- Jo-ann Archibald / Q'um Q'um Xiiem (Author)
Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit. University of British Columbia Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Peter Kulchyski (Author)
The Red Indians: An Episodic, Informal Collection of Tales from the History of Aboriginal People's Struggles in Canada. Arbeiter Ring (purchase at Amazon.ca)
The English language used in this review cannot fully translate the diverse knowledges of First Nations people; however, the value, integrity, and necessity of understanding First Nations systems of knowledge are increasingly recognized in primarily English-language educational forums. Histories of academic exploitation of indigenous persons and resources have engendered valid questions of access, use, and ownership. The potential for harm is so great that the inability to address these questions can be a barrier to education. Jo-ann Archibald/Q'um Q'um Xiiem's Indigenous Storywork works towards reconciling this epistemological alienation and welcomes students to the centre of the educational First Nations circle as she teaches the core principles of ethical "storywork." As she recounts her own journey, Archibald establishes that education occurs when learning becomes being. In his distinctive anti-capital writing style, Peter Kulchyski's The Red Indians also works against educational estrangement by providing students with a collection of core historical stories about Aboriginal peoples' relationships with the political development of Canada. With guidance rather than restriction, both Archibald and Kulchyski cultivate educational possibilities.
Archibald demonstrates the need for methodological principles for ethical story research. The combination of memorability, particularity, and portability of stories are part of what make stories an effective educational medium. First Nations stories are the lived meaning of orally literate cultures: they are powerful. While First Nations stories are meant to be told, they belong to people entrusted with them and trained to ensure that they are told within the right contexts. First Nations stories require long-term connections between Elders and students that foster what Archibald describes as a Stó:lÅ basket of tools to hear, understand, and tell. Archibald chronicles her Elder-led education in the seven principles of a theoretical framework for storywork: respect, responsibility, reciprocity, reverence, holism, interrelatedness, and synergy. As Archibald holistically tells stories connected to her identity as a Stó:lÅ woman, she digs into the difficult issues of language, colonialism, resources, and interpersonal relationships with people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Her discussion of orality, literacy, the concern of loss of stories and story content is especially strong because she follows the Elders' guidance in weighing each of these matters in light of practical considerations for current needs and healthy futures. The Elders themselves embody hope because their life stories are evidence of resistance and persistence, despite colonialism. A central goal of her work is to "make systematic change so that learning institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities appropriately recognize and provide compensation for the knowledge expertise of Elders and cultural teachers." Archibald's candid assessments of the ways in which she and others have sometimes ineptly used stories are impressive because they enrich the warning that stories can be told in destructive ways by using them as teaching tools for how storywork might be done better.
Kulchyski acts out his theoretical position by writing a book without capitals, indexes, or academic referencing formats. If he refers to a publication, it is usually a recommendation by name and title only. In writing this way, Kulchyski separates his work from "other histories of canada," thereby performing the assertion "in the physical look of these words that history needs to be rethought." As a visual medium brought closer to an auditory experience, the stories told in The Red Indians are persuasive because they unapologetically rest on Kulchyski's authority. Kulchyski's episodes balance brevity with constructive detail and, taken together, cover a great deal of history and territory. By detailing the points of continuity that link these stories from early "contact" to the present day, Kulchyski advances his central argument that the First Nations peoples are foundational to the Canadian state.
Both Kulchyski's and Archibald's books draw the reader into core stories in distinctive ways. Archibald's Indigenous Storywork is not a rigid manual, if one could be written, for using First Nations stories in Canada. It is far better. Through her hard-work and experience Archibald has accomplished the extremely challenging task of gathering, evaluating, and passing on the gift of a basket of tools that anyone interested in engaging storywork can pick up and draw upon in their own transformative education. Kulchyski's book would be especially useful in a university-level course on Aboriginal issues because it is, in itself, a core story of Canada and a provocative tale that will incite further study. Archibald and Kulchyski's works break through what can be the most daunting barrier of all: where to start.
- Nothing Like That by John Moffatt
Books reviewed: North Spirit: Travels among the Cree and Ojibway Nations and their Star Maps by Paulette Jiles
- Land, Culture, Property by Sophie McCall
Books reviewed: Making Native Space: Colonialism, Resistance, and Reserves in British Columbia by Cole Harris and Preserving What is Valued: Museums, Conservation and First Nations by Miriam Clavir
- Value in Collaboration by Megan A. Smetzer
Books reviewed: An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English by Terry Goldie and Daniel David Moses and A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples by Barry M. Pritzker
- Just be Natural, huh? by John Moffatt
Books reviewed: The Buz'gem Blues by Drew Hayden Taylor
- Isn't That Funny? by Lisa Close
Books reviewed: Humor in Contemporary Native North American Literature: Reimagining Nativeness by Eva Gruber, Drew Hayden Taylor: Essays on His Work by Robert C. Nunn, and Me Sexy: An Exploration of Native Sex and Sexuality by Drew Hayden Taylor
MLA: Archibald / Q'um Q'um Xiiem, Jo-ann, Jacobs, Madelaine, Jacobs, Madelaine, and Kulchyski, Peter. Core Storytelling. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #200 (Spring 2009), Strategic Nationalisms. (pg. 124 - 125)
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