Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

On Ne Peut Effacer Les Recits Coloniaux : Les Histoires Racontees et la Litteratie Critique De la Terre

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

On Ne Peut Effacer Les Recits Coloniaux : Les Histoires Racontees et la Litteratie Critique De la Terre

Article excerpt

We Cannot Call Back Colonial Stories: Storytelling and Critical Land Literacy


Once a story is told, it cannot be called back. Once told, it is loose in the world. So you have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told.

--Thomas King (2003, p. 10)

Stories possess the power of meaning-making. They shape how we engage with and make sense of our lives. The stories we are told and those we tell both frame and reflect our understandings of ourselves, of the world around us, and of our place within it. It is in this way that Thomas King (2003) asserts that stories, both wondrous and dangerous, "can control our lives" (p. 9); that essentially, stories are "all we are" (p. 2). The stories that pre-service teachers engage with and internalize shape their emerging teaching philosophies and pedagogical practices. As teachers, many will act as the central storytellers in their classrooms (Strong-Wilson, Yoder, & Phipps, 2014), making conscious and subconscious decisions about what to pass on to their students.

In this article we discuss the role of stories and storytelling in both shaping and revealing pre-service teachers' understandings of land. In 2016, we conducted a pilot study with Bachelor of Education students in a course on Media, Technology, and Education. Students were asked to create digital stories about their relationship with land, which we subsequently examined to assess digital storytelling as a participatory visual method of inquiry and to identify dominant themes that emerged in their narratives.

Participants share childhood experiences of learning on and from land, emotional connections to land as "home" and nation, and a sense of responsibility to care for land. Some participants acknowledge multiple, contested definitions of land. However, most of their stories do not suggest a critical engagement with historical and ongoing social-political and economic relations involving land. The stories thus highlight how understandings of and connections to land come from the "personal, community, national and global narratives" available to us (Styres, 2008, p. 75, note 17), and emerge through our material, theoretical, spiritual, and emotional engagements and ways of knowing (Tuck, McKenzie, & McCoy, 2014; Styres, Haig-Brown, & Blimkie, 2013; Styres, 2011). If teacher candidates only know land through stories promoting settler-colonial and capitalist ideas, their impulse and ability to critique those ideas and the social relations they uphold remain limited. As future teachers, what stories will they then bring into their classrooms? Hence we identify the need in Teacher Education to foster more complex understandings of land informed by critical social theories and Indigenous knowledges, which we discuss as "critical land literacy." We contend that the development of racial literacy and critical land literacy can support anti-colonial praxis (thinking and acting against coloniality), without reducing Indigeneity and decolonization to depoliticized metaphors. We locate this work in conversation with a burgeoning area of scholarship that recognizes the epistemological and pedagogical value of storytelling and asserts the role of land as a first teacher from where all learning proceeds (Chambers, 2006, 2008; Haig-Brown & Dannenmann, 2002, 2008; Haig-Brown & Hodson, 2009; Haig-Brown, 2005; L. B. Simpson, 2014; Styres, 2011; Zinga & Styres, 2011).

Personal Introductions

As non-Indigenous scholars teaching and conducting research at a settler- colonial university located on unceded Kanien'keha:ka (Mohawk) territory, we are deeply implicated in this work and do not pretend to be outside of the colonial-capitalist relations that we critique. An awareness of the incomplete and ongoing nature of our own learning as we think critically about where we have come from and the kinds of stories we have believed and perpetuated reminds us to remain humble in relation to the starting points of settler students. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.