Pioneer

The sound of compressing gravel underfoot as I stepped out of the pickup truck was the catalyst for a flood of nervousness this morning as I arrived on campus to teach. It is the strange sound of the unpaved parking lot that brings the realization of just how far away I am from home.

This program is an experiment, a pilot, a test, an innovative education model that includes indigenous knowledge with western science. I am a pioneer, and right now I feel as if I will perish from dysentery before I reach my destination.

In the lights of the open atrium adorned with borrowed artwork and racks with outdated brochures, I sit with my students as councillors, elders and program administrators welcomed all of us.

I expect an unremarkable opening to this program, however cutting through the drab of polite conversation, abandoned styrofoam cups, and distracted faces staring at iPhones, Two Elders from the community stood up and blessed the students.

Two Elders whose lives were torn apart by residential schools, two people who had to fight for the right to speak their language, two women who had so much taken away from them were here, to blessed students in their journey of education.

The icy hand of guilt knots in my stomach, I am a product of western education, and it was at the hands of western educators these two women had some much hope torn from there lives.

These women have sat in planning meetings, advocated for the inclusion of indigenous knowledge, collaborated, fought, and persevered to give this program, this gift of Education to these students.

Like the pioneers before me, I incorrectly assumed that I am the first, that I am alone, that I am unsupported. The truth is that today, with my students, I walk a well-worn path, carved by the elders who have come before, who have cleared the way and although my feet may be used to the paved asphalt of the south, someone laid down gravel to guide my way.

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