Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Around the Medicine Wheel, a Path to Heal the Planet

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Around the Medicine Wheel, a Path to Heal the Planet

Article excerpt

TEACHING TRULY: A CURRICULUM TO INDIGENIZE MAINSTREAM EDUCATION

by D. T. Jacobs

"Humans now dominate Earth, changing it in ways that threaten its ability to sustain us and other species" (Barnosky et al., 2012, P. 52). Thus, ominously, begins a scientific review in Nature of an impending "state shift" in the Earth's biosphere resulting from the human population explosion and mass consumption that may have similar results to the shift during the last ice age, a mass extinction of mammals and a drastic decrease in biodiversity. In a 2013 report on the world's largest dirty energy projects, Greenpeace warned that the Earth's ground temperature is approaching a "point of no return" as a result, which is widely acknowledged to be two degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures. Now at almost one degree Celsius above preindustrial measurements, DARA Internacional (2012) estimated that 5 million deaths per year are attributable to human driven climate change and a global carbon-based energy system, with a disproportionate number of deaths in "developing," low-polluting regions (p. 17). In an historic recognition of this threat, almost 200 nations signed an agreement at the Paris COP21 Climate Change Summit in December 2015 to drastically reduce carbon emissions to cut the pace of the Earth's temperature rise by 2020. However optimistic this sounds, the agreement largely lacks "teeth," and, tellingly, removed every reference to Indigenous rights from the areas of the document considered enforceable (Karembelas, 2015). Omitted at the behest of former and current colonial powers--the U.K, the E.U., the U.S., and Norway--afraid of "the legal liability that would follow a mandated recognition of indigenous groups" (Karembelas, 2015, para. 2), this erasure of words, peoples, and cultures has far-reaching environmental impacts, including river damming on indigenous lands and massive indigenous dispossession and displacement, all in the name of slowing carbon emissions and climate change. Eliminating Indigenous peoples' rights and voices in this process rather shortsightedly ignores what Alberto Saldamando, legal counsel for the Indigenous Environmental Network, simply observes, "Indigenous peoples have lived in harmony with the earth for millennia. They have a great deal to contribute to a harmonious relationship with Mother Earth. ... Harmony and equity with the Earth appear to be unknown concepts in dominant societies. It is something that they must learn and come to terms with" (Lewis, para. 24). While corporations, governments, and nongovernment organizations make plans for what nations must do by 2020, many of us in education recognize that for true and long-lasting change to occur, we must start by teaching the world's children something different from what has led us to this global climate precipice--namely colonialism, racism, sexism, classism, ableism, gender oppression, and so forth--the enter-twining systems of oppression that empower a few at the expense of many. Many educators constructed within this system, do not feel adequately prepared to push back against this system in their classrooms, especially during times of accountability, high stakes testing, and loss of curricular control. Renowned Indigenous scholar Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs) (1) offers mainstream educators a curricular anti-dote with his book Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education (2013), (2) an ambitious curriculum project at a critical moment in American education. In its Preface, Four Arrows (2013) acknowledges the numerous voices clamoring about the American public schools' failure, and he insists the evidence of this claim's truth is that "life systems on Earth are at a tipping point" (p. x), resulting from what he describes as the corporatized, hegemonic ideologies of the undemocratic American curricula and pedagogy. In 2001, decrying the "dismal state" of Indian education, Raymond Cross argued that we must "confront deeply embedded historic, cultural, and legal biases" (as cited in Juneau, 2001, p. …

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