The idea for this resource came from the need to create online Indigenous training tools for settler student affairs professionals at X University. Staff wanted to be able to better assist Indigenous university students and inform their praxis generally on Indigenous worldview and contemporary lived realities.
As a team we created a group of fictional characters whose paths intersect at school. We chose fiction as a resistance to the barrage of requests for Indigenous folx to rehash and perform the traumas of their personal lived experiences for the education and consumption of settlers. The privacy of student and instructor participants was also considered. We didn’t want to risk any safety concerns if stories were linked to our real identities online. There was a discussion of possible harassment concerns. Fiction allows us to interweave our various truths while being free of constraints such as personal identification or even the conventions of time and space.
The game will be used as a training resource aimed at instructors and student support workers who support Indigenous students attending postsecondary education institutions. The team discussed the open-source platform for the game and noted that we could allow the stories and objective to decide which is best. The team considered both Twine and H5P as possibilities. The goal of the game was established as to ‘open minds’ and increase cognitive and affective empathy for Indigenous students. The project team decided to prioritize getting the perspectives of Indigenous Elders. The project mentioned the importance of using the principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession *(OCAP).
In thinking about creating Indigenous characters, it was important to first note the one dimensional, deficit based, mischaracterization of Indigenous folx throughout history. The colonial project has required a clearly demarcated other to justify it’s gross injustices. This othering and negating of Indigenous humanity continues to this day through history texts, public discourses, media coverage and pop culture misrepresentation. In Their Moccasins was an opportunity to create characters that speak to multi-faceted intersecting Indigenous identities. We wanted this process to be fun as opposed to all the sadness that comes with pathologizing Indigeneity.
We considered that we would like to include Indigenous languages to provide both Indigenous and settler users to encounter key phrases, greetings, etc. However, we did not end up having enough capacity to do much in terms of language in this iteration of the project.
We knew that this resource would include various sensitive topics – things like domestic violence, abuse, and death. Since topics like these can be triggering for some readers, we needed to include supports. There was discussion about Rebirthed Teachings (RT), the group that hosts KAIROS Blanket Exercises (KBE) on campus. The idea to apply for this funding came from that table, and the work is closely aligned, since the KBE is also an exercise which educates settlers on Indigenous histories and contemporary issues with the goal to build empathy for societal change. Amy Desjarlais, RT Lead, had developed an ‘Aftercare Toolkit’ for KBE and generously offered to allow us to use it here as well. The Toolkit includes an assembly of potential supports listed, as well as some suggested resources for further reading for anyone who wants to continue their learning journey.
Our group also discussed the need for ongoing Elder input and involvement, and Elder Joanne Dallaire agreed to participate and support the project, both the student creative team and University steering committee. We also invited and received participation and input from Jenny Blackbird, community “Auntie.” All people who have contributed and resources which we have found helpful are listed in our Wahkotowin or Kinship Circle.
Key Decisions & Operating Principles
- The game should be created in a highly collaborative, co-creative process, centring student experiences.
- This process should NOT ask students to recount nor relive past traumas.
- Significant care should be taken to ensure that student co-authorship is recognized while at the same time the project team should take care to ensure student and collaborator privacy.
- The game should be a multisensory experience with visuals, sound effects and story BUT we must be mindful of the digital divide. The game should be accessible to those with limited tech gear and limited Internet access.
- The game and our project processes should be anti-oppressive and reflect decolonized education principles.
- The processes should collect the perspectives of multiple stakeholders including Indigenous Elders, students and educators, and settler students and instructors.
- The tool must be carefully marketed and promoted with a clear action and engagement plan. There was discussion that the promotional and communication process was as important as the creation of the tool as we don’t want to create something that isn’t actively used by target communities.
- This process should be a way to provide our extended team of student contributors with key skills that will help them in the professional world as well as academia. Resources should be provided to help them onboard and get trained on the platform tools, narrative processes, the creative process and analyzing the work.
- We considered whether the project should be bound by Research Ethics Board (REB) oversight to allow for later scholarly publishing of findings outside of Phase 1 or Phase 2. We ultimately decided to forego this process due to limited capacity.
- The work should be informed by anti-oppressive, decolonization principles. We will privilege Indigenous perspectives, languages, literature throughout. The supporting team is there to act as guides and supports for the student creatives.
- This project should be a gathering of equals modelled on the Nation-to-Nation treaties.
- There could be an option to have the learner collect items during the scaffolding/learning stages to exchange for something afterwards. Jenny Ge, Research and Assessment Specialist in Student Affairs Storytelling, had considered this in her development of assessment tools for the project.
- There should be supportive teaching around First Nation Clans and differences in stories and perspectives. There’s an opportunity to share language and cultural perspectives. We ultimately chose to limit our inclusion of traditional knowledges, in part due to capacity and in part due to not wanting to publish, in writing, any sacred knowledges that we did not have permission to.
- Debrief and discussion should be a key part of the learning module, providing support and guided learning for those who use the game. We have included the RT Aftercare Toolkit in our resources and are also working on shareable debrief workshop outline and facilitator’s guide.
*https://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/nihbforum/info_and_privacy_doc-ocap.pdf (Also located here in the project folder *https://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/nihbforum/info_and_privacy_doc-ocap.pdf