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  • Learning and Teaching Together: Weaving Indigenous Ways of Knowing into Education by Michele TD Tanaka
  • Alma M. O. Trinidad
Learning and Teaching Together: Weaving Indigenous Ways of Knowing into Education. By Michele TD Tanaka. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2017. ix + 224 pp. Figures, references, index. C$34.95, US$37.95 paper.

This book presents an Indigenous approach to education and captures how emerging teachers engage in and are transformed by a cross-cultural course, "Earth Fibres, Weaving Stories: Learning and Teaching in an Indigenous World," which takes place in British Columbia, Canada. The book consists of 12 chapters that unravel the findings, impact, and implications of this course.

Chapters 1 through 5 provide the stories of the course participants, preservice teachers and Indigenous wisdom keepers (local elders), the earth fibers, and the author's observations and insights. Chapter 1 grounds the work of place, the importance of interacting and engaging with place, understanding one's personal beliefs about learning and teaching, engaging in a common purpose in education, and decolonizing the consumerist mentality of the learner. Chapter 2 describes the spiritual aspect of learning. It presents other ways of knowing, with focus on language and meaning. Chapter 3 explains how an Indigenous pedagogical stance is laid out through the process of providing offerings or gifts of information and through setting a tone of respect that honors the soul and meets the learner's needs. Chapter 4 demonstrates the experiential aspect of the course by presenting more knowledge about earth fibers, their meaning, and their relevance to culture and life. It builds upon the notions of reciprocity and ceremony. Chapter 5 focuses on the symbiotic relationship of the learner and wisdom keeper, removing the distance of voyeur to one of active agent and participant. Reflexive practice is demonstrated that allows growth, identification of strengths, and building upon needs.

Chapters 6 through 8 provide insights based on the utilization of Cajete's (2009) conceptual framework of building healthy and sustainable Indigenous communities. Chapter 6 focuses on the aspect of re-membering the wholeness. The act of learning is circular, cross-culturally and cross-disciplinary, by connecting the emotional, physical, and spiritual with the intellectual aspects. Chapter 7 highlights how students learn to be in community, to resist, and to challenge the dominant way of learning and its knowledge. Chapter 8 focuses on how to address environmental injustice in communities, and encourages work toward sustainability by integrating concepts of Indigenous worldviews: time as cyclical; the interrelated sacredness of time and place; nature as the site of a sense of relationship; and oral transmission of knowledge.

Chapters 9 through 11 examine the earth fibers experience through a third reiteration, focusing on the context of resistance to learning and its practical implications. It begs to respond to how we bring teaching of ancestral knowledge and wisdom forward in today's world, honor the voices of elders and youth, and simultaneously actively resist the dominant Eurocentric culture. Chapter 9 specifically builds upon such opposition by utilizing tender resistance—decolonizing by caring, exposing vulnerabilities, and expressing generosity through deep listening and love. The dialogical-dialectical (constant influx of) engagement of thought, feelings, and actions is necessary for transformational change. Chapter 10 sheds light on how preservice teachers deal with the challenge of resisting the positivist approach in teaching: refuting the feelings of disconnection and isolation among disciplines by building community; challenging the ideas of ownership of hegemony; examining the external motivation of play; making assessments including self-assessment; examining efficiency and group/team work; and challenging the lack of support for Reflexive practices. Chapter 11 discusses the systemic problems of education, and how educators re-envision the possibilities: discovering collaborative purpose; developing relational accountability; walking alongside each other; nurturing a pedagogy of spirit; becoming mindful inquirers; and walking our walk (action). Chapter 12 ends with a renewed sense of place by summarizing key touchstones of the interwoven stories of the preservice learners, wisdom keepers, and authors.

The book was fairly easy to follow, as it was circular in revisiting its themes and insights. The main focus was on how a course weaves Indigenous ways of knowing into education, which can be challenging...


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pp. 92-93
Launched on MUSE
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