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Social Studies

Sharing Circles:
Reflection on “Disrupting Molded Images: Identities, Responsibilities and Relationships—Teachers and Indigenous Subject Material” By Susan Dion

During my Social Studies class this year I completed an online sharing circle about an article entitled “Disrupting Molded Images: Identities, Responsibilities and Relationships—Teachers and Indigenous Subject Material '' by a York University professor named Susan Dion. In this article, Dion discusses the importance of creating ethical awareness among teachers as a means of transforming the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada (Dion, 2007, p. 330). Dion begins by discussing how dominant discourses and stereotypical images of Indigenous people are reinforced through the education system as well as the ways in which educators can transform their practice. 


Throughout the article, Dion references the idea of the “perfect stranger,” stating that teachers, and Canadians in general, often claim to know nothing about Indigenous people. This is due to many people recognizing that what they know is premised on a range of experiences with stereotypical representations of Indigenous people. Teachers may pose as the “perfect stranger” in the classroom as a means of protecting themselves from recognizing their implication in and knowledge of the history between Indigenous people and Canadians. Additionally, it could be due to the fear of offending or the fear of introducing controversial subject matter that challenges the dominant stories of Canada (Dion, 2007, p.331).


 Dion states that instead of posing oneself as the “perfect stranger” educators must engage in critical self-reflection and open dialogue with students. Teachers may begin by learning from a community of Indigenous artists, learning from the work of their students and by recognizing their engagement and relationship with Indigenous people and Indigenous knowledge (as seen through Dion’s “The File of (Un)certanties” assignment). Overall, Dion’s article argues that educators and Canadians need to learn from the history of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canadians. Educators must also recognize how their engagement with dominant discourses has informed their knowledge and reproduction of dominant ways of knowing about Indigenous people (Dion, 2007, p.340). 


As a non-Indigenous person, the relationship my family, heritage and community has with contemporary Indigenous peoples is mainly based on our consumption of Indigenous literature and art. My community has a relationship with Indigenous people through the McMichael Art Gallery which is located on the original lands of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe People.  The McMichael was my first introduction to historical and contemporary Canadian and Indigenous art and stands as a resource for people in my community to access Indigenous art. 


Additionally, my mother is an English teacher and has read works of literature by Indigenous writers to my sister and I since we were children. One piece of literature that has stuck with my family and was also an important part of the English curriculum at my highschool is Thomas King’s CBC Massey Lecture “The Truth About Stories.” In this lecture King teaches that, “...the truth about stories is that that’s all we are'' (King, 2003, p.2). This has shaped my relationship with Indigenous people as it has taught me the importance of storytelling and the power it has to define a person or a group of people. Due to colonialist systems such as residential schools, Indigenous cultures and identities have faded with the loss of traditional language. Thomas King has taught my family and I the importance of our role as Indigenous people to listen to Indigenous stories as a means of allowing them to reclaim their voices and their stories in a meaningful way. 


My relationship to contemporary Indigenous people has also been shaped by my education. I have been fortunate enough to have taken many Indigenous centered courses throughout my undergraduate degree. Although I have read literature and historical works about Indigenous people, what has informed my education the most is my experience at a Sisters in Spirit Candle Light Vigil for missing and murdered Indigenous women (I attended this event with my Women’s Studies class). At this event, an elder spoke about her granddaughter who went missing ten years ago. She spoke of how she prayed to the medicine Gods, and when her granddaughter did not return she no longer believed in them. After eight years she was finally healing and began to realize the importance of life. The elder used the metaphor of a tree and its roots reaching out to all the world and holding hands to teach us about the value of life, togetherness, unity, friendship, honour, and dignity. She said that she looks at the tree every morning, and it reminds her that we are given mother earth to encourage, support and love us. The main lesson I learned from her is that we have to ask ourselves as we are moving through the day if we are doing everything we can on this day to support tomorrow. This stuck with me because, unfortunately, we cannot take back injustices that happened in the past. I learned that, as non-Indigenous people, we need to do everything we can to create a better tomorrow for Indigenous people. The first steps to achieving this are to acknowledge our relationship with Indigenous people and to allow those who have been oppressed to regain a voice that was taken from them long ago. 


Although I have been fortunate enough to have experienced some Indigenous education, as a future educator I still have a lot of work to do to ensure that I am fostering effective learning about Indigenous histories, perspectives and experiences in my Social Studies classrooms. I will continue to educate myself on Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing as a means of dismantling an education system that reinforces dominant narratives about Indigenous people. Dion’s article has also taught me the importance of recognizing both our personal relationships and Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people and culture. As a future educator, Dion’s “The File of (Un)certanties” assignment really stood out to me. Throughout my schooling I have learned about Indigenous histories as well as the importance of Indigenous voices and stories but have never considered my position in relation to Indigenous people. As my position as an educator evolves I will continue to find ways to incorporate content into my classrooms that focuses on the celebration of cultural differences and antiracist education (Dion, 2007, p. 334). Dion’s article reminded me that as educators, we are also life-long learners and that my ability to foster a learning environment that teaches about Indigenous histories, perspectives and experiences will continue to evolve throughout my career.


Dion, Susan D. (2007). Disrupting Molded Images: Identities, Responsibilities and 

Relationships—Teachers and Indigenous Subject Material. Teaching Education, vol. 18, no.4, pp. 329-342. 


King, Thomas. The Truth about Stories. House of Anansi Press inc, 2003.


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