September is all about change and transition. Welcome to Changing Leaves Moon. Already we can feel and sense changes amongst us. The winds swirl more. The water more blue. The leaves on the trees seem animated in a different way. Fall is a time for connecting, for cleaning, for preparing, for making things right. Just in what seems like one overnight, our summer holidays change.
As mothers and grandmothers, we may feel excited and happy, thinking we finally get a break from our children. We also may feel anxiety. As Indigenous mothers and grandmothers, we may feel a sense of loss, or collective trauma and grief. Fall represents a time when children were taken from their home communities. My mom tells the story of her brother and sister who were taken. We were talking about how fall would be a very sad time for our families. We are also reminded by survivors to not always talk about the past.
When we speak from a position of an Indigenous experience, there are many angles. We are happy to see our children learn, yet we want them rooted in the strength of their culture and families. In Indigenous Methodologies, the first voice or personal experiences and stories are reflective of this. This is not being brazen, or bold. It is not about being dramatic or self centred. This is because, the value of one’s story and their insight, and personal narrative and inquiry is seen as a part of building knowledge. In the circle, we are all equal. All of our experiences are seen as important. As an Indigenous Mom, and scholar, I realize many things like, yes, my kids need to be in school. At the same time, I know the limitations around Indigenous content. The stories of survival. The stories of the generations of miseducation, abuse, and genocide. I know these are not light topics and I know I want my children to understand context. This will take time. This is also not something anyone can just teach my child. Ensuring that my children learn about their histories, literature, and philosophies, ways of knowing is important for me. Decolonizing for me, is a position of strength not a definition of what is the weakest link, or what or how we may define ourselves through a colonized lens.
This year, the feeling I had was that I wanted different outcomes. I wanted my children to be in a culturally competent program rich with Anishnawbe Mowin, and Culture. I wanted to them to feel that embrace of home. I’m at the point where I want my children to learn in culturally appropriate curriculum. Instead, I had to look within, and realise, this is my job when one lives in the city. This is my role. I cannot expect that from others. I had to sort of make that break, from my expectations I suppose. Canada has a long way to go in really building that Indigenous Methodology into Canadian schools.
September could also mean resiliency. A new hope. New directions. Beginnings.
Welcoming in September is the most important thing we can do though, as mothers, we know our children need all the experiences and access to knowledge to help them. At the same time, we know, that they need us.
As the days grow shorter and colder, oddly enough, today, felt colder. We remember the importances of telling our stories, listening to the new stories our children share with us. We also remember the many ways they tell us stories. According to Reggio Emilia Classroom, there are 100 Ways Children can tell a story,
…a hundred ways of listening, of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds to discover
a hundred worlds to invent
a hundred worlds to dream.”
-from The Hundred Languages by Loris Malagasy
So its important we focus not only on what our children say, but how our children express.
Remembering our aunties, our grandmothers, our grandfathers, our uncles, our mothers, our fathers. When we walk with courage, and make that commitment to be, in the present, with the knowledge of our collective past, we can put our heads and hearts together. I had to tell my oldest to walk strong. His vision of school is maybe more inline with mine He needs and wants to know that he is making a difference. My youngest had to be greeted by his teacher and distracted from me. He’d rather be in “my school” and a pretty easy transition for our middle son who’s classroom did not change, teacher did not change, and even his hook, stayed the same. All he had to do was change from his outdoors to his indoors. I simply said “I’ll pick you up the usual time” and off he went.
Today I hope for transformations, for shifts. Especially for sensitivity. I hope for self learning. I hope for strategies that work with the heart and mind. I hope that my children’s new and old teachers will walk with dignity and grace and will see, that learning is not just what we hear, or see with our eyes. As carriers of culture, tradition and in the spirt of knowing the Land, Indigenous mothers and grandmothers carry that value, to our children in passing on that knowledge. We need to meet with our children’s teachers. We need to ask the questions. We may wonder how their schools are meeting the TRC Calls To Action. What are the schools doing? What are the boards doing? These are legitimate questions.
I hope, that the new teachers would remember that value of Indigenous women in this country. As much as we value yourselves as our children’s teachers. I am not asking for special treatment or privilege, or even recognition. I am simply reiterating that, as keepers of the children, the Land, and families, we are the backbone of our families. We are here. Standing strong. Keep that in mind, when we are dropping off our children. They are extensions of us. They are our bones, dreams, and hope. The first seven years of our children is about that bond between mother, dad, child, and family. That first seven holds many traditional teachings, which will extend on as our children journey in life. Guidance and support will be critical. Learning spaces to support their journey, in a way that truly supports their visions and ways of learning, needed. Decolonizing spaces necessary for imagination, for healing, for leadership. This includes on the Land, not just in the classrooms. This starts with me, as well, not just you, as the teacher. This means, I too, am my child’s first and very most important teacher. As well as their fathers. Grandparents. Extended family. Community leadership. Elders. Land.
This is about names, dodems, knowing one’s spirit, and a recognition of even one’s gifts. Children are born with a gift. As mothers, we prepare our homes, in a protective and safe manner for our children, so they know they can feel that security. Culture grounds our children. It starts with ourselves, our nations, the broader community and the entire world.
We are preparing our children for the road ahead.
We are giving them that ability to live out a dream with all of our hearts.
We are mapping their futures with the wisdom of our experiences, shared.
We are encouraging them to imagine their futures: strong and connected.