and Leona are storytellers and they weave for us a journey and invite us to come along. “Speaking with the audience at our sessions truly gave me an understanding of the cross section of educators across BC and the challenges they face,” states Prince. “It was humbling. For us to change our practice, we need to change the way we think and confront our biases and I believe we are well on our way. It is important for us to give, all those that are interested, an entry point into imbedding Aboriginal ways of knowing and being.” The session includes culturally authentic and relevant resources, the BC digital classroom, Aboriginal Ways of Knowing and also highlights technology in the classroom from a cultural perspective.

To begin your journey in Aboriginal learning, Prince encourages educators to find someone that complements them so that they can learn from each other. Berra agrees, noting that her practice has been brought forward by talking with others and learning from them, especially from working with Prince. The mutual respect and camaraderie is palpable between Prince and Berra and this continually opens the door for more conversations.

“Our ERAC consortium is an invitation to the conversation,” encourages Berra. “Let’s keep those conversations going.”

Each of their sessions ends with this poignant question, “Who is sitting at your fire?” It is a call to action for each of us, as educators, to take ownership of your own learning journey and to find those that share common goals.

Check out more by taking a walk through ERAC’s Aboriginal Education Support Site or connect directly with Leona Prince at lprince@sd57.bc.ca or Monica Berra at MBerra@sd57.bc.ca for more information.  As part of ERAC’s professional learning team  you can schedule this professional learning session through info@bcerac.ca.