Understanding the Meaning of Aboriginal Literacy
Victoria Grant, a member of the Ashoka Team and the Changemakers Initiative “Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Metis and Inuit Learning,” attended the Aboriginal Literacy Symposium in Winnipeg on November 1 and 2 at the invitation of Bruce Lawson, Executive Director of The Counseling Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counseling. She found it an amazing opportunity to meet, interact with, and learn and share with people engaged with Aboriginal literacy.
Ovide Mercredi, a former national chief and the opening speaker at the Aboriginal Literacy Symposium, challenged his audience with this question: What does Aboriginal literacy mean? He spoke deliberately, and his thoughts, which were well organized and researched, were the perfect introduction for the symposium that followed.
Questions that I kept in mind were: Is literacy about understanding what binds us together? Is literacy about participating fully as a good human being with the potential to take care of one’s own needs? Is literacy about the individual spirit to achieve? Is Aboriginal literacy about all of the above, as well as being proficient in one’s own language?
“We’re taught that our language comes from the Creator, and that speaking it acknowledges our connection. We’re taught that our voice is a sacred gift and that there is a lot of power in our words. When we speak, our words go around the world forever.”
— Sharla Peltier speech-languagepathologist, Nipissing First Nation
Ningwakwe George challenged the conference participants to take a holistic approach to Aboriginal literacy. James Bartleman, the former lieutenant governor of Ontario, stressed the absolute necessity for being able to read, and how literacy opens opportunities.
While my primary reason for attending this conference was to engage people with our “Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Metis and Inuit Learning” initiative, I found it was a real opportunity for me to learn more about Aboriginal literacy, the work that is being done, and the challenges of the future.
“I”ve reflected on Ovide Mercredi’s question of what is Aboriginal literacy, which I took to be a philosophical question,” said Lawson. “I’ve been reflecting on my own journey these last three years, being a non-Aboriginal who works at a foundation that has made improving educational and career outcomes for Aboriginal peoples a grantmaking priority.
“It has been a steep learning curve for me, especially as I try to change my thought paradigm away from the Canadian history I learned during my school age years, and to re-learn it from an Aboriginal point of view. I am deeply indebted to the Elders and the program leaders at organizations that we’ve funded for so generously sharing their knowledge with me.”
“Ningwakwe George’s presentation emphasized the importance of balancing one’s honor for the spirit, mind, heart, and body. This can empower a person to become who they should be, allowing them to walk proudly in the world around them.”
In conclusion, I will take Lawson's words and adjust them to reflect our project: Both Chief Mercredi and Ningwakwe George talked about walking in two worlds. “Inspiring Approaches to First Nation Metis and Inuit Learning” is proud to be walking with you and beside you, to learn, share, and listen with respect, in hopes of marching towards a better Canada for all peoples.
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“Aboriginal Peoples have always believed that everything has a ‘Spirit.’ In modern scientific terms, this could be called energy or an EMF. Aboriginal Peoples also believe that thoughts, words, intentions, and feelings have energy. Gregg Braden, who has professional careers in earth sciences, aerospace, and in senior computer systems, has said:
‘The path of internal technology remembers that each cell of our bodies is approximately 1.17 volts of electrical potential. Statistics indicate that the average body is composed of approximately 1 quadrillion cells. One quadrillion cells times 1.17 volts of potential for each cell equals approximately 1.17 quadrillion volts of electrical potential per person.’
1.17 quadrillion volts is a lot of energy. What activates this energy is our feelings, which often translate into thoughts, words, and intentions. I don’t know about you, but if I know that I’m capable of that much energy, I want to make sure that whatever I put out there in the universe is positive. In Aboriginal teachings, we say, ‘What goes around comes around.”