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Matt Quesnelle

on 14 July 2015

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Transcript of Chief

Above is a photo of my dad in grade 5. I found it in a box full of photos when I was in elementary school. This photo caught my eye because it was so dated, though mostly because of my dad’s expression and positioning. In the picture my dad looks like he just got caught doing some sort of mischief, of which he admitted he did a lot. He admitted that school was secondary to him because he had difficulties understanding the concepts and had more success helping out with farm. This preference makes sense, as Toulouse (2006) points out that "Aboriginal students tend to lean towards hands on activities" (p. 5). This love of being "hands on" would carry on throughout his life. Position wise, he is in front of the nun who was his teacher and also beside a local priest, who worked with troublesome students and therefore my dad.
A couple days after seeing this photo my dad and I were driving in a truck. He told me that the nun in the photo use to bang his head off the blackboard when he couldn’t get math questions correct at the front of class. Now this isn’t the worst thing to happen to Indigenous students in comparison to residential schools (Stout & Kipling, 2003). The incidences that occurred at residential schools were horrific, though I believe that my dad can relate to being abused at the hands of a Catholic official. For his experiences and abilities as a child, he slowly lost interest in school and dropped out of high school in grade 9. His dropping out due to lack of interest and disconnection with staff are some of the major factors contributing to Indiginous drop out rates (Ravina, 2014). Even more surprisingly is that he was four times as likely to drop out of school because he was indiginous (Ravina, 2014).
Life went on though, my dad got married, had kids, and contiued on working in a T.V. factory to fund his love affair with nature.

My father never made strides to own a huge house or drive a fancy truck. Instead he instilled in my brother and I the riches of being happy and spiritual in nature. The fact that money isn't everything and that wealth and spirituality are not always what they seem.

I created the next picture as a symbolic image of his values.
Dempsey, H. A. (2006). Big Bear. Vancouver, Canada:
Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

Ravina, B. (2014).
Myths and Realities of First
Nations Education
. Centre for Aboriginal Policy Studies.

Stout, M. & Kipling, G. (2003).
people, resilience and the residential school legacy
. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Toulouse, P.R. (2006). Supporting Aboriginal student
success: Self-esteem and identity, a living teachings approach. Retrieved December 14, 2007, from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca.
Now retired, I find that my dad has copious amounts of time to do the things he loves. Whether hunting deer, slaying fish, or finding morels, he is continuously in the woods, puttering around. My uncle once told me that my dad was one of the richest guys he knew. I didn't really understand what he meant; the guy worked in a factory all his life making T.V. tubes. Though it slowly dawned on me, with the assistance of my uncle, that my father had a connection with nature and he knew that it was this that
made him happy in life, and that some people die without ever really finding this "raison d'etre". In terms of leading others my father was not that pivotal, what he has taught me is deep connection with nature, a type of self leadership. That instead of finding my spirituality inside a traditional church, instead this can be done within nature. As he use to tell me that a deerless hunt, or a fishless night out on the lake was never wasted time. Although my dad did not succeed in school, he did find a classroom outside of it that he learned from and grounded him in spirituality.
My dad was Metis and lucky enough to find his connection and spirituality with nature. Coming from a family that was heavily influenced by christian practices, I believe he rediscovered a portion of what was his Indigenous heritage. On the other spectrum of being indigenous and forced to assimilate to western culture, there are thousands of Indigenous people throughout Canadian history (Stout & Kipling, 2003). Although being a leadership class, there is one Indigenous leader who exemplified this for me. Big Bear, Mistahi-maskwa, was a great Indigenous leader and truly demonstrated strong Indigenous leadership traits of being peaceful, patient, and cooperative; at least after becoming chief (Dempsey, 2006). Big Bear also lived close to where I currently teach in Meadow Lake, SK. He used this area when hiding from the Canadian government after the Frog Lake murders; a personal connection.
Although after surrendering for supposed treason against the Canadian government, Big Bear lost his wealth of family and freedom. Sadly, Big bear was sent to Stony Mountain Penitentiary, a prison that still holds a higher percentage of his Indiginous people in comparison to other demographics (Ravina, 2014). And perhaps it was Big Bears imprisonment
that was one of the incarcerations of Indigenous persons in Canadian history that was based on misunderstandings and clear lack of cooperation by the Canadian government.
My father was born into a Catholic farming family. From his stories, being the fourth of ten children had strong ties with the recommendations of the families local priest, and nothing to do with the desires of my grandparents. Even with his upbringing in spirituality and culture, he's always had a connection with his Metis heritage. Whether in spiritual belief, culture, or struggle, my father has a worldview of being Indigenous.
From my blood to the land I'm living on, there are many examples of Indiginous leadership around me. My father learning his Metis culture through nature, while opposite to him is Big Bear who lost his culture through misguided incarceration. What both leaders demonstrate to me is a peaceful existence with others and nature.

Completing this photo voice project I have become increasingly interested on how I can be a better teacher to Indigenous students in my own classes. Specifically I am interested in the strategies that I can use in order to decrease their anxiety in the classroom and increase their success.
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