"...make me wise so I may uncover the secrets you have hidden in every leaf and rock." (Traditional Prayer)
In figuring out why Native learners should study the sciences, a Traditional Elder searched for a culture-based explanation for doing so. He recalled reminding a young woman of this line from a well-known prayer. By clarifying the need to pursue literacy, further education and training in a way she could relate to, he offered her a teaching that might inspire her motivation to continue her studies. She invited the elder to her graduation, where she delivered the valedictory address.
Native learners in the Greater Toronto Area face challenges on a daily basis, challenges that must be addressed within a cultural context. The challenges are as diverse as the many nations that exist within the Aboriginal culture. Addressing the challenges successfully is a critical component of any instructor/practitioners job. There are many secrets and many keys. The secret is being able to unlock secrets. Literacy is a key. The goal of Native learning is to assist learners find the keys for themselves. Having immediate access to various keys empowers learners: brings about respect, inspires goals, etc. Presenting the ability to read as a key to unlocking secrets/worlds may inspire and motivate learners to read.
In this report, the term Native (also the term used in the original report) is used to refer to people indigenous to the Americas or those who identify themselves as being of First Nations background. However, Native is also used to include those of Inuit or Metis background.
The use of the word traditional when referring to teachers and knowledge is a reference to knowledge and practices rooted in pre-colonial contact. When discussing or comparing something from this ancient knowledge base to modern education systems, todays institutions are referred to as mainstream, Western-based, or government-based.
The words teacher, instructor, and practitioner are used interchangeably and are used in reference to literacy program staff hired to teach learners in a literacy program.
Up to the present time, many culturally driven and culturally immersed programs of learning would only be accepted as legitimate training and education as long as they attempted to replicate and professed to have established the same educational definitions and competency standards as those used within Euro-Canadian institutions. This attitude of non-acceptance and the tendency to fund programs which fall into specific and rigid categories of definition has only served to marginalize aboriginal cultural teachings. 1
|1 Diane Hill, "Aboriginal Access to Post-Secondary Education," March 1995|
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