Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Wab Kinew

     It takes a specific set of skills in order to be an effective public speaker. I'm not talking about the teacher who stands in front of their classroom kind of public speaker, although that takes some skills as well! I'm talking about the kind of public speaker who can stand in front of a diverse group of people, deliver a powerful message on what can be a controversial subject area and have the audience hanging off their every word. This is exactly the type of public speaker Wab Kinew is.

     Last night my fiance and I were lucky enough to attend Wab Kinew's talk at our university. As the host of the documentary series 8th Fire, a reporter/producer for CBC News Winnipeg and a celebrated hip-hop artist, Wab Kinew addressed aboriginal stereotypes, the importance of education for all youth and the new relationship that needs to occur between Canada and the Aboriginal community. I cannot begin to write a full break-down of Wab's presentation as he covered so many good points that I know I can't explain as eloquently as he did, but here are some of my thoughts:
     Wab spoke directly and openly about many of the stereotypes surrounding Aboriginal people in our society: lazy, don't pay taxes, criminals, outcasts, etc. Growing up on the Onigaming First Nation Reserve in northwestern Ontario, however, Wab's vision of his people was that of a proud, hard-working, determined people. How do we address this drastic difference in perspective? Wab's personal stories strongly reminded me of Chimamanda Adichie's TED Talk on the "Danger of a Single Story" and the misunderstandings and discrimination that can occur when we are only presented with one story about a person, or group of people.

 This video is a bit on the long side, 19 mins, but I strongly recommend it!!

     With a background in history and geography, I recognize how important perspective is when it comes to teaching any subject, but especially social studies. For example, did you know that after graduation Aboriginal women earn more, on average, than Aboriginal men with the same education? Did you also know that Aboriginal people are entering entrepreneurial opportunities 3x faster than non-Aboriginal people? Those stats definitely do not mesh with the common stereotypes of Aboriginal people as lazy or not able to positively contribute to society.

     It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and our children on the importance of seeing the world through other people's eyes and learning history from all sides of the story, not just that of the victor. George Santayana stated that, "Those who cannot remember their past are condemned to repeat it". If we, as teachers, do not address Aboriginal perspective in our classrooms we are being as close-minded as our descendants who placed Aboriginal youth in residential schools.

     As I start my last year of my education degree I realize that I will soon be approaching certification and, hopefully, getting a teaching position. That means that I will be a part of the team that is responsible for teaching the youth of Manitoba, many of which are coming from Aboriginal backgrounds. As such, it is increasingly important that I consciously include Aboriginal perspective/culture into my classroom as opposed to presenting information solely from the perspective of the Europeans, which is historically how our education system has been set up. In addition to attending talks such as Wab Kinew's, I am also taking an Aboriginal Studies course this semester which I hope will assist me in this area. I know that I will definitely be following Wab Kinew as I move forward in life and whole-hardheartedly recommend that you attend one of Wab's talks if you have an opportunity!

Wab Kinew Building Connections, aboriginal perspectives, Wab Kinew in Brandon
Photo Credit: CBC
Thanks for your insight Wab, I left your presentation feeling inspired!
To learn more about Wab Kinew and follow his projects:

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