Scribe challenges educators to disrupt the system

February 12, 2020

Chris Scribe implored those educators in attendance at Learning From Practice to be the spark that can lead to greater inclusion of Indigenous ways of knowing in their teaching practices.

Chris Scribe reminded those attending the Learning From Practice conference that most important of all is “I’m an Indian first.”

That set the tone for his keynote presentation as he shared a rich array of stories and observations with a riveted audience of teacher researchers from throughout the province.

Scribe, who is the director of the Indian Teacher Education Program at the University of Saskatchewan, challenged the educators in the room to thinking differently in the future, especially in terms of incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing in their teachings.

According to Scribe, he gets asked all the time why teachers have to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing with their students. He had a succinct answer, sharing how he teaches English although it was not his first language. So, reciprocally he put forth the idea that there is no reason non-Indigenous teachers can’t make that same adjustment.

“By not having that rich history of Indigenous ways of knowing, our students are missing out on something that is very powerful. I know from my perspective those are the moments I remember every single day and I share everything with my students.”

Scribe is of Nakota/Nehiyaw (Assiniboine/Cree) heritage and hails from the Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation.

Learning from his father and grandmother in his formative years has had a lasting, profound effect on his own education and how he sees the world.

Scribe stressed the importance of teachers being “natural space” creative in their teachings.

“Our education system is still based on the Industrial Revolution model. Everything needs to fit in a box, and so why are we only giving students half of what they need to know? We continue to fail Indigenous kids and that should not be OK,” Scribe said.

Furthermore, Scribe insisted greater emphasis on including Indigenous knowledge can 100 percent include the diverse range of new Canadians who have emigrated here from elsewhere in recent years.

“We’re doing our students overall a disservice in the current system and by including Indigenous knowledge in their education, we will be able to make a difference.”

Recalling a conversation he had with his grandfather about how he was being taught Cree with a pen and paper, it was suggested to him that this approach to education was what took Indigenous cultures to the brink of destruction by undermining the traditional ways of experiencing education.

“If education can do this, it can do the opposite too; if we do it right,” Scribe offered. “This system is designed to kill Indigenous peoples, but we have it within our grasp to change the system. Currently the system is not designed for Indigenous youth to succeed and so we have to disrupt the system.”

Although, in his current role, he is afforded the opportunity to share his message with a larger audience, Scribe also acknowledged that “this conversation isn’t going to save the world, but it’s a spark to start a fire. We need to work together to disrupt the system.”

Editor’s Note: In the April 15 issue we will present a more in-depth look at what has fuelled Scribe’s passion for education, including the invaluable advice he has incorporated from not only his family members as a youth, but also western scholars in his adult years.