POSSIBILITY & PANDEMIC Indigenous Wisdom in the Time of Covid-19

Flyer by Stephanie Kwan, Library Technician at Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies.  Illustration by Mayra Pineda, student at SCAS.

In the early days of the quarantine, Emilee Gilpin wrote an article for Canada’s National Observer that sparked the idea for an online Indigenous speaker series.

She had interviewed Indigenous leaders from different parts of the world who had gathered in New York City for a conference on climate change.   There seemed to be a general consensus, supported by scientific research, that the pandemic is a direct result of the imbalances in nature caused by human activity on the planet.  A common message was emphasized, that solutions for finding a cure, and for living in balance with the environment can be found in the knowledge that is carried by Indigenous communities and in the biodiversity of their territories (which are currently under threat from the same human practices that led to the pandemic).

Our Indigenous Student Group and Equity Committee at SCAS got together online and planned a speaker series to connect our school community with Indigenous knowledge keepers, as a critical response to the situation we found ourselves in.   We invited a group of respected Elders, storytellers, and leaders from the Toronto Indigenous community and beyond to share their thoughts on what they thought were the most important things educators should be focusing on right now.   We asked for knowledge that could help facilitate a shift in thinking and maybe transform education, so that we wouldn’t go back to the same old ways that got us into the mess we are in with this pandemic.

We were thrilled when every person we invited responded with enthusiasm, agreeing to participate in this project.  We started with 4 guests, then mid-way through the series, our forward-thinking Principal offered to pay for 2 additional talks.  Neil Dyal you rock! I love how the students presented, and also, how my colleagues really put their hearts into their land acknowledgments. Migwetch to Christopher Desloges for his excellent contribution, and to everyone for participating, and listening to these incredible speakers. I hope you feel inspired!

To watch the talks, click on the images! 
Duke shares his vision for the future of education. He discusses technology, remote viewing, quantum computing, money, the guaranteed annual income, new ways to measure status, and the Food Forest teaching in this first talk during the early days of the quarantine.

Nyle explains the concept of First Family and shares The Gift of the Stars – a beautiful story passed down to him from his cousin Basil Johnston. Nyle discusses Thunderbird teachings, his experiences of racism in Ontario while growing up in the 90s, and the meaning of his painting entitled “Protection from a Great Sickness.”
Shortly after George Floyd’s murder, we talk with Lee about Black Lives Matter and Black/Indigenous solidarity. Lee explains the culture of racism and the steps we can take to interrupt it. She gives tips from her upcoming book on her approach for using Indigenous pedagogies in her practice.

Highlights:
The Culture of Racism (1:38)

Identity Issues (4:27)

Isaac discusses how to redefine success, to replace the rights based agenda with a responsibility based agenda, and to work collectively. Isaac explains how his family was impacted by colonial violence, and how the colonial education system was not the right match for the type of learning that he needed. He inspires teachers to work together to lift up the students who will be making positive changes in the near future.

Highlights:
Bimaadiziwin
(2:33)
Colonialism & Racism (1:38)