I could probably tell you stories for three days without reading any written notes or ever writing down what I know..... and I know a lot of other people who can do that too. 10
Native literacy programs and practitioners are in a position to foster respect for Aboriginal oral literacy. This raises the question of the importance of oral literacy and/or literacy in one or more of the First Nations languages. None of the responses among the learners surveys seemed to connect mother-tongue literacy as being part of Native literacy programs and services. However, literacy practitioners and executive directors/steering committee members did suggest the need for Native languages -oral and written skills- to be included in Native literacy programs.
Toward a Broader Definition of Literacy
Literacy, as described by the major funding source, is essentially the ability to read and write and speak the English language: common staples of working and living in this society. Community-based literacy, workplace literacy, computer literacy, school-based literacy, and family literacy are all based on this framework. Development of a community-wide strategy on Native literacy would mean placing these options into an Aboriginal model of learning; a model that does not tell people what they will learn and what they must do.11 A successful Native literacy program empowers each learner to reach for more than a grade 12 or college diploma, or a university degree. Learning goals should be about more than acquiring an official piece of paper that provides no guarantee of employment or independence.
The learning constituting any individuals knowledge base will be more than learning for the purpose of survival and meeting basic needs. The knowledge base that develops as the result of learning... will also be directly related to the individuals primary calling or purpose in life. Individuals differ in their knowledge base with respect to the individual purpose for which they have been born. All knowledge is valuable and no knowledge base is viewed as being more professional or better than anyone elses. Put another way, the knowledge base possessed by individuals are just simply different, and each individual possesses a part of the whole knowledge of the people. 12
There are many forms of literacy that are not yet acknowledged by mainstream literacy programs and many other possibilities to explore. All range beyond the scope of this project. Creating the space to explore this dialogue must begin at home, in the Native community. There is little doubt that if Native agencies fully understood the possibilities inherent in the development and delivery of an Aboriginal-based approach to literacy, collaboration around specific types of projects would begin in earnest.
Other ideas not specifically mentioned in this projects information gathering but raised in the literature reviewed include the following questions and suggestions: What about learning and practicing what is simply a good way to live? Discovering knowledge of how to live ones life with meaning and purpose that includes the desire to fulfill that which the spirit is sent into the world to do?13 What about using the seven grandfathers traditional teachings as the principles upon which Native literacy programs are grounded? What about structuring the program based on medicine wheel teachings in order to meet learners needs holistically?14 What about incorporating the three categories of Indigenous knowledge into a literacy program: traditional; empirical; and revealed?15 There are many more ideas within the Native community.
|10 Participant, "The Future of
Native Literacy Programs and Services," community meeting, October
11 Diane Hill, "Aboriginal Access to Post-Secondary Education," March 1995
13 Diane Hill, "Holistic Learning: A Model of Education on Aboriginal Cultural Philosophy," October 1999
14 A common practice most Native agencies follow, whether or not they are involved in Native literacy.
15 Diane Hill, "Holistic Learning: A Model of Education on Aboriginal Cultural Philosophy," October 1999
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