Monday, 27 July 2015

Blue Quills - My Journey into Indigenous History: Spirituality, Inclusivity and Respect

By Barbara Gardner, 1st year MDP student

Barbara (L) with Blue Quills students
My field placement this summer is in St. Paul, Alberta at the Blue Quills First Nations College.  It is my belief that as a non-indigenous person in the field of Development Practice with an Indigenous focus, it is incumbent on me to learn all I can, first hand, by living and working within an indigenous community. Prior to my arrival, I had grand plans regarding attending community meetings and participating in social programmes with the ultimate goal being to strengthen my prowess as a researcher.  However, I have come to recognize that there is so much more to the total sum of individuals and therefore, I require more interactions and understanding of indigenous methods to adequately fulfill my goal.

My first interactions with the indigenous community was through their annual Culture Camp which is held annually on the College campus.  In addition to providing information to non-indigenous persons, it allows the indigenous community to reconnection with the environment and their history; refreshing and restoring the mind, body and spirit.                                                 

Cultural camp grounds
At this point in the field placement, what has stood out prominently for me is the collective determination within academia at the institution as well as other indigenous researchers to continually engage and strengthen their community members.  This is demonstrated through the participation of women, including Elders in research circles and academic planning, which are about women and their perspectives on development. Being present in meetings as well as other community gatherings has allowed me to appreciate the caring and nurturing being done in these communities to ensure continuity.  Hearing the views of the Elders, their plans and aspirations for the band members, has provided greater understanding about the need to preserve their cultural heritage and appreciate how this will impact development in the long term.  I was also struck by how inclusive and patient the members of academia, students as well as and the wider communities are regarding sharing information about their belief regarding the environment and their spirituality to aid me in my 
overall understanding of indigeneity. Being able to observe and 
participate in the circles and meetings has added another layer to 
my own development. 

Research circle participants

I am actively engaged in the work of the Literacy Department and my next blog post will provide an update as to my participation in the community workshops and seminars being planned.  This placement is proving a wealth of worthwhile experiences, allowing me to explore various aspects of the culture, how the decisions taken will potentially affect development planning and sustainability and importantly allowing me to experience personal growth outside of my comfort zone. 


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