Indigenous Curriculum

Waawiiatanong Forever

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Photo of Mount Elgin Indian Residential School alongside the book Nii Ndahlohke Boys' and Girls' Work at Mount Elgin Industrial School

Boozhoo my Friends, 

It’s been a while since I have written for the CTL blog. To be completely honest with you, it’s because I have been busy with Indigenization, reconciliation, and decolonization efforts here at the University of Windsor, and in pockets of engagement throughout my travels. 

In February, I attended the “Who We Are: Exploring Indigenous Identity” symposium in Ottawa that was hosted by the Wabano Health Centre. I attended this symposium in the hopes of learning how other organizations are handling the weird phenomenon of Indigenous identity fraud. I can share with you that storytelling, kinship, and community are braided together in a way that supports those who claim Indigenous identity. I am sure there will be more conversations to come regarding fraudulent Indigenous identity at post-secondary institutes.  

In March, I went to the Gawii Wiikaa Ga-Nendmisii/Never Ever Forget Me: Mt. Elgin Residential School Survivors Gathering hosted by my Nation, Deshkaan Ziibing/Chippewa of the Thames First Nation in London, Ontario. It was quite an emotional moment for me to see the survivors and their descendants at this gathering. This kind of gathering would not have happened in the past because of the narrative behind residential schools being useful in educating Indigenous children. These were legalized child labour schools where work was done by the students who lived there, and they were never compensated for the work that they did.

I am very proud to share that there is an exhibit at Art Windsor Essex called, “Nii Ndahlohke/I Work” that explores the story of the work done by Mt. Elgin Residential school children. This exhibit is open until June 25, 2024. Here is the link for more information: https://artwindsoressex.ca/exhibitions/nii-ndahlohke-i-work/

Although the air felt heavy at times due to the nature of the gathering, I found comfort in hearing the stories of strength from other Mt. Elgin attendees. My father and mother’s families all went to residential school. I never heard my Gramma, Dad or Mom talk about Mt. Elgin with love. Nor my sisters, aunties, uncles and cousins. I share this experience to give you an idea that residential schools didn’t just happen 100 years ago. I think Canadians need to recognize that. 

As I made my way back to Waawiiatanong/ territory, I was nervous because I wasn’t going straight home. I was going to stop at Art Windsor Essex to see the exhibit: Waawiiatanong Forever. This was a project that I had been asked to be a part of and I had accepted, not knowing just how beautiful and strong this project was. In all my years as Anishinaabekwe (Original Woman), I never felt like I represented a standard of beauty and strength. 

When I walked into that exhibit and I saw myself among other beautiful, strong Indigenous folks, I couldn’t contain my emotions. My eyes started leaking and I was overwhelmed with the power of the exhibit. Here is the link for more information: https://artwindsoressex.ca/exhibitions/waawiiatanong-forever/

As I sit here and catch my breath from such a busy March, my mind wanders to the folks who have asked me, how? How do I reconcile? How do I Indigenize? How do I decolonize? At this moment, I can share that you need to be truthful about what isn’t learned in Western schools. About what you know and don’t know. Truth needs to be recognized when Indigenous people talk. Or when they tell you, education is not free. Land was never ceded. And we never ever wanted to give up our children to a system that was the exact opposite of how Indigenous Nations lived, loved, and worked. 

Well, I have shared a lot here. If you have any questions or comments, drop by the office and we can chat. Until then, whether you are on the path of truth or just beginning your journey, I want to say miigwetch. It is not for the faint of heart.  This journey will take time and patience, as well as kindness and love. It is a journey that will not only benefit you and I but the next 7 generations as well. 

Until next time. 

Baamaapii

Jaimie Kechego
Learning Specialist – Field of Indigenization

Jaimie Kechego is the Indigenous Curriculum and Pedagogy Project Coordinator for the Centre for Teaching and Learning. She is Anishnaabwekwe from Deshkaan Ziibing (the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation reserve) located near London, Ontario. Jaimie’s academic experience began at the University of Windsor as she pursued her Bachelor of Arts degree. Her professional experience with the University of Windsor began at Turtle Island as the Student Representative for the Aboriginal Education Committee. After graduating from the University of Windsor, she secured a position with the Greater Essex County District School Board as the First Nation, Metis and Inuit secondary school counsellor for eight years. Jaimie went back to the University of Windsor to pursue her Bachelor of Education in 2014 and graduated in 2015. Recently, Jaimie completed her requirements for a Master’s degree in the Field of Educational Leadership focused in Aboriginal Education at Western University.

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