A month in Nunavik: What I’ve learned so far


I sit at my desk in my living room as dusk shifts to night thinking about what my first month in Nunavik has taught me. I have a few decorations set up to make my place feel like home, and my legs are still tingling a bit from our second walk of the day. Tennyson is curled up in a little dog ball on a chair, snoring his head off, and I laugh a little at the total worry I had bringing my pets up here. Tennyson probably misses having another dog to play with, or a yard to bark at the neighbours from, but for the most part, he’s a spoiled rotten happy dog that gets at least three big walks a day, plays fetch in the woods, barks at ravens who I swear look big enough to eat him, and has access to all the living room furniture, if he kicks a cat off of them.


I have learned that it isn’t easy to adapt to someone else’s culture when it comes to things like animals. I have had to discover what my limits are before I think I should interfere in the treatment of a dog in community.

I have learned that as a southern person, with access to an entire house of my own, and flights south to see my family, I am extremely privileged, and privileged in a way my Inuit colleagues are not in the benefits I receive. I struggle with that knowledge, and hope knowing I have this privilege will drive me to help dismantle divides between colleagues, no matter where they come from.

I have learned that my work is hard. That my team and I are all frustrated and unsure and feel daunted by the task at hand. I have also learned the deep, moving feeling of watching a teacher receive her degree after 15 plus years of hard work, and getting to share that moment with her children and grandchild.

I have learned that baking cookies for the office isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s contributing to the culture of sharing and togetherness that many of my Inuit colleagues already nurture in our work place. My shortbread is welcomed alongside other offerings of fresh Bannock and fruit, to sit over and enjoy while working through deep seeded issues or lighthearted gossip.

I have learned many of the people around me have experienced more trauma in the last month than I have in my entire life. I have learned terms like ‘culture of trauma’. That violence, neglect, depression, addiction, abuse, and deeply felt dispossession echo through all of our work here.

I have learned I need to keep reading, and keep listening to, the stories of the Inuit of Nunavik. That, since the 1950s, Canada and Quebec have deeply scarred and altered the landscape and people of this region. That, in just two generations, life for people here has been scattered like snow on the wind; and that despite all that, they expect and want the world for their children; that it is part of my responsibility in my role to help build that world.

I have learned I need to be better at preparing for weather changes, and my own responses to them. I need to listen to my body when it’s exhausted (which is a lot) and find a way to better adapt to the moods of winter and darkness in my brain. I need to also listen more to those around me, and hear their wisdom about fur and mittens. I also need to learn to just embrace the wind and sleet and darkness.

I have learned I need to consume more vitamin D, and take time away from my computer screen, and share often about the beautiful landscape of the environment in which I make my home. I need to learn to paint with words the colours of moss and rocks, the feelings of northern lights dancing, the smell of wind blowing off the river.

I have learned that two glasses of wine while waiting for take out can fill you up totally, rejuvenating your heart for another week of hard experiences. Taking a moment to enjoy things you like, and with people whose friendships matter to you is very important.


I have learned that building relationships with people around me helps to answer all the little worries like how do I pick up my cargo, and when does the post office close, and does the co-op have any goat cheese? Because getting stuck constantly on those types of questions means you aren’t stopping to get to know people, and that’s more important. Cheese can wait. (Well. not really, but they can help you find the cheese later.)

I have also learned is lonely here too. It’s important to acknowledge that. It’s hard to come home to just Netflix, or talking to a cat. It’s hard to check your mailbox and have no letters or notes from friends. It’s hard to maintain friendships over Facebook messenger or comments on your pictures when your internet goes out for hours at a time, and the content of those conversations feels so…empty. Actually, it makes you feel more disconnected. Like, a casual ‘how’s it going there?’ only warrants a brief paragraph of how you’re doing. There isn’t time spent thinking it through. There isn’t real sharing or understanding. And they are probably doing something while you’re talking to them anyway. It’s hard not to feel angry and hurt when you reach out to talk to people, and get only an emoji back in response. I have to remember that for people who are totally connected all the time, and surrounded by other people, the distance doesn’t feel that great. They feel connected by my pictures and Facebook posts. They don’t feel the distance like I do.

I’ve learned I have a lot more to learn.


The First Week (and 3 days) in Nunavik

Well, week one is in the bag.

It felt like a month, I’ll be honest.

However, I have learned a lot, and with the travel I have also had to do since arriving in Kuujjuaq, my new home now actually feels like home. I have a P.O. Box, have been in every grocery store in town, Tennyson has a Kuujjuaq dog license, and I’ve had a beer at the local sports pub Nuna Golf (for which you pay a yearly membership to enter, but with live music and a golf simulator, I think I can manage that).

I’ve settled into my lovely home, mostly unpacked all my boxes, and have begun to make lists of things I might want to make it truly home. I’m missing some photos and paintings, and wish I had thought to bring seeds to grow some house plants. I have big beautiful windows in which to do so.

my house


My animals all seem to have adjusted to their lives here, and I am very glad I brought them. I think I would have been incredibly lonely otherwise, always hoping for a trip south to see them. I think that has been the single most important decision I made in moving to Kuujjuaq, I brought the things I love with me, my animals, my pictures, my new dishes, my Harry Potter books…I have to deliberately make the choice of making this my home, or I’d be doomed. That said, I am not fully there yet, and will need to continue to make choices about my life to make this home.

I also had an awesome colleague who took Tennyson while I was away, and came to check on the cats each day. It was really tough to leave him after only being here 4 days. I think he found it tough too, but besides a disinterest in his dinner, got to go on lots of walks and snuggle with Karine. I will be paying her in my usual currency, cookies.

I have had to learn to negotiate the variety of ways I can access groceries and food living in Nunavik. I am very fortunate that my employer covers a certain amount of shipment from the south, so this week I made two orders to grocery stores to get items that are cheaper there than here. But, that involved a lot of thinking, planning, going through flyers, figuring out the best delivery day, worrying about food arrival and quality (thanks for the busted chocolate milk all over my vegetables, IGA). I had to ask a number of people how to order, where to order, when will my order come, how should I plan the arrival of my order, etc. etc. Despite some orientation guides I was given by HR, it was not the easiest thing to negotiate. It quickly made me realize, I’ll be spending a lot of time worrying over and planning around food. I also spent 5 days in Akulivik for a board meeting with our commissioners. Before I left, I put together some easily cooked or heated up meals to take with me, warned by a colleague that the prices in community would be much more than in Kuujjuaq. Again, concern and planning for food dictated my decision making. I did end up still going to the local Northern store, buying a 7 dollar Lunchable for the flight home and a 4 dollar Popsicle (because, irony) and almost took a photo of the 7.50$ can of iced tea I saw. Food is expensive in a majority of communities. I know I am lucky in Kuujjuaq, the first stop from Montreal for most goods, to enjoy relatively similar prices as the south on a number of food items. However, items like chips, for example, are insanely expensive. Mostly because they aren’t covered by Nutrition North so the cost to ship them here are not subsidized by the government. When you buy them and ship them north, apparently, they often are squished and broken. So, the reality is that some things you’re just going to have to pay for here.

While in Akulivik, we were treated to many lovely snacks and baked goods by the student culture class, a group favourite being the fried bannock bread we got served daily, and hot. We were also treated to a country food feast, my first, and while many enthusiastically tucked in, I took my time, and didn’t try too many things this time. Because, I wanted to enjoy the first experiences enjoying local food, and my nervousness around eating raw caribou or frozen char meant that I wouldn’t. I think it’s OK to ease into this, and no one seemed to mind that my plate was not full.

country food

I have also become very quickly thankful for my windproof, -60 down filled coat (thanks Nichole). While the temperatures haven’t been too cold, the wind has been tough to cope with on my walks to work and with the dog. It’s important, I think, to not cheap out on a good parka (I have a North Face down-filled coat with fake fur on the hood) and to have appropriate face protection in a decent balaclava or scarf.

on top of the world.jpg

I’ve already been warned, however, that my fake fur may not cut it this year. According to several people I’ve spoken with, real fur will cut the wind in my face by 2/3. I realize this might be an unethical decision for some, and you of course must do you. However, I’ve already experienced some of the mild cold wind, and will gladly heed the advice of those born and raised here.

So far, I have been trying to spend my time listening. A lot. As prepared as I could have been by asking lots of questions before I arrived about items to buy for my house or my dog or my work, listening and watching others has taught me a months worth of information in just over a week’s time. Everyone I have encountered has been kind and happy to impart knowledge, sometimes contradictory. My friend Vanessa put it best by saying it’s important to listen and take it in, and then do what’s best for you. I think it will be hard to offer specific advice for anyone moving here…people are so individual. In the end, certain things and decisions will make you more comfortable than I, and we need to do things for ourselves.

My next post I will include a little more about my work, but not until I have had a chance to truly immerse myself

Moving to Kuujjuaq: Assistant Director of Teacher Training



I have recently made a pretty big life decision, taking a new job with the Kativik School Board in Kuujjuaq, Quebec. As the new Assistant Director of Teacher Training, I will be working with teachers in all stages of their careers: from practicum students in their placements to experienced educators refreshing their skills. I will also have the opportunity to help support the Inuktitut language based Teacher Training Program, which is offered in Nunavik, in partnership with McGill University. (Read about their Teacher Training Program)

After spending the last two years working with a number of different Indigenous groups throughout Canada, and travelling to many remote places, I am really excited to experience living in the north while working with the Inuit people of Nunavik. I am also happy to be able to document a great deal of my experiences, both professionally and personally, while on this new adventure.



I have been trying to prepare for my move for the past few weeks, and one of the toughest barriers I’ve faced is lack of information. Usually, when I am about to take a trip somewhere, or try something new, I rely quite heavily on my digital know-how, and spend a good chunk of time researching online. I am lucky that I also already have a friend living in Kuujjuaq who also works for the board, and has been very helpful in navigating the big move. However, when faced with a question she has been unable to answer (like how my fur babies will fair), the Internet has been a little lacking in information. When visiting other locales, I’ve found a number of different blogs from people of different walks of life that have moved to the North. This time, I haven’t been as successful. So, I have decided that in addition to documenting experiences, I will also try to offer some advice on moving to and living in Kuujjuaq.

So far, many of my questions and concerns have been about access to pet supplies/food for my cats and dog. While friend was unable to answer my questions on this topic, she did add me to the local Facebook page Kuujjuamiut, where I have been able to message individuals and ask questions.


Conversations on this page vary quite a bit, to complaints about stray dogs, to parents looking for a child who visited a friend after school, to announcements about sushi for sale. So far, very friendly responses, and a lot of lurking has answered some of my questions. I have asked questions about the gym, about groceries, about the best place to walk Tennyson so we’re safe and comfortable…and I’m sure there are bound to be many more questions.


Most of my preparations for the next while will revolve around packing. I’m lucky that my new job offers me lodging that is furnished as part of my contract, but that also means figuring out all the other essentials I will need to bring with me. This process is complicated by the fact that the majority of my belongings have been stored already while I’ve lived with my parents. I now have the great fun of going through all I’ve owned to decide what I need in Kuujjuaq, what I will need in the future (as they pay to store my large furniture and belongings) and what university student belongings I can finally let go of. I must also pack staple, non-perishable food items, toiletries, cleaning supplies, pet food and cat litter, as well as hygiene products that are more expensive to ship. I’ve also discovered that Amazon Prime does NOT work to ship items to Kuujjuaq, something I was very disappointed to learn. I have since cancelled my subscription, and will need to make all major purchases here in the south to ship up.


When I first began the interview process for this role, I did not imagine that the distance and time spent away from friends and family would play a big role in my life. I am fortunate to have a great vacation package. However, it does not kick into place till after June 30th. This means that besides Christmas break, my trips home will be few and far between.  This has already caused quite a bit of friction with friends and family. There are many things I will miss that are beyond my control (no baseball end of year party, sad-face, no gentlemens’ Christmas, no birthday trip to the south). There are other special events, like a visit from family from overseas who were supposed to visit at Christmas, that, due to a wedding happening, will no longer be here when I am home. I’ll admit to some bitter disappointment that I won’t get to visit with my nieces and nephew over the holidays.

There is resentment and lack of compassion about my absence from special events. My choices have been questioned, and the strength (or lack thereof) of some of my relationships has been shaken. I’m sad, and a bit angry, at some of the responses I’ve gotten about this career choice. Then again, those that have reacted poorly, or who aren’t concerned with accommodating my ability to attend special events have been folks that know very little about my life, my career, the stressful impact of the last year at my former position…and so, frankly, their opinions shouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, you still feel sadness when this happens.

I have been trying to cram in as many visits and board game evenings with my nearest and dearest, capturing happy moments of togetherness to get me through the months of being apart from them all. I am very good at making new friends and getting involved in a new community of people, but I’ll miss my people too. I am so thankful to everyone who has been supportive, offering to help pack, and planning time to see me before I go. I know that despite the few instances of poor responses, I am loved and supported by many others. Thank you!

Car-less in the North

Finally, one of the important details that I had trouble with as I prepared to move to the north was what I would do about a vehicle. It was recommended that I get a vehicle will AWD and ship it up there. However, trading in my car, adding to my monthly car payment by nearly double, and increasing my insurance seemed like a lot of work. This was resolved, however, by one simple roadblock: the ice breakers that carry cars up there were full, and I was too late to get a vehicle up for this season. So, now I face a year without a vehicle. I have been thinking of ways to resolve this, like buying a bike, or snowshoes, or renting an ATV in community once I arrive. For now, I will invest in good hiking boots and winter boots, as well as snow pants, and go from there.

Education Blogs: Where I’ve been hiding

My blog has laid dormant these past two years because I have been actively writing for my former work, Learning Bird. As I am about to begin a new role with a new program, I wanted to share access to the number of resources and program ideas I have been working with since I last shared here.


Smart Gaming: Teaching With Videogames



A Guide to Gamification: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly



Substitute Teacher’s Survival Guide: Survive & Thrive with your K-12s



Differentiated Learning for Digital Learners: A Global Perspective



Addressing Old School Objectives with New School Technology



Bringing Games into the Classroom: A NOOB’s Practical Guide



Creating Indigenous Focused Lessons to Include Multiple Perspectives



Integrating Indigenous Perspectives into the Classroom



Decolonizing Literacy – Creating Culturally Relevant Literacy Lessons



Acknowledging the Past



Integrating Provincial Standards and Indigenous Ways of Knowing



Canada 150? Celebrating the Histories of Indigenous Peoples in Canada



Welcoming Your Students



To Alan Kurdi from Canada: Yesterday your small, lifeless body washed up on the shores of Canada via an image that will forever haunt me.

Alan Kurdi
Alan Kurdi as I will remember him

Yesterday your small, lifeless body washed up on the shores of Canada via an image that will forever haunt me.

I lay in bed tonight sleepless, as though the waves that carried you to rest on that beach in Turkey were battering against my mind, and knew I needed to write to you, little Alan Kurdi. You see, as Canada woke up Wednesday morning to an image that brings even the most stoic among us to tears, they also woke up to the reality that someone had failed you. We wonder, is it the Canadian government? Did they not hear your aunt’s pleas? Is it that we have not been quick enough to act against the terrors of IS in your home country to save you in time? Is it your parents’ fault, for trusting you to the uncertainty of a dangerous boat? Is it your father’s for losing grip to your small hands?

I am awake to tell you that I have failed you. To say that, a world away, your plight has not been a focus of my mind, or my country, or my elected officials. I write to you to say that while leaders say humanitarian efforts are not enough, every inch of my human body wishes I could hold the man who carried you from that beach and tell him, this is not your fault. I see that image and feel your body in my own arms. I want to shout, is it not human enough to spare another child an end on a beach? I cannot accept a world that will ever forget your image. Not the one on a beach, life gone, but the one shared by your family, laughing with all life’s opportunities still before you. Perhaps a smile I might have seen one day in a classroom in Canada. But, never to be.

Alan, I am awake to tell you and your older brother Galib that your aunt is right. We are all to blame. The whole world let this happen to you, and many other little children. It could just as easily have been another name, another small body, on another beach. We must not keep failing. I do not know how yet, but I will do what I can to be sure you are never forgotten, like seaweed on a beach; you will be the last child to wash up on Canada’s shores if I have anything to say about it.

Recent and Upcoming publications


As my dissertation research and writing comes to a close, my mind and efforts turn to several new projects that are patiently boiling over on the back burner. As such, I thought it might be nice to share a little bit about these projects as they come into publication, or start taking shape:


1. The Corset and the Curriculum: Four Feminist Readings of a Strong Disney Princess, in J.A. Sandlin & J.G. Maudlin, (eds) (July 2015). The Disney Curriculum: Education, Culture, and Society. New York: Peter Lang Publishing

This piece, authored with 3 of my fellow PhD colleagues, Annette Furo, Nichole Grand, and Pamela Rogers, was also showcased at this year’s AERA conference in the form of a beautiful poster by Pam. We are very excited about it, and here is a small abstract as a teaser. For the full thing, look for it July 28th, 2015:

Once upon a time there were four feminists and a Disney princess. The Princess, Merida, was “independent and brave”, a “Princess by birth and an adventurer by spirit”. Merida was born of the 2012 Disney franchise Brave, a trailblazer in the portrayal of strong royal heroines. The feminists wanted to embrace a new type of heroine but knew that despite years of criticism for the gendered portrayal of females in Disney films, Disney princesses continued to be one of the corporation’s most iconic and lucrative cultural symbols. Through four critical readings of Brave, the feminists find that Merida’s plotline does not represent a significant departure from Disney’s previous princesses after all.

2.  Radical Youth Pedagogy: Flipping the culture of the Classroom. Sense Publishing (Winter 2016)

Wow. We’re writing/editing a collection! Nichole Grant and I are extremely excited by this book in progress. Right now, all of our authors are currently working away at their first chapter drafts, while Nichole and I are also working on our own chapter contribution,Leveling up: a video gamer’s approach to Anti-Racism education

Here is an abstract to give you a taste of this labour of love we are both very excited about:

The purpose of this edited collection is to act as a toolbox for educators wishing to radicalize their classroom approaches, disrupting normalized pedagogy in favour of youth voices. We envision classroom philosophies that practice from the perspective of students, working from their culturally appropriated spaces. We strive for radical classrooms, and non-classrooms, that engage in everyday youth pedagogy, that create opportunities for othered voices to be heard, and that decolonize traditional models of schooling. We are attempting to work in the ‘cracks’ of equity education – such as how gender or First Nations work and perspectives overcome often being relegated to the cracks of education research (Bush, 2003).


 I update my publications section as often as I can remember, but thought it might be helpful to add a few of my recent publications, with links, on this post:

1. Schmitz, K.C., Twitter Pedagogy: An Educator down the twitter rabbit hole. Hybrid Pedagogy (Feb, 2015)

2. Why is my gaming avatar so ‘hot’? Gender Performance in online video games, in A. Ibrahim and S. Steinberg (eds) (2014). The Critical Youth Studies Reader. New York: Peter Lang Publishing

Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Girls and Women part 2


Honestly, I’m beyond disappointed that I am having to write a blog about this yet again…https://kelseycatherineschmitz.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/missing-and-murdered-aboriginal-women-of-canada-make-sure-they-are-heard/

This week my heart aches as I read two news stories about aboriginal children, an 11 year old murdered girl, and a 17 year old young woman so systemically abused and abandoned she overdosed.

I’m sick of the way this country turns a blind eye to the rampant abuse and neglect of our First Nation and Aboriginal children. I’m sick to death of the cries for an inquiry into missing and murdered women and children of aboriginal background falling on deaf ears. I can only write so many letters, so many emails, so many posts before I recognize that the fault also lies on all of us…those of us that aren’t showing outrage where outrage is warranted. Those of us that aren’t writing our local papers, our MPs, the Aboriginal and Northern Affairs office. Our politicians who do nothing, our Ministries for child welfare that throw up their hands…they are OUR elected officials. Their inaction is our inaction. Their harassment of good women like Cindy Blackstock, one of the best aboriginal child advocates this country has seen, who headshttp://www.fncaringsociety.com
and who is regularly treated like a terrorist under investigation by the RCMP and Aboriginal Affairs Minister is disturbing, and just plain wrong.

Why aren’t you doing more for the women and children of this country?

Girls like Paige: http://www.cbc.ca/…/death-of-b-c-aboriginal-teen-paige-blam…

Teresa Robinson: http://www.cbc.ca/…/teresa-robinson-s-death-apparent-maulin…

Pauline Crane, who is still missing http://www.cbc.ca/…/winnipeg-police-look-for-missing-paulin…

Or the unnamed 6 year old girl kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and left for dead on the Paul First Nation in Alberta at Christmas?

The missing women showcased from this past year: http://www.cbc.ca/…/missing-murdered-unsolved-cases-of-indi…

You know what? 11-year-old Valyncia Sparvier has done more to educate the public around social issues with Missing and Murdered Indigenous women than the Canadian government has.

So, come on, Canada. Write your MPs, get involved in the projects with Amnesty International or First Nation Caring society to help make a difference. AND vote in MPs who GIVE a damn about those who need it most in this country: Not big oil, not foreign Chinese investments, not CEOs….but little ones who aren’t protected from harm, women who grow up in poverty and abuse, and know nothing else. Please, let’s help our own, let’s demand better of our elected representatives, and of ourselves.

Emails of note:

Jean Crowder





Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Direct email website: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/contactpm

The Honourable Bernard Valcourt
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H4

The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8

Email: mcu@justice.gc.ca

A corseted curriculum and reflections on #AERA15

This past week, I had the privilege of showcasing an upcoming chapter that I have written along side colleagues Nichole Grant, Annette Furo, and Pamela Rogers. Pam and I traveled to Chicago to attend our first ever AERA (American Education Research Association) conference, with a fabulous poster in hand. We were asked to do this by the editors of the upcoming collection: ‘The Disney Curriculum: pedagogies of being and buying’ Julie Maudlin and Jennifer Sandlin. This was a great opportunity to meet our editors, and fellow chapter writers.

For two graduate students lost in a sea of academics, this session felt like home. We were supported and encouraged to shine while sharing our research, and got to spend time answering in depth questions on the balance of Disney and learning.

Pam and I also reflected a great deal on what we saw/felt throughout our time at the conference. This is something we are going to work on further as a potential paper, but I just wanted to share a few observations I had as a graduate student and as a Canadian:

-There is more openness to feedback and suggestions at American conferences. People are more willing to challenge or suggest in these spaces

– The people of Chicago are extremely helpful and friendly. Maybe it was just me, but I definitely felt that welcome.

– Seeing the evidence of racial divides, as well as issues with health care, on the streets of Chicago was shocking to me. I live in the capital of Canada, Ottawa, and the discourse of our issues with minority groups, as well as our lack of support for individuals with mental health issues, is demonstrated in the homeless population on our streets. However, walking around Chicago I was forced very quickly into my visit to take in the narrative of racial divide. Almost all the individuals I encountered in the vicinity of the conference were African American, and a great majority of them had visible, physical issues, ranging from missing limbs to an individual with diabetes covered in open sores that were shocking. I struggled with this particular individual the most. I walked passed him twice on Friday…my heart crying out, seeing the pain he must be in, parts of his flesh completely gone. and I could do nothing. I didn’t know what to do. The conference went on, people flowed passed him on the bridge between the Sheraton and the Hyatt, and I felt inadequate to assist this man.

-I felt like I did not belong. This is a strong statement that I will qualify with the fact that many of the issues being dealt with at the conference were American, and not something I could often connect with. But also, as a young woman with dyed flaming red hair, many tattoos, and leopard print Keds, I searched for people who looked like me, who expressed themselves like I did, visibly showing their negotiation of culture on their persons. I did not find them, which felt very isolating. Perhaps they were there all along and the conference was just too big for me to see this, but it is how I felt. Interestingly enough, and something that will be explored further with Pam and our writing, those that often reached out to me, sought me out to speak about my hair, or to make me feel welcomed, were women of colour. I did not make this connection until our last night, talking over the day with Pam. However, it made me wonder quite strongly about how they felt about belonging in this space, about who owned it and how they negotiated it. Something about me made several women reach out to reassure me I belonged, and all I can think about is who disrupts the nature of belonging in massive, corporate feeling conferences like this. We will definitely be exploring this, and if anyone else wishes to share their feelings about belonging in this space, please feel free to comment

Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women of Canada: make sure they are heard

This post will be a little more on the political side than I would normally share, but this is an issue near to my heart, heavy on my soul.
Earlier this year, the RCMP branch in the Province of Saskatchewan released a report on the number of active cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada: 1,200 cases in nearly 3 decades. 1200 women murdered or missing. Gone.

While these numbers may have greatly shocked me, members of Saskatchewan’s First Nations communities, especially those working on issues in poverty, women’s health, and abuse, are not surprised.

Locations of current open cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada/USA

I self-identify as a Metis woman. I embrace that history, culture and struggle, and try to learn as much about my family’s heritage as I can; but my life has never involved living on a reserve, or being faced with systemic poverty, abuse, and/or violence. Cultural genocide, residential schools, poor housing, all realities/historical influences of growing up Aboriginal in Canada. I acknowledge my heritage, but I’ve never had to suffer for it, to be labelled, or disenfranchised because of it. As such, I know only those with that experience can speak to the problems and issues within their community. I see that First Nation communities want to find answers and solutions through their community: to have their services and programs bolstered by support through a national program that acknowledges there is a big, big problem here: there is a culture of systemic violence and abuse towards girls and women of aboriginal background, and something in our current system is keeping them vulnerable and targets of that abuse.

Some may say, well is this not the job of the police? the RCMP? Why do we need a National Public inquiry?

My response: Tina Fontaine. A beautiful, vivacious 15 year old struggling to find where she fit in her family who ran away from home. After she was reported missing, and before her terrible death, police found her…and let her go. They failed Tina, her family, her community. She wasn’t brought in to the police station to be reunited with her family. She wasn’t questioned about being missing…she was just set back out into the night, by police officers trained to deal with crimes, not systemic poverty, violence, alienation and abuse. She is just the latest example of an aboriginal girl or woman left to fall through the cracks of the Canadian justice system.

We need an inquiry, a national one, that examines the communities affected at large, and suggests ways programs in place can be improved upon and motivated towards creating safer and healthier communities. An advocate I have come to admire greatly spoke to the special parliamentary committee on violence against aboriginal women almost a year ago, Dr. Cindy Blackstock. I won’t go in depth into her passionate, clear and sound plan of action for improving the lives of aboriginal women across the country, which you can read in the minutes of the committee found here. However I will highlight one comment she made:
You’ve heard the stories by others much more expert than I and closer to the matter about the perils many indigenous women face in this country, but some of those challenges in many of those cases could have been prevented had the women received the right service at the right time when they were children themselves.

Cindy is a passionate advocate for children’s rights in this country. She specifically works towards improving the education and health of children living in communities with substandard living conditions, poor education facilities, and lack of access to good health practices, through food, doctors’ and with histories of drug and substance abuse within the community. Voices like Cindy’s, and many other passionate people of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal status need to be seen and heard, to show us where we are failing as a Canadian Nation when it comes to girls and women of Aboriginal background in this country. We need to know, so we can start as communities to answer for it, to bring those services and programs that will help improve so much. Programs that will keep girls like Tina off the street and in their homes.

A former student of mine from the Kitigan Zibi tribe in Maniwaki Quebec once shared some insight on the issue of understanding between cultures. He said one of the biggest issues we have between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada is a lack of understanding and compassion for each other. He often discussed with his high school students the problematic nature of media and representation of Aboriginal peoples in Canada; he believes we need to build more bridges, share more stories, and create a space for young people to embrace both their Aboriginal culture, and their identity as Canadians. I think the idea of sharing stories, creating those memories in learning that bind us to a cause and to a belief in justice is a strong one.

That sharing of stories, or images that tell a story, is what led me to write this blog in the first place.

This great awareness campaign is what motivated me to write this post, and I’d like to share it with you. Before the Christmas holidays, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, when asked what he was doing about a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women stated: It’s just not on our radar right now.

In response, Evan Munday will be tweeting a drawn image of a missing or murdered woman every. single. day. to PM Harper’s account….to help put it on his ‘radar’.

Share these tweets! But also, write to your local MP, the Prime Minister’s office, our Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and our Minister for Justice to show them this IS on our radar, and our government’s continued disdain for these victims is deplorable and unacceptable.

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Direct email website: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/contactpm

The Honourable Bernard Valcourt
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H4

The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8

Email: mcu@justice.gc.ca

To my internet troll: not another stuffy academic

I will categorize this as: An angry blog post that turned into a learning moment. I received a pretty harsh comment tonight on my blog. Yeah, I know, it’s the internet, suck it up princess, etc. This one in particular, however, called me out for being pretentious in my approach to a new reader a colleague and I will be editing, that calls for emerging scholars and educators to help contribute to the discussion of pedagogy in the classroom from the point of view of youth. In the call, we ask people to share, examine, and critically analyze pedagogy (the way we teach, why we teach it, and how, basically) from a youth culture perspective. In a nutshell, how educators can and do flip their classroom culture to focus on the values and focus of young people.

However, this comment from an unknown individual suggested that we academics get off our high horse and ask teachers how they are doing this in their practice instead of theory vomiting our own opinions (I know, we are asking that, and they missed the boat…but I will answer it anyway). We envision this collection from educators and new scholars to be the kind of tool we reach for in our preservice classes, or engage with in those first few years of teaching. You know, those years where you spend hours Googling new ways of approaching *insert discipline here*, or struggle with coming up for a use for your whiteboard, or think ‘oh boy, do I dare give them slam poetry/hip hop/lyric assignment I was thinking might be neat?’ Because, guess what? Practice alone does not a teacher make. Nor does theory. It is our hope, however, that a reader that shows classrooms that give students the freedom to engage with learning on their terms, through their culture, might inspire teachers, new and old, to power share and flip the script of their classrooms and non-classrooms alike.

When we approach our classroom practice from a solid, practical only background, we are missing out on the important ways we can engage with different types of learning, from numerous different schools of thought, culture, and belief. However, the flip side, when we focus solely on the style or theory of learning, we blind ourselves to what this looks like in the classroom. It is my opinion, and that of my colleague Nichole Grant, that approaching learners, curriculum and our own pedagogical beliefs as educators from a praxis school of thought, one where we seek to understand our practical approach through and with theory, we create more meaningful spaces of learning.

As an example of my teaching practice at the high school level, I often try to integrate popular games into my classroom practice. As an uptight, slave to theory (insert sarcasm quotes here) I could rely heavily on the theories of learning and literacy developed by James Paul Gee to dictate my classroom practice; or, as I did the first few ‘trials’, I could simply rely on my teaching skills and my desire to engage my students on their level. However, what ultimately resulted in stronger, more meaningful learning for my students and I was for me to approach my individual classroom with the needs and skillset  we all had as teachers/learners, armed with a theory of learning that is ever evolving, digital learning, and engage in theorizing. Gee outlines types of learning that can emerge from gaming in the classroom. If I were to solely rely on these, make a rubric, and dictate the evolution of learning in my classroom, I would suck the joy of letting students learn from a familiar, meaningful curricular tool. Instead, as my students led what learning and engagement was to be had from the game I brought in, I was able to connect it into learning theory, take it up, and help them along in their journey of understanding Napoleon. I also engaged my students heavily in feedback discussions. Where this particularly began to emerge was when using the game, called Napoleon Total War, to visually and physically (digitally, anyway) situate my students in the Napoleonic culture: through war simulations, economic discourse, and political intrigue, we attempted to sink our teeth into the subject matter they found boring and dry in their textbooks. Without the constant feedback or evaluation of learning occurring (or not) in my classroom, I could not pedagogically utilize this curriculum tool.

Beyond that student engagement, I relied on the intersection of theory and practice, coined praxis. I could also name this a type of theorizing, where theory emerges through concepts and practice in research fields or classrooms alike. I will not launch into a teaching moment on praxis in this post. Better scholars (and TEACHERS, for that matter) have many a blog/website/learning group that engage with this. For a great resource on the topic, see Pedagogies for Change and their historical overview of the term and it’s presence in education. I will, however, recognize that this uninformed (and frankly, not very nice) comment I received tonight simply made me more resolved in our approach to this future reader: we want new educators and researchers to share their voices, their discussions with young people, the ways in which they make space for the culture of youth that matters to them, and gives voice. We have so many exciting examples flowing in; a particular favourite is examining how young people are taking up activism on gender and gender violence in schools in various places across the world, from Canada to India. With that, I call out our meany internet troll to take notice: academics and researchers are teachers too. I share my journey, with my titles, as learner, teacher, researcher, writer and human with the young people who shape me and push me and challenge me to be the kind of teacher that never is afraid to let them be themselves, and bring what they value most to the space I value most: The classroom.