MODULE 5: Learning Material
Welcome to Unit 5. In this one-week unit, students will learn about the importance of identity for Indigenous wellness. Students will explore colonial practices, education systems and child welfare processes that separate families and disrupt identities in an effort by government to promote assimilation. Students will explore recent Indigenous literature related to identity and “the cultural self.” Aspects of identity exploration include:
· Resistance and cultural reclamation after colonial violence
· The importance of stories and storytelling as food for the soul
· The relevance of intuition, signs and messages in guiding Indigenous people back to family and community after separation
· A critique of processes that interfere with health identity and cultural development in mainstream society
· Policies that support healthy identity development and holistic well-being
· Community resources to support Indigenous identity exploration
In this unit, students will explore the connections between early childhood care and education and strengthening the identity of Indigenous children. Identity is an important area related to Indigenous well-being. Many early childhood programs are integrating cultural education in order to help strengthen the identity of Indigenous children. Language is a central aspect of programming, as well as practicing culture through songs, dance, drumming, eating Native foods and receiving teachings from Elders.
In this unit, students will be exposed to the terms identity (an embodied understanding of who one is where they belong and their land, people and values), cultural self (an embodied experience of one’s self as a linked to a group of people, an ethnicity and possessing a shared worldview), and sense of self (possessing a feeling or understanding of ones self or being in relation to others as both a part of and an individuation of personhood; a sense of who one is within the larger context).
The academic literature states consistently that children who know who they are, where they come from, their traditional languages and the lands of their Ancestors have a stronger, healthier sense of self. This relates to the United Nations Rights of the Indigenous Child and the Rights of Aboriginal People in the Canadian Constitution.
Issues of identity are one of the most important ongoing concerns for Indigenous children, teens and adults. In the aftermath of residential schools and in the present situation of frequent child welfare removals of Indigenous children, many Indigenous people have been raised apart from their parents, their family, their relatives, their culture and their language. Cultural regeneration is a collective project for many Aboriginal communities who have suffered the harm and isolation related to colonialism. Severing sacred relationships was one of the strategies of the colonizers. For Canadian society, creating opportunities for familial and cultural regeneration must be one aspect of reparation. For Indigenous peoples, strengthening their sense of who they are, where they come from and their relationship to the land is a main part of healing. An Indigenous elder from the prairies stated that being removed from one’s land, the land where the Ancestors walked, is detrimental because after some time “the land might not remember you.” This is one reason it is important to return home, at least from time to time, to the place where your people come from.