I was planning on writing my weekly post on the film “Kitchen Stories’, a wonderful film demonstrating the both the humanizing and de-humanizing effects of research. However, as I began to write that post, my critical voice was quite insistent that the film was not the most meaningful experience I had this week.
Earlier, I wrote a post about my reaction to Dr. Shauneen Pete’s work. I would say that at the time, my view was that she was mistaken in believing her students ignorance of their privilege and racism (which was indeed there) was an inherent phenomenon. Rather, I believed that the students outlooks were based on the characteristics of the teacher training program as a whole at her institution. Unfortunately, it fell to her to re-educate her students, but it was always going to be an uphill battle as her priorities were in conflict with the rest of the department’s.
Since that post, Dr. Pete came to visit our class.
So I did something sort of different. Consider this post a two-in-one; I think my reflection on her visit must first be written before I examine her article Meschachakanis, a Coyote Narrative: Decolonising Higher Education.
During her visit, she was able to tell the story about her students once again, and of how she and Coyote were mischief makers. Being able to speak with Dr. Pete very much changed my view on her work, as we were able to have a dialogue and delve deeper in to her experiences. During that time, we asked questions about her classes and on of our questions led her to this statement:
“When I was teaching my classes, it wasn’t Indigenous education. It was Settler re-education.”
The resonated with me. I asked myself: From what point of view do I present indigenous content to my students? I have always thought that, as the teacher, it was up to me to echo the facts I have been taught by Indigenous peoples to the best of my ability. But Dr. Pete’s statement has given me confidence that I can say/display genuine explanations and emotions to my students when speaking about Indigenous matters.
Thanks to this idea of settler re-education, I can consider the following thoughts, none of which I had before Dr. Pete’s visit:
- How comfortable I am speaking to my students about my biases or fragility.
- How far down the path of settler re-education would I be willing to go with my students.
- How I can respond to push back.
- How I can demonstrate a genuine acknowledgement of my living role as a settler as well as the roles of my ancestors.
There is more, but I have not found the best words yet. It may seem odd or irresponsible to some that I have not had these thoughts or made the considerations earlier in my career, but I can truthfully say I was lost; I really had no plan of attack when it came to how I would deal with sustained, consistent, meaningful Indigenous education.The best way to characterize the overall effect that Dr. Pete has had on me is that I have a new way to critically view myself…something which I believe is a real benefit for both myself and my students.
Dr. Pete’s work as a teacher-trainer is something which she has reflected on in a very interesting way. Pete is a story-teller who is not afraid of being in the critical spotlight. Meschachakanis, a Coyote Narrative, is a piece which uses “Story as research methodology is a decolonising approach” which “encourages a reclamation of
(ab)original ways of transferring knowledges”. It is difficult as a person who has lived and trained (as a settler) in the colonized/settler system to accept that Pete’s storytelling can be a research methodology. During her visit, she posed the question of why it couldn’t. No answer so far.
Pete positions storytelling as qualitative research, parallel to Narrative Inquiry and Self-study. Storytelling is therefore autoethonographic. Her ability to engage in storytelling is augmented by her spiritual connection with Coyote, the spirit which I believe (after listening to her speak) tends to trouble the status quo. If I were to name my own analog to Coyote, it would be my ego as the critical friend.
As Pete tells the story of her dialogue with coyote (both in the piece and when I met her in person) I drew many similarities in the way I would approach critical analysis of my own research. Questioning, reasoning, defending, advocating, challenging… are all things my critical friend engages in when I write or reflect. However, Pete’s story of Coyote adds an element which my own approach does not. When I go back read my journals/posts/diaries, I can follow the thought stream or process which I went through. But I detect no distinct personality in my critical friend. It reads more as if I am just going through a mood, or second-guesting myself.
Coyote, on the other hand, is a distinct entity apart from Pete. Coyote generates a feeling of relatability, an ego which a reader can typify; I cannot tell where Coyote is going to go with their thoughts, but I often can with my critical self.
When we are the reader, it is the present moment of the reading of the story that we consider. However, when we revisit Pete’s story, she becomes the researched as we are recursively analyzing the dialogue to understand Pete’s process…which leaves me with many questions. If Pete were to look back on the specific dialogue she had with Coyote in this piece, I believe that she would tell us that of course, it is evident the their relationship in the narrative is as two distinct entities. However, would she categorize Coyote as an extension of her critical friend, or would her critical friend and Coyote be two distinctive entities? When she wrote the dialogue, was Coyote speaking with her, or was she assuming/re-hashing what Coyote had said? Were the entities in agreement? Or disagreement?
Further, is my question about Coyote being an extension of the mind a demonstration of my settler sub-conscious?
As the researcher, I believe that Pete is absolutely correct in aligning Narrative Inquiry with storytelling. In this piece and when I listened to her speak, the congruence of emotion, criticallity, and ideas was present. One can/could sense the genuine understanding which Pete has in her reflection. As the researcher, she did not have to fill the boxes (#JT) of what she was discovering. Instead, storytelling allowed her to both analyze and describe her findings all at once.
Lastly, the research aspect of storytelling is multi-faceted. What I find most interesting is the inquisitive by nature as the subject of the research tells their story. During the times the subjects will speak/write/remember their tale, it will never be the same thing twice. Such is the nature of story telling. Perhaps it will be slightly different in vocabulary, or perhaps the story will yield an entire new outcome/lesson due to epiphany. Regardless, the research yields a snapshot of an autoethnography which includes planning, emotion, biases, honesty, and refinement which are all being used concurrently. I believe it would be difficult to adequately code and quantify a story as the aforementioned categories are woven together and subject to change….which begs the question; does this type of research require codification? If so, how could we do it?
Link to Article: Meschachakanis, a Coyote Narrative: Decolonising Higher Education