Learning from Place: A Return to Traditional Mushkegowuk Ways of Knowing
Reinhabitation and decolonization are achieved in a number of ways. In this article, the authors detail a research study based on some of the activities undertaken by the James Bay Cree community. The main theme that runs through the article is the connection to the land, the river and the environment that people have. Intergenerational learning about place is central to the reinhabitation and decolonization process. In particular, a 10-day river trip with youths, elders and adults was pivotal in the re-connection with the land, sense of community along the river, recognition of burial places (central to re-discovery of ancestors) and re-learning of language. The trip also highlighted the value land and river have on the social and economic well-being of the people. The concept of paquataskamik, even as a word itself, brought meaning to the deeply rooted connection between people and land. The re-mapping of key cultural and historical sites in the original language was also an important part of rehabitation and decolonization.
The concept of place can be adapted to most subject areas as a valuable tool of rehabitation and decolonization. This is especially true of my subject area, science. The easiest adaptation is the Indigenous naming of plants and phenomena (for example lightning). Since language is one of the most powerful tools of decolonization, using original terminology is crucial. Indigenous spiritual knowledge about nature also brings an important dimension when learning about science. This can be adapted in outdoor learning situations or even when students are in the class laboratory. And since science is infused with rich history and colourful individuals, the Indigenous scientific perspective and people should be included in the historical aspect of science.