So far, it's pretty cool; kudos to designers of online courses, this mix of web pages, video clips, audio, and discussion forum is a nice multimedia salad, even if it is still disembodied.
The first week introduces the idea of 'colonization of the mind'. I was introduced to this idea a couple years ago when I read Jeannette Armstrong's novels. My basic understanding is that when two cultures come into contact and one culture has advantages that undercut the other, then it can give rise to assumptions about the value, worthiness, and abilities of the people of the cultures. 'Decolonizing the mind' is the process of bringing our subconscious assumptions to light, examining what we know, and feeling the guilt, fear, and other emotions that arise as we explore the pain of our Aboriginal-Settler history.
I'm really excited about the talks by Dr. Susan Dion, who discusses the 'perfect stranger' attitude that good, honest, well-meaning folks often adopt; and how this, at best, simply prevents us from entering into our own process of 'decolonizing the mind' and developing living relationships with aboriginal people; and at worst, perpetuates a cycle of fear and denial of discourse in the classroom.
I've definitely adopted a 'perfect stranger' attitude sometimes. What do I know about aboriginal people in Canada? Classmates of mine in school, one of whom lived on a reserve and was harsh, and taught me the word 'herpes'; another who was adopted, and was just brown-skinned and I didn't think anything more of it until somebody actually asked him his heritage, and we were all impressed that he was Haida. We had learned about the Haida and the First Nations in Social Studies. My earliest memories were of wandering around on the fields and dykes around my house, looking up at the mountains and around me at the plants, trees, and rivers, and marvelling that the First Nations had made their livelihoods out of them, and desperate to learn to do the same, and so desperately sad that people were building roads and ugly subdivisions and clear cutting the forest instead. My Grade 11 Humanities teacher, Mr. Dan Lundine, a former prairies RCMP officer, who introduced our First Nations unit with a personal and passionate soliloquy about his own assumptions and how he was humbled in them, and his journey in reconciliation.
And then as an adult, feeling so sad and guilty when I meet aboriginal artists. And also angry at them sometimes, because even though I know we can't go back to living on the land in the same way that the ancestors did, I feel that we're missing the point if we think culture exists in art and music and dance, even language -- those are only the traces! We've lost the meaningfulness, the livelihoods that gave rise to those ways of being, that gave rise to those customs and art. Driving in cars and watching screens is the dominant way of being now, the culture as it is, and anyone who doesn't or won't or can't do that is being left behind.