Who I am and what I do
My Tahltan name is Edōsdi, which literally means “someone who raises up children and pets” or more simply, someone who is a teacher. I am, first and foremost, a teacher. Over the last twenty years, I have always tried to provide my students with opportunities to experience what they are learning. For example, in my grades 1/2 classes, when they were learning about science, I wanted the children to feel like they were the scientists. So, they put on lab coats and carried out science experiments. With my adult Indigenous science students, I took them out on the land to learn about two different nature-knowledge systems, Western Modern Science and Indigenous Knowledge, accompanied by scholars from the academy and scholars from Indigenous communities. I would then get those students to teach what they learned in their communities, thereby teaching our children that our people have always been connected to our land, they are the knowledge and wisdom holders, and have always been scientists. Once I began my formal research career, I involved students in their learning by using research. Working with the Gitga’at Nation and the Hartley Bay School, high school students made connections with their Elders by researching and documenting traditional plant knowledge. In my university courses, I provide opportunities for my students to be engaged in active inquiry. In my Indigenous Language Revitalization class, students choose a research project involving either methods of conducting and recording language interviews, or the teaching and/or learning experiences in the student’s chosen language. In my Indigenous Community Research course, my students and I discuss the cyclical nature of Indigenous research. This includes the building and nurturing of relationships, the interconnectedness of all living things, listening to the people who are teaching you, how the voices who are teaching you may change the direction or focus of your research, the responsibility of honouring the knowledge and wisdom that is shared with you, sharing what you have learned, and asking yourself at different stages whether you are still on the path of carrying out useful and transformative research. The students get the opportunity to develop a step-by-step research proposal in order to get feedback as they proceed. While they don’t actually get to carry out the research in this class, they get to engage in the beginnings of the research process, which includes coming up with their own research framework.
I don’t see myself as the expert in the classroom, rather I see myself as a facilitator in the learning process of my students, which is why I provide my students with opportunities to learn from community and to be in community. I always tell my students that if there was one word used to describe the discipline of First Nations Studies or Indigenous Studies, it would be “voice”, so I work to bring many different Indigenous voices into the classroom. I also work to provide a safe learning environment so that my students will actively participate in class activities such as discussions, group work, talking circles, and oral presentations, thereby adding their voice to the classroom.
The importance of mentorship
As a learner, teacher, and researcher, it is important to build and nurture relationships. I let my students know that they can always reach out to me for assistance and support as they continue on their life paths. I have learned to build such relationships from my mentors, individuals who have provided me with guidance, feedback, and moral support along my educational and research journey. All of my mentors have made me feel like an equal – a peer – with the only difference being my level of experience compared to theirs. I have many mentors, but I reach out to five in particular when I need guidance. My doctoral committee members are all role models to me (Drs. Nancy Turner, Anne Marshall, Leslie Saxon, Gloria Snively), as is Joyce Dundas, the teacher who welcomed me into her classroom and had confidence in me, which allowed me to feel safe and comfortable to flourish as a new teacher. I hope to be able to provide that same guidance and support to our future teachers and future researchers.
Learning from my Students
I learn from my students in the classroom, and their evaluation of my teaching provides me with opportunities to become a better teacher. I have used the feedback at the end of each course to evaluate what I’ve done in the classroom. For example, in all of my courses, which have mainly been face-to-face, in order to ensure students feel clear about the course requirements, I now use an online presence (D2L) where students can access assignments and the deadlines are clearly stated. I provide students with checklists for all reading responses, journal entries, and other assignments that need to be handed in. At the end of each course, I check to see if the evaluation methods I used were in line with the learning outcomes of the course, as well as assessing the reading resources to ensure that I’ve made the best use of them and that they are still relevant.
Indigenous Education is for Everyone
As a guest who was born and raised on Ts’msyen territory, I feel that it is my duty to learn as much about the people upon whose land I make my home. I extend this to all Canadians. Regardless of whether my students are Indigenous or not, it is crucial that people living on the lands of First Nations are introduced to the historical, cultural, social, and political realities that have and continue to impact the lives of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. It is especially important that teachers who will be teaching our children have an understanding of Indigenous issues and that they feel supported and are provided with the tools to bring Indigenous content into their classrooms. In the position of professor in Indigenous Education, I could provide this support and guidance for students in IED 373, as well as other undergraduate and graduate level courses focusing on areas such as Language Revitalization and Research Methods. In the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, I welcome the chance to teach courses dealing with Environmental Education, Culturally-based Curriculum Development, and Indigenous Research.
Identity and Empowerment
My whole identity is tied up in being a teacher. As an Indigenous teacher and learner, I want our people to feel proud of who they are. In the different ways that I provide experiential learning experiences for my students, I hope that it translates into different ways we can be role models for our children. I want my students to know what possibilities are available to them and to feel empowered to continue on their chosen paths. One of my students summed up why I do what I do in one sentence: “Learning about everything in this class has changed my whole outlook on Native culture and I do feel proud to be Native.” I try to stay true to my Tahltan name, Edōsdi, in that I’m committed to “raising up” and empowering all of my students.