Owning My Ignorance

Indigenous Nationhood
Empowering Grassroots Citizens

By Pamela Palmater  Foreword by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair  

My recent post about setting personalized reading goals for myself was simply a way to celebrate a love of reading/literacy and encourage lifelong learning. In my roles as teacher librarian, ESL teacher, teacher of students with special education needs, equity & social justice advocate, parent, ally and human being, I feel that these simple goals guide my practice and support my learning stance.

One of my goals was to balance out my reading of fiction with non-fiction.

To that end I selected Indigenous Nationhood: Empowering Grassroots Citizens by Pamela Palmater as my first non-fiction of the summer.

I keep reading and rereading various entries in the book which is a collection of blog posts gathered together. So much so that I have yet to complete it in the time I had assumed it would take. I am full of emotions that one might typically attribute to an epic, tragic work of fiction. I move from anger, to sadness, to shame, to confusion in a single post. I am talking out loud to the book. I am crying. I am sharing facts with my family (getting into some heated debates too).

But I will take full ownership of and responsibility for my ignorance.

As a child in elementary school in the 1980s in Ontario I can honestly say that no one told me that Indigenous Nations still existed. They were presented as history and portrayed as romantic fiction. I took history and law in high school but, nothing was addressed. I was an english/history major in university and I focussed much of my learning on Canadian Women’s Studies but, nothing was addressed.

I still take full ownership of and responsibility for my ignorance.

I always knew that Indigenous peoples were conquered and I always knew this was wrong. But I had no understanding of what the realities of living with the oppression of the Canadian government and the ignorance of our society as a whole were doing to the daily lives of the people today.

Obviously as an adult and educator I know that my juvenile perception was completely wrong. I know that Indigenous Nations exist and have met members of various communities. But I still did not get it. (I argue I still don’t get it – but I am moving forward.) I try as a teacher librarian to gather reflective and authentic texts that bring the Indigenous voices to our students. But I have never felt confident in my understanding of the history and current lived experiences of the Indigenous peoples.

Yet, I still take full ownership of and responsibility for my ignorance.

I am on a journey of enlightenment but, I am still afraid. I am afraid to say the wrong thing and hurt someone. I am afraid to do nothing. I am afraid to fully comprehend the genocide perpetrated by my own government. I am afraid to do nothing. I am afraid to misrepresent myself as a voice for others. I am afraid to do nothing.

But I have no idea what to do…

And yet I take full ownership of and responsibility for my ignorance.

As a privileged white Canadian woman I know everyday that I have easy access and unearned positive assumptions that work in my favour. What I need to do now is find out what I can actually do to change things.

I suggest that anyone wanting to know more gives the book a read. It’s not easy to process but so important.

Follow @Pam_Palmater on Twitter.

Go to her website and read her current blog posts http://www.indigenousnationhood.com

Watch the investigative journalism on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network http://aptn.ca

And if you are like me – own your ignorance. I humbly do.

— Finding The Magic - blog entry

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