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
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.