More on Indigenizing the curriculum/the institution

Indigenizing the Curriculum: Environmental Scan Summary (BCCAT, 2017)

First Peoples Principles of Learning poster (FNESC)

100 ways to Indigenize and decolonize academic programs and courses (Pete, 2016)

Indigenizing teacher education: an action research project (UFV) (Kitchen, Raynor, 2013)

Decolonizing our Teaching – Indigenizing Our Practice (Pete, Schneider, O’Reilly, 2013)

First Nations Profiles Interactive Map (Government of Canada)



Resources for Indigenizing the Curriculum

For the next couple of days I am in Dr. Wendy Burton’s Indigenizing the Curriculum by Design workshop. So far it is terrific. Wendy is a great facilitator with lots of experience and a warm and inclusive manner. Our project over the three day workshop is to indigenize a current course that we teach. I’ve chosen First Peoples English (Provincial level). It might seem weird to indigenize a course that already has lots of FN content but it’s not just the content that makes a course indigenized.

Today we had to choose one learning outcome to work on from our course. I chose this one:

“gather, evaluate, synthesize, and organize information into a research paper or report of approximately 1500 words using an appropriate documentation style ( e.g. APA, MLA or Chicago)”

Our homework for tonight is to gather resources that would help us create appropriate learning activities for this outcome, so I’m going to list a few here:

BC First Nations Teacher’s Guide
Twinkle’s Happy Place (blog by an Aboriginal education specialist)
CBC Indigenous
CBC Radio One show: Unreserved With Roseanna Deerchild
FNESC English First Peoples IRP
Where Are The Children? (interactive website about residential schools)

And thank you to Libby Roderick who has suggested another free downloadable resource from her organization: Stop Talking and Listen: Indigenous Ways of Teaching and Learning and Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education.

The Need to Read

An excerpt from Books for Living, by Will Schwalbe, at the Read It Forward blog:

Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can’t interrupt books; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them. They are the expression of an individual or a group of individuals, not of a hive mind or collective consciousness. They speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention. And they demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s. You can rant against a book, scribble in the margin or even chuck it out the window. Still, you won’t change the words on the page.

The technology of a book is genius: The order of the words is fixed, whether on the page or on the screen, but the speed at which you read them is entirely up to you. Sure, this allows you to skip ahead and jump around. But it also allows you to slow down, savor and ponder.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope.

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

-E.B. White, from a letter to Mr. Nadeau, March 30, 1973



Sherman Alexie, “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem”

This is one of my very favourite short stories. I have taught it in several different courses and it has gone over well in all of them. I’ll be using it this week with my Street Humanities class, so I’ve decided to share my lesson plan and handout here with you.

LESSON: “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
PURPOSE: to introduce students to the quest narrative and symbolism; to introduce them to ideas about colonization and the situation of First Peoples in North America
MATERIALS: copy of the story for each student (available online at The New Yorker); copy of handout (optional)
PREP TIME: very low


Students write for 5-10 minutes on one of these prompts and then turn in their writing:

  1. What is the significance of the story’s title? What are the meanings of the words “pawn” and “redeem”? Do they have more than one meaning?
  2. What was your initial response to the story (intellectual and/or emotional)? Were you surprised at the author’s treatment of racist stereotypes?
  3. What do you think of the narrator, Jackson Jackson?
  4. What do you notice about the structure of the narrative? How does the author keep us wanting to read more?


Students discuss what they wrote in the opening exercise.


Cover the following topics with the class:

Race/Social Issues

  • remind students of Alexie’s background as a Native American author
  • differences between terms describing Aboriginal people in the US and in Canada—e.g. Native American, Aboriginal, First Nations, Indian; highlight Alexie’s controversial choice to use the term “Indian” in his works
  • discuss the portrayal of racist stereotypes in the story
  • touch on the cultural explanations for behaviour that seems self-destructive; e.g. giving away part of his lottery winnings to Mary; taking his Aleut friends for a meal
  • touch on the societal/structural factors behind some of the self-destructive behaviour; mental illness and substance abuse/homelessness; institutionalized racism and poverty

Quest Narrative

  • ask ss if they are familiar with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or the Hunger Games books, or Indiana Jones movies, or the story of King Arthur and the search for the holy grail
  • explain that all of these are quest narratives, a very old traditional literary form
  • go over some of the common elements of the quest narrative/hero’s journey:
  1. hero
  2. problem
  3. task (sometimes involves search for sacred object)
  4. journey
  5. helpers/companions
  6. obstacles
  7. final challenge (moment of truth—will s/he succeed or not?)
  8. return
  • ask students to get back in groups and discuss the ways that “What You Pawn” is a quest narrative; find quest elements in the story


  • explain the difference between traditional/archetypal symbols and original symbols
  • ask students to think of some possible symbols in the story and think of what they could represent