Warrior Women: Remaking Postsecondary Places through Relational Narrative Inquiry: Volume 17

Cover of Warrior Women: Remaking Postsecondary Places through Relational Narrative Inquiry

Table of contents

(20 chapters)

Warrior Women: Remaking Post-Secondary Places through Relational Narrative Inquiry is a book unlike any other I have read. The book draws from the voices of 10 women with diverse narrative histories who come to walk alongside one another as warriors “in a more than 500 year struggle for equity and justice for Aboriginal people in Canada” (Young et al., 2012). The book is alive and moving, making tangible the oral storytelling devices “rhythm, repetition and ritual” of which Sewall (1996) speaks, and which resound to create an embodied sense of how intergenerational narratives shape both backward and forward looking stories. The stories compel and as the authors call us to hear the beating of the drum, they likewise urgently invite us to see our own place in joining hands, in walking alongside, and in co-composing ways forward into the world together. Such new stories, stories such as theirs, give we readers hope that new possible intergenerational narrative reverberations can be co-composed.”

It was at the Canadian Association for the Study of Indigenous Education in 2010 in Concordia University that I first heard from the women who were part of this study. They lined up in the front of the room in desks to share each their part of what would become the foundation of this book. The topic was their post-secondary education experiences becoming a teacher. Among them were a few of my Mi’kmaw relatives and long time friends. I remembered two of them as youth in Eskasoni when I lived there. The story they told was familiar. It was at the kitchen tables that I first heard about the experiences of these Mi’kmaq youth going to school off reserve. The traumatic events were regaled over and over, and everyone had stories to share about the racism they experienced taking the bus to the nearby town to go to high school, and the coached determination they received to continue going to school everyday. By the time graduation came each year, the buses that were filled at the beginning of the school year emptied out, and at most a handful of determined steadfast students graduated.

In a paper shared at the 2004 Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE), Marie Battiste urged Canadian academics and policy makers to become part of a transformative process of reconstructing Canada's colonial education system which she describes as shaping “Indigenous peoples’ trauma and disconnection with many aspects of education and themselves” (p. 2). Battiste calls for the repositioning of Indigenous knowledges in post-secondary institutions, a process through which institutional structures and practices, curriculum foundations, and traditions are substantially changed and, in particular, that these are changed in ways that value and engage the capacities of Aboriginal students. Battiste's argument is significant for both Aboriginal post-secondary students and for their communities.

Writing, much like composing a life (Bateson, 1989), is not a straightforward, linear process. Indeed, storying and restorying lives is, as highlighted in the writing of Marmon Silko (1996), a winding, crisscrossing process:For those of you accustomed to being taken from point A to point B to point C, this presentation may be somewhat difficult to follow. Pueblo expression resembles something like a spider's web – with many little threads radiating from the centre, crisscrossing one another. As with the web, the structure emerges as it is made, and you must simply listen and trust, as the Pueblo people do, that meaning will be made. (pp. 48–49)As we shared and inquired into our storied lives in narrative inquiry circles in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, and then again in yearly whole group narrative inquiry circles, we grew in our knowing of one another, of one another's lives, of where we are each from, of one another's stories to live by. In Chapter 1, we gave a sense of some of the places from which Mary and Janice are from and of ways in which their experiences in these places drew them toward ideas which they began to thread together as a way to shape a frame for our relational narrative inquiry. In this chapter we invite readers to gain a sense of the multiplicity of people, and the multiplicity of lives which shaped our relational narrative inquiry.

As shown in their earlier stories, while at differing times and places Janice and Mary searched for a research methodology that felt congruent with who they were each becoming and the inquiries they imagined, they both became drawn toward the relational aspects of narrative inquiry. As Clandinin and Connelly wrote: “Relationship is key to what it is that narrative inquirers do” (2000, p. 189). Key in negotiating relationships as narrative inquirers is our collective sharing of stories of experience. This relational storytelling shapes both shared vulnerability among storytellers as each person awakens to the complexity of lives being composed and recomposed and, too, a growing sense of working from, and with, stories as a way to shape personal, social, and institutional change (Clandinin & Connelly, 1998, 2000; Connelly & Clandinin, 2006). Clandinin and Connelly (1998) describe this kind of narrative change as taking shape in the following ways:For us, the promise of storytelling emerges when we move beyond regarding a story as a fixed entity and engage in conversations with our stories. The mere telling of a story leaves it as a fixed entity. It is in the inquiry, in our conversations with each other, with texts, with situations, and with other stories that we can come to retelling our stories and to reliving them. (p. 251)Furthermore, Maenette Benham (2007) writes thatthe power of narrative is that, because it deeply explores the tensions of power by illuminating its collisions (e.g., differences of knowledge and practices), it reveals interesting questions that mobilize processes and resources that benefit native people and their communities. Indeed, the political impact of narrative cannot be dismissed. (pp. 513–514)

As Jennifer, Lucy, Jerri-Lynn, Lulu, Brenda Mary, and Khea storied and restoried their lives in the ways earlier noted, we were in the midst of, as earlier noted, gradually growing in our wakefulness of attending to new possible intergenerational narrative reverberations made visible in their storied lives, in their stories to live by. As they storied their lives Jennifer, Lucy, Jerri-Lynn, Lulu, Brenda Mary, and Khea not only taught us of ways in which the intergenerational narrative reverberation of colonizing Aboriginal people continues to reverberate in their lives, in their stories to live by, but they also showed us the new possible intergenerational narrative reverberations they are composing. These new possible intergenerational narrative reverberations are poised to counter and to restory the colonization and oppression of Aboriginal people. In this way, by tracing the counter stories to live by they are composing so as to shape new possible intergenerational narrative reverberations we see that their counterstories to live by carry much potential for shaping a future in which the spirits of Aboriginal teachers, children, youth, families, and communities in Canada are strong.

We began this chapter with storied experiences of relationships with children and youth and of questions around tensions they can experience as they make home, familial, community, and school transitions. These questions included: Why do we do it this way? Who decides? Can’t I think about what's best for my child? For Aboriginal children? As Khea, Jennifer, and Brenda Mary storied the experiences noted earlier, and as we collectively inquired into their stories, attentive to the intergenerational narrative reverberations of colonization made visible, it was their attentiveness to the particular life of a youth, Robbie; of a child, Rachel; and of a grandchild that we were first drawn. Their deep yearnings for something different in schools also turned our attention toward the counterstories to live by which they were composing. Across Khea's, Jennifer's, and Brenda Mary's earlier storied experiences the counterstories to live by around which they were threading new possible intergenerational narrative reverberations were focused on understanding children and youth as composing lives shaped by multiple contexts, that is, lives shaped through multiple relationships in places in and outside of school. This need for understanding the multiple places and relationships shaping the lives of children and youth as they enter into schools is, as shown in the earlier noted stories, vital in Aboriginal families and communities given the ways in which the narrative of colonization continues to reverberate in present lives.

There is much to think narratively about in the experiences storied by Lulu, Brenda Mary, Jennifer, Jerri-Lynn, Khea, and Lucy of ways their stories to live by rubbed up against narratives constructing them as not “real” teachers. Untangling these experiences shows ways the historically dominant narrative of colonizing Aboriginal people is still shaping intergenerational narrative reverberations, reverberations that weave into the life of each teacher, and as well, into the familial, communal, institutional, and broader provincial landscapes on which each teacher is composing her life.

Our Mi’kmaq and Anishinabe Elders, Sister Dorothy and Florence, remind us of the centrality of family in our lives and who we are becoming. When children are taken away from their families and familial contexts the suffering endured by the children, parents, family members, and community is unbearable. This removal of Aboriginal children from families, communities, and the places they knew was unnecessary. Aboriginal people have always known what they want for their children: “We all agree that respect is one of the foundations of what defines our values of our people.” This teaching of respect given to us by the Elders has sustained us in the past and in the present. These teachings will continue to sustain us into the future. The stories of our parents have sustained us too. When our mothers and fathers urged us to not lose our languages they were reminding us of who we are and where we come from. In this way they were giving us a legacy of being proud of our language, of our traditions, and of our ways of being Aboriginal people. It is as we claim and reconnect with these stories of the Elders and our ancestors that we know ways forward (Archibald, 2008; Cajete, 2001; Restoule, 2000).

Jennifer: There have been many meaningful experiences that have occurred throughout our time together. Being a part of this work has not only allowed me to develop a better understanding about myself and the path that I choose to take from this day on, but it has resulted in new friendships with women whose stories have become part of my own.

It seems only right that I begin to write the Afterword to this book on a night when the full moon is shining down on me. Mary Young taught me long ago about the importance of the moon, and particularly about the little girl in the moon. I have trouble seeing that little girl in the moon but each time the moon becomes round and full, I look for her. She seems to hide from me, to be invisible to me, even though I search for her. Mary tries to help me but only once did I think I caught a glimpse of her.

Janice Huber grew up in Crooked Creek, Alberta in the midst of a family and place that greatly shapes her life. Janice is the mother of one beautiful daughter. As a classroom teacher Janice taught in rural, international, and urban school contexts. Growing from her doctoral and post doctoral study in the late 1990s Janice's collaborative narrative inquiries continue to attend to the lives of children, families, teachers, Elders, and teacher education students in relation with their experiences in home, community, school, and post-secondary places. Janice currently teaches in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina. She is a coauthor of numerous articles and book chapters, including the two books, Composing Diverse Identities: Narrative Inquiries into the Interwoven Lives of Children and Teachers (2006) and Places of Curriculum Making: Narrative Inquiries into Children's Lives in Motion (2011).

Cover of Warrior Women: Remaking Postsecondary Places through Relational Narrative Inquiry
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Advances in Research on Teaching
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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