Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Native Education

Decolonizing Métis Pedagogies in Post-Secondary Settings

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Native Education

Decolonizing Métis Pedagogies in Post-Secondary Settings

Article excerpt

This article asks how post-secondary education and scholarship can facilitate critical and engaged reclamations of Métis knowledge through critical intellectual and experiential engagement. First, it explores dominant representations of Metis political and cultural experience in historical perspective, and considers these implications for Metis students and communities. This examination identifies a problem that we address by envisioning models of engaged pedagogy, based on insights from author bell hooks, which draw upon on a particular stream of thought in Michel Foucault's later work. It concludes with a discussion of the possibilities of decolonizing representations of Metis history and politics, through the exploration of relational land- and community-based pedagogies.

Over the past century, Métis1 scholarship has largely been defined by nonMétis scholars to meet Canadian interests, in the process ascribing to Metis people a kind of Métis identity that both shapes and constrains them. When we look at how this identity is debated in post-secondary contexts, we are faced with a whole series of unique issues, the most notable being a convergence of a large number of Métis students with differing backgrounds and self-understandings on university campuses across Canada, reflected in differing levels of engagements with and expressions of their identity. Indigenous spaces on campus are sometimes unwelcoming to Métis students, leading some students to avoid these spaces altogether. Métis students are especially susceptible to being bombarded with uncontested negative or misleading portrayals of their people and their history. Without an Indigenous student support network that can provide critiques of the colonial narratives that are omnipresent in the university classroom, or that can assist in elaborating alternative ones, Métis students can be left to deal with these narratives on their own, in relative isolation. The critical question for us is how do we uproot these colonizing narratives through self-reflective scholarship? Our intention, then, is to critically deconstruct two colonial discourses, exemplified by the work of John Ralston Saul and Tom Flanagan, that lay claim to Metis experiences, and to use this deconstruction as an opening to theorize landand community-based approaches to Metis scholarship and pedagogy in higher education. By critically analyzing the theoretical underpinnings of these common discourses of Métis identity, we can better envision a pedagogy that is premised on Métis understandings of ourselves, and one that invites Métis students to articulate more accurate and relevant selfunderstandings. Decolonizing Métis pedagogy will point towards two goals: 1) a pedagogical consideration of methods for fostering the intellectual skills and orientations necessary to analyze critically the colonial narratives of Métis-ness that confront students; and 2) an exploration of Métis possibilities that are grounded in Métis experiences and relationships within and between communities.

Métis as Unproblematic Canadians: Liberal and Conservative Narratives of Métis-ness

In this paper, we will analyze the theoretical assumptions that underpin two dominant narratives of Métis-ness that Métis students are most likely to encounter during their post-secondary education. The first is a liberal narrative found in John Ralston Saul's A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada (2008). Saul argues that Canada is founded on Aboriginal and European political principles, and because of this mixture of cultures, he calls Canada a métis civilization. The second narrative has conservative origins that can be traced to the very beginnings of Métis studies - the idea that Métis are a simple people, easily manipulated by outside agitators - a narrative most successfully popularized by Tom Flanagan in his Louis 'David' Riel: Prophet of the New World (1979). In Flanagan's work, this outside agitator is Louis Riel, who is represented as being motivated not by a concern for justice and Métis rights, but by his own vanity, failed political career, as well as the outside influences of Roman Catholicism and Quebec nationalism. …

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