Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Negotiating Two Worlds: Learning through the Stories of Haudenosaunee Youth and Adults

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Negotiating Two Worlds: Learning through the Stories of Haudenosaunee Youth and Adults

Article excerpt

Negotiating Two Worlds: Learning through the Stories of Haudenosaunee Youth and Adults

Introduction: Reconnecting Community

The purpose of this article is to examine cultural connectedness among community members at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory (Six Nations). Drawing upon the Kashwenta (1) as a foundation, I consider how community members negotiate two worlds within daily life. Individuals residing in the Six Nations community often face the challenge of being true to their own cultural beliefs (one world) and navigating mainstream Canadian society (another world). This article offers more than cultural awareness, it is an intentional bridging between two empowering environments of understanding, Indigenous (2) and non-Indigenous ways of thought that are experienced by members of the Six Nations community.

For this article, I drew upon research conducted by the Student Success Research Consortium (3) (Consortium) conducted with Six Nations community members (see Styres, Zinga, Bennett, & Bomberry, 2010; Zinga, Styres, Bennett & Bomberry, 2009). Six Nations has the largest Aboriginal population in Canada (Chiefs of Ontario, 2010) and is located in the hub of southwestern Ontario. Six Nations is a rural community that is surrounded by urban metropolitans. Urban cities such as Hamilton, London, Toronto and Buffalo are within an hour drive of Six Nations. Six Nations is the only First Nation community with 6 diverse First Nations. As the name suggests, Six Nations is comprised of six distinct Nations; Mohawks, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, Senecas and Tuscaroras.

Positionality is an important consideration in research and within this research I am both a researcher and a member of the Six Nations community. I am from the Cayuga Nation and of the Turtle Clan. I have resided in the Six Nations community for the majority of my life. My first exposure to others' constructed identity of First Nation people was transferring to an off-reserve Catholic elementary school (the transfer was a result of an asbestos contamination of our elementary schools). From my friends onreserve, I was viewed as one of the "rich Indians" (I assume because both my parents were employed, we owned a large home and I remained off-reserve to attend school), while my newfound acquaintances in the off-reserve school viewed me as "an Indian--the people who do not work." Upon entering high school, I was exposed to the blatant racism and Otherness of being called an "apple" (meaning I was red or Native-looking on the outside, but my friends and choices were white in thought) by some Native students. My postsecondary experience was a time of independence, a time of confronting racism and dispelling stereotypes. More importantly for me, I was defining my identity and my personal aspirations. Following university education, I returned to Six Nations to live and work.

I have created a life for myself within my community. This is where my two children were born and where I have chosen to raise them. My vivid recollections of growing up at Six Nations and my experiences as a community member have influenced and confused my definition of what it means to be culturally connected. On one hand, I feel I am a contributing member of Six Nations by following the cultural principals of being respectful to others, mindful that my decisions today effect positively in the future, and mentoring and sharing my knowledge to bridge community members' and noncommunity members' knowledge. On the other hand, I do not attend longhouse (longhouse is the place ceremonies occur) and by some community members' standards, I am not culturally connected. These are two of the many differing definitions of cultural connectedness playing out within Six Nations. This article is my interpretation of "living it" and understanding historical impacts and current realities from an insider rather than an outsider perspective.

I obviously have a unique perspective and interpretation of this research. …

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