Crystal Gail Fraser and Sara Komarnisky. Photo credit: Sara Komarnisky.
This post originally appeared in French on Histoire Engagée on June 7, 2018. Many thanks to Andrea Eidinger for her work translating this post.
In the winter of 2018, I had the opportunity to teach HST2444, Autochtones, État et société au Canada at the Université de Montréal. Over the course of the entire semester, I relied extensively on media in both my classes and weekly discussions, including the poster series Remember/Resist/Redraw, and some of the short videos from Wapikoni mobile. Both proved to be extremely useful pedagogical tools that resulted in vigorous, and I would add, necessary, conversations about Canadian historical narratives. Towards the end of the semester, I had my students read the 150 Acts of Reconciliation, by Crystal Gail Fraser and Sara Komarnisky. Originally published on ActiveHistory (and later in French on HistoireEngagée.ca) in summer 2017, #150Acts listed out 150 acts of reconciliation that any Canadians could undertake in the last 150 days of the Canada150 celebrations. As Fraser and Komarnisky noted, the TRC’s Calls to Action were mostly aimed at institutions, and many Canadians did not feel that they applied to them personally. Instead, Fraser and Komarnisky wanted to illustrate that reconciliation can be practiced in different ways and at multiple levels.
Today I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on my experience using this list in a classroom setting, and in doing so explain why I believe that it is such a valuable and useful tool for talking about reconciliation with students, regardless of the subject matter of the course.
Two Exercises for Reflection on Reconciliation
Even though I had required that students read the list prior to coming to class, I began the day’s discussion by distributing hard copies of it, and asking students to reread it and identify which actions:
A – were accomplished within the course
B – had already been completed by reading the list
C – seemed impossible or difficult to complete
D – they did not understand
E – they hoped to complete in the short or medium term.
I had several goals in mind when designing this exercise. Namely, I wanted my students to think critically about the material I covered in class within a larger social and political perspective. My students were able to see how much of the historical knowledge that was covered in HST 244 (for example, in actions #57, #60, #81 or #83) would be required for the decolonization of traditional narratives of Canadian and Quebec history, a decolonization that is essential for true reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (North America). My students were both shocked, and frustrated, to learn about the many aspects of Canadian history that they had never been exposed to in their previous educational experience. Continue reading