Land Inquiry An In-Depth Look at a Neighbourhood in West London

London, Ontario

-- Population: 474 786

-- 80.7% English only as mother tongue

-- 1.2% reported French only

-- 16.7% reported only a non-official language, in 2011.

(Statistics Canada)

Aboriginal Persons Within London, Ontario

-- Less than 2% of London's population report being an Aboriginal person

-- Less than 1% is a Registered or Treaty Indian

-- Between 2001-2006, the Aboriginal population in London grew by 10%, from 5,655 to 6,200 people. The First Nations population grew by 4%, while the Métis grew by 38%.

-- 2006 - 4 590 (74% of the city's Aboriginal makeup) persons identified as First Nations people , 1 345 (22%) identified as Metis, and 80 (1%) as Inuit

Among those who identified as First Nation, 62% reported being a Treaty Indian or Registered Indian

(London Canada)

Within London, as with many other places within Canada, there is a rich history of land occupation.

It is known that the Attawandaran (Neutral), Algonquin, and Haudenosaunee peoples once settled in this region using it as grounds for beaver hunting. However, there are other Indigenous groups that remain in this region:

-- The Anishinaabe Peoples (also referred to as the Three Fires Confederacy including; Ojibwe, Odawa, and Pottawatami Nations);

-- The Haudenosaunee Peoples (also known as the Iroquoian people or Six Nations including Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscorora);

-- The Leni-Lunaape Peoples (also referred to as the Delaware and/or Munsee).

Within these different Indigenous groups are smaller communities, the ones closest to Western University include:

-- Chippewa of the Thames First Nation (part of the Anishinaabe)

-- Oneida Nation of the Thames (part of the Haudenosaunee)

-- Munsee-Delaware Nation (part of the Leni-Lunaape)

(Western Student Experiences)

Census Data Specifically for West London

-- West London consists of 20 165 people

-- Gender Breakdown: 11 160 females, 9 005 males

-- Approximately 8 640 people aged 20-44 (highest category)

-- The average household income for this area equates to approximately $46 000

-- Within West London, there are approximately 475 Aboriginal identities

-- The total immigrant population is approximately 5, 555

(London Canada)

From sifting through the numerous statistics found online, it becomes apparent that London has a complex and diverse past, present, and future. No single type of person creates the make-up for this city. What becomes interesting however, is how these different identities has played a role in shaping London, Ontario. Despite the fact that London is heterogeneous in terms of culture, do we treat it as such? The more one examines the city, the more one starts to see the divisions and tensions.

London Waldorf School -- West London

For this project, I automatically knew I wanted to focus on the London Waldorf School. My interest arose partly due to the convenience of proximity to myself, but also due to its location and surrounding areas. Tucked away near the end of Beaufort street, this school has the ability to feel secluded and 'in touch' with nature as it backs on to the Thames River and Gibbons Park. However, a few minutes walk gets you to the hustle and bustle of Western Road, jolting you from the once quiet surroundings.

The school is near certain amenities such as numerous types of housing , the park, fast food restaurants, a dentist, a hairdresser's, a convenience store, a pharmacy, and much more. Being close to the many amenities may provide ease and convenience for the busy parents dropping and picking their children up from school.

The West London neighbourhood I walked around, observed, took pictures of, and began to critically think and question. It was interesting to discover that as I began to draw my map from recollection, that I struggled to remember the names of some of the streets I ventured down. Although I have been on this walk numerous times throughout my years at Western, it became obvious that I never took the time to really study and understand my surroundings. We live in such a fast paced life that calls on us to do everything as efficiently and conveniently as possible - as a result, many of us miss out on the smaller (yet still just as important) details of life. As I was drawing my map, I also began to question the map making process. This process helped to magnify the idea of land ownership, purpose, and efficiency. As I created this map, I was able to visualize the 'importance' of divisions to indicate ownership via fencing, parking lots, and "Private Property" signs. I began to notice the importance of having a variety of shops in one area to provide efficiency and convenience for the every day shopper - pharmacies, fast food restaurants, hairdressers, dentists, etc. all within a 5 minute walk from each other. As I viewed this map I had created, I began to realize that map making, as we know it today, is about indicating land divisions and ownership - it is not simply about understanding the Earth we live on.

I have walked through this neighbourhood countless times throughout my years at Western University. However, this is the first time that I actively observed and questioned my surroundings. As I was walking, I found myself asking questions like:

"What has changed since this land was stolen by colonial settlers? Would this bridge be here if the Indigenous peoples still lived here freely? Would the waters be as polluted as they are today? Would these houses and other structures have been necessary in the past? Have we bettered the land or destroyed it?"

In the past, I regretfully never thought about the Indigenous peoples and the history of the land I so freely walk upon. I took it for granted. However, I am starting to learn to appreciate the importance of understanding and knowing the history of where I live. It's important to not assume that just because I live here, that this land is mind. This land has a rich history - where people lived, respected, and appreciated the land and where people had their lifestyle ripped away over greed and ignorance.

Settler Colonialism

Before this class, settler colonialism was not a term I had heard of before. Colonialism itself however, had been discussed throughout many of my classes in undergrad, so I had a vague understanding of what settler colonialism might entail. Wrightson made an insightful comparison between the two terms, she stated:

"the difference between settler colonial and colonial relations is the difference between a line and a circle. In colonial states, the colonizers go out to the colonies and then return home in a circular movement. In settler colonialism, there is no return home. Thus, the goal becomes the transformation of the new colony into “home”"

Through class discussions, readings, and Wrightson's definition, I now have a much better understanding of what the term means. As a result, when I took my walk around the neighbourhood surrounding the Waldorf school, I was able to become a more critical observer. I began to notice that things I viewed every day started to hold new meaning. Many of the street signs transformed in front of my eyes, they were not just the every day street signs I was so used to seeing, they now had a new meaning. Many of the names were Eurocentric in nature - Oxford, Essex, and Windemere to name a few. The idea of putting in fences to separate land use, to create privacy, and to instill the notion of private vs. public, now seems frivolous. Why do we feel the need to create these artificial borders- land is meant to be celebrated, not constantly torn apart and divided.

As I continued my walk, it became more and more obvious just how little we care about the earth we live upon. Many of us today live with the notion that convenience is best - whatever we can do to save us time is what we aim for. This was clearly demonstrated in this neighbourhood by the man-made short-cuts created by trekking through the grass leaving nothing but dead grass and mud, the tunnels carved through hills, the covering of land through the addition of stores, the paved pathways within the forests, and the pollution and littering seen in both the waters and the land.

One of the first things I noticed while on my walk, was the lack of respect and consideration most people have in regards to the land. Instead of treating the land as we should, we manipulate it to fit our needs, we manipulate it so our lives can become more convenient. This picture shows a tunnel carved through a hill - yes it makes our lives much easier in regards to getting from point A to point B while on foot, but was this truly the best method? Was the land considered at all? How much of the land are we willing to alter?
The streets within London, not just my particular neighbourhood focus, help to enlighten the majority on the key term: settler colonialism. By simply walking outside, it becomes painfully obvious the affects settler colonialism has had in London, Ontario. The street names do not represent anything that remotely indicates the long and tumultuous histories of this land. Instead, they are a blatant reminder every day for Indigenous peoples, that their land was stolen. Left in place are Eurocentric names such as "Essex Street" - which is a county in England. I assume many, like myself, took the land we live on for granted. We ignored the fact that others have lived on this land for countless generations, way before many of our grandparents - even great grandparents, stepped foot onto Canada. Through this land inquiry, a process of decolonization may begin- for myself and classmates at least. As Irlbacher-Fox noted in her article, "Much of this decolonization effort has centered on becoming self-aware of, as well as questioning and rejecting, settler colonial privilege, which is essential to attaining a clear understanding of what constitutes being respectful in both thought and deed" (p. 146). As people begin to become more aware of the signs of settler colonialism, they may begin to resist it and open their eyes to the possibility of reconciliation.
Land - the waters, the soil, the trees, and the elements, all play a vital role in the Indigenous ways of life. As Gardner and Peters wrote, "Land is the basis for all life" (p. 168). When you remove the essence of land and become consumed by the ideas of settler colonialism, the respect for the earth diminishes. The water itself in the form of oceans, lakes, and rivers are a part of this land - they always have been. Through this picture, one has the ability to imagine what life may have looked like for Indigenous peoples as this picture shows little indication of the settler colonialism ways. One could imagine the many uses this river had - fishing, drinking water, transportation, and recreation (Alfred, p. 137). Today, some of these activities are still present to some degree. Many people still fish, but due to increase levels of mercury and other pollutants, many people do not fish for sustenance. Many people still use the river for transportation, but mostly in terms of recreation via kayaks, canoes, and motorized water vehicles. As we know, the main form of transportation for distance has become vehicles such as cars and airplanes - these methods of transportation ultimately hurt our land as pollution has become a global issue. It must also be stated that although this river is able to capture, to some degree, the Indigenous ways of life, it has also failed to avoid the affects of settler colonialism; we see this through its name: The Thames River. Once again, like the street signs across the city, Eurocentric names that represent the settlers, plague this area.
Due to this assignment, I found myself becoming more aware of my surroundings as I began my walk around my chosen neighbourhood. I was noticing aspects that indicated settler colonialism and Indigenous ways of life that I had mistakenly ignored before. Alongside my realizations for the previous concepts, I was now beginning to be able to identify many indicators of immigrant presences as well- whether it be the store names themselves like "Asia Gourmet" or the people I saw walking along the sidewalks. Much of our 'fast-food' cuisine demonstrates the impact of immigration. We can now sample foods from across the globe like Chinese food, Japanese food, Thai food, Indian food, and so forth. Without immigration into this neighbourhood (and country) the demand for such cuisine would be almost non-existent. However, it becomes important to question the relationship between the different cultures and backgrounds living within this neighbourhood. Does the indication of diversity mean that we are all accepting of it? If we enjoy the cuisine of different cultures than we must also enjoy the company of people coming from different cultures as well, right? Unfortunately, as we know too well, this is not always the case. Although not specifically relevant to my particular neighbourhood, the recent shooting at a Quebec mosque allows us to see that not everyone is as accepting as we should be - especially since Canada is known as a multicultural country (Woods & Poisson).

Inquiry

Questions to attend to:

~ How can we begin to feel as connected to the land as Indigenous peoples such as the Anishinaabeg do? (Yerxa) How do we begin to shed our consumer based views of the land?

~ How have we been raised to treat the land? Do certain lands have more value or use than others? Do we respect the land?

~ How can we practice, as a class, some of the traditional ways of living?

I would begin our inquiry process by asking my students what they see. To provide guidance, I may help them understand that the area fenced in is intended for lawn bowling. I would then ask them to look at the fenced in area versus the areas around it that are not fenced in. I would ask probing questions such as, "What do you notice about the grass? What do you notice about the leaves? Do you notice anything on the ground?" With these questions, it is my hope that students will be able to see that the fenced in area is provided with much better upkeep than the surrounding areas. From there, I would ask more questions such as, "why do you think one area looks more loved than the other area? How do you feel that one area is looked after more than the other? Is there anything we can do to help?" I want my students to begin to think about WHY people think it's important to look after part of our land versus the other. What makes one area more important? Should not all land be cared for, respected, and appreciated? In the article by Alfred, he writes about the "the cultural impacts of environmental contamination in the Mohawk community of Akwesasne" (p. 135). Although the damages expressed in the article are significantly more detrimental than the picture above, it is important to note the similarities. Throughout his article, the notion of settler colonists doing what they want due to the sake of convenience and profit is established. Similarly, with the photo above, it shows that people would rather take care of the land that could earn them a profit (like the lawn bowling club) rather than the land as a whole. It demonstrates that many people today, do not see the value in protecting and caring for the land in itself, there always has to be an ulterior motive. Whether that ulterior motive is: profit, convenience, or the mindset that 'my' land will be fine in pursuing this business endeavour (even if 'theirs' wont be). However, it is important to note that Albert's article focuses on the restoration of the land - this is one of the important details that I would want my students to take away. Mistakes were made, but now people are coming together in order to attempt to reconcile and fix the damages that were done.
I would let the children explore Gibbons Park and the nature that resides in it. I would ask the students questions such as "What did they notice about the tree (in the photo)? How do you think it got to be so big? Are there a lot of trees this big in the park?" I would hope that students would be able to understand that the more one cares for and loves the land, the more it will be able to foster and grow - like the tree. We would then continue our exploration, looking at trees, the grass, and the water. I would have my students lie on the grass. I would ask them questions such as, "What do you feel when you lay on the grass? What can you see? What can you smell? What can you hear?" I want to give my students the opportunity to feel connected to their surroundings, in any way they deem necessary. As Irlbacher-Fox noted, "land-based learning helps form connections with each other and the land" (p. 154) By sharing information about the Indigenous ways of life, this process of connecting one to the land will also help students build an understanding of a culture they may not have experienced prior. Following that discussion I would then ask my students, "What could we do to show our love for the land? How can use learn to appreciate the land?" - students may come up with answers such a no littering, help picking up garbage, planting flowers/trees/etc.

Reflection

Although this task seemed daunting at first, it has truly opened my eyes to the conflict and tension that exist within our country, our province, and this city. As I mentioned before, I had never taken the time to truly learn about the neighbourhood where I live. I had never taken the time to learn its history, the people that came before me - and the people that came before them. It is interesting to begin to learn about where you live and the affects that all people have had in shaping the land. It is important to not only think about the present, but to understand how we got to where we are and who was displaced/hurt/forgotten in that process, and then to consider the future - do we truly want to continue living the way are living? Through this inquiry, I was able to think critically about these concepts. It has become clear that Indigenous presences have not been truly eradicated. Instead, we have been taught to view this land as 'ours'. As a result, we are looking through glasses that have been tinted and warped. Instead of seeing nature as something that can connect us to the land, we see it as a commodity. It is not only a park - it's land that may eventually become occupied by apartment buildings, or it's land that needs to be altered to fit our needs via paved pathways, washrooms, and tennis courts. If we begin to shed these views that have unfortunately been embedded within us, perhaps we may then be able to see Indigenous presences- what they respect, value, and appreciate.

Although I have only scratched the surface of the turmoil and conflict that exists in this area, I am now able to say that I am aware and I want to begin this journey of decolonization. To do this, I must continue learning about the Indigenous peoples, settler colonialism, and immigrants, and how the members of the community affect each other. As Irlbacher-Fox notes,

"Acknowledging that settler colonial privilege prevents a respectful approach to understanding Indigenous Knowledge has significant transformative potential at both personal and institutional levels. Protecting and exercising privilege prevents progress toward co- existence, as defined by the Dene peoples I work with: respectful reciprocal relationships between people" (p. 147)

It is also important that my journey of decolonization does not simply include myself. As a teacher, I want to instill this mindset within my students. I want them to learn how to appreciate and respect the land, and I want them to understand the importance of creating reciprocal relationships with all people inhabiting this land. In order to help build these relationships, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada state the importance of mutual respect and shared responsibility (p. 5). We need to begin to view each other as equals with importance - no one group of peoples should be considered 'better' than the other.

It is important to start instilling these ideas at a young age. Growing up, many of my teachers never discussed the Indigenous peoples, their lifestyles, customs, etc. other than for a brief moment in history class. I now understand the necessity of implementing FNMI studies within the school at a much earlier age. It is important for everyone to understand where they live and the history of that area. It is important to understand that the settlers stole these lands and tried to force assimilation on many of the Indigenous communities. Although it is important to understand that young children may not fully grasp some of the complex concepts, they are still able to engage in inquiries that allow them to question the way of life. As the Kindergarten Curriculum notes,

"The team should use inquiry-based learning to build on children’s spontaneous desire for exploration and to gradually guide them to become more focused and systematic in their observations and investigations" (p.15).

Simply by providing explorations within nature and providing insightful provocations, our students will begin to learn and understand about the land, the tensions, and the people who have impacted our community makeup. This curiosity, knowledge, and understanding will hopefully continue to grow throughout their life within and out of school.

References

Alfred, T. (2014). The Akwesasne cultural restoration program: A Mohawk approach to land- based education. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 3(3), 134-144. Retrieved January 30, 2017.

Gardner, Karl, and Richard Peters. (2014). Toward the 8th fire: The view from Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 3(3), 167-73. Retrieved January 30, 2017.

Irlbacher-Fox, S. (2014). Traditional knowledge, co-existence and co-resistance. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 3(3), 145-158. Retrieved January 29, 2017.

London Canada. (n.d.). Aboriginal People. Retrieved January 29, 2017, from https://www.london.ca/About-London/community-statistics/population-characteristics/Pages/Abiorginal-Peoples.aspx

London Canada . (n.d.). West London Neighbourhood Profile . Retrieved January 29, 2017, from https://www.london.ca/About-London/community-statistics/neighbourhood-profiles/Documents/2014-Neighbourhood-Profile-Update/West-London.pdf

Statistics Canada . (2016, September 21). Focus on Geography Series, 2011 Census. Retrieved January 29, 2017, from https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/fogs-spg/Facts-csd-eng.cfm?LANG=Eng&GK=CSD&GC=3539036

The full-day early learning-kindergarten program 2010-11. (2010). Toronto: Ontario, Ministry of Education

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: calls to action. (2015). Winnipeg, Manitoba: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Western Student Experiences . (n.d.). Acknowledging Territory . Retrieved January 29, 2017, from http://www.indigenous.uwo.ca/welcome/index.html

Woods, Allen, and Jayme Poisson. "Quebec police say one of the men arrested in mosque attack is now considered a witness." The Star , January 30, 2017. Accessed January 30, 2017.

Wrightson, K. (2012, December 6). Defining Settler Colonialism « Women Suffrage and Beyond. Retrieved January 29, 2017, from http://womensuffrage.org/?p=1524

Yerxa, Jana-Rae. 2014 "Gii-kaapizigemin manoomin Neyaashing: A resurgence of Anishinaabeg nationhood." Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 3(3), 159-166. Retrieved January 29, 2017.

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