Reflecting on things I learned from my parents (the pedagogy of bribery and guilt)

I have this ‘thing’:  I really really love Shakespeare.  I blame it on my parents (who forced us kids into a deep engagement with the texts of The Bard).  And so, the goal has been to pass this love of Shakespeare onto my children.  Part of the goal is purely self-centred: I enjoy going to see the plays, and in some ways, taking the kids is a way of ensuring that I can talk about the plays when I get home.  But in trying to pass this love along, I have developed an appreciation of the hard work that was done by my parents.  It is not an easy task to teach one’s kids a love of iambic pentameter. However, it has been made somewhat easier by the move of theatre companies to do cinematic broadcasts.  Thank you NT Live and Stratford HD!  It is such a gift to be able to take the kids to the local movie theatre and see some of the best actors in the world bringing their craft to bear in an astonishing range of Shakespeare’s famous and lesser known plays.

But lest any parent out there think that it has been easy for me to get my kids off to see Shakespeare, I will put the more disreputable dimensions of my parenting skills on the table:  I do use both ‘guilting’ and ‘bribery’ to get them there (or, both the carrot and the stick).  The guilt side is of course not optimal, but it does go some distance:  my kids both assert that I have some exceptional abilities to explicity offer them the freedom to decline my invitations while simultanously delivering implicit messages of disappointment in them should they operationalize their freedom (Ah well…. I blame my father for enabling this skill set in me).But I think my skills in bribery have actually been the stronger tool.  Bribery is something I learned from watching my mother work with the younger siblings in our family!  🙂

On the bribery front, I work two angles:

  1.  I let them smuggle in as much junk food as they can [relatively quietly] eat during the show, and
  2. I let them earn money [$1 per answer, up to a pre-set $20 limit] by asking or answering questions after the show.  In short, there is an opportunity to do some learning, and to have some testing! (a teacher’s dream!)
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my notes in advance for Taming of the Shrew

There is some advance work to be done to make the bribery effective (in a pedagogical sense).  I have found that they have needed some framework to be able to follow the plot in a Shakespearean adventure.  If you are to follow me, then you need to have a sense of what will happen in the play before getting to the theatre. Again, my model is my mother.  Prior to the event, I generally head out to the web, and spend a bit of time just trying to get the names of the main characters on a piece of paper.  It is messy, but it helps me to be able to have some snapshot points in mind, so I can “SEE” some connections (and make them visible in advance for the kids)

I generally try to give the kids some info in advance like:

  • the year the play was written (so i can say “420 years ago!”)
  • the names of main characters and the ‘teams’ they belong to
  • framing devices they might see
  • political or human issues at the centre of the play
  • ways to read with or against the grain in an old play
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Ben Carlson as Petruchio and Deborah Hay as Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew. Photography by David Hou.

So, for example, when we went to the movies for the broadcast of the Stratford production of The Taming of the Shrew, here were some of the preliminary discussions:

  • What is a framing device? This let us talk about the ‘play within the play’.  Then we could ask about the relationship between 1.  the actors  in the framing story ‘tricking’ Christopher Sly into thinking that he [and they] are something other than what they are, and 2. the way the ‘Shrew’ story can also be about people who are other than what they seem to be.
  • Look for people in the play pretending to be someone else  Here, the goal was (in advance) to try to count each time someone dressed as someone other than what they were.
  • What are some misogynist/violent elements in the play?  Here, we talked about 1.  “Patriarchy” – Rule by the Fathers, and the ways Fathers in this play have control over the choices of both their daughters AND their sons 2. How the men are able to ‘compete’ for the desirable daughter, and how those men are able to put aside that competition to work together to get the undesireable daughter married off first 3.  The ‘violence’ present in the supposedly ‘non-violence’ of depriving Katerina of food, sleep, and nice clothing, and in doing so until she agrees that the world is the opposite of what she sees.
  • What are different ways of seeing this misogynist play-within-a-play?  we talked about seeing it as 1. A Farce to distract a drunken tinker (Christopher Sly) 2. A piece of Irony – that is, as making fun of patriarchy  3. A historical play documenting how things were ‘in the past’ 4. An argument re-enacted today in support of misogyny – that is, taking it as inviting us to affirm its message about how women should be and how the violence against them might be validated   5. as a piece of contemporary critique – asking us to draw connections between what seems over the top, and what is present in different ways in our own society.
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Kobna Holdbrook-Smith plays Laertes (left)

At other times, and with other plays, the bribery ‘quiz’ will be related to famous quotes.  So, for example, in the week before we went to see the NT live version of Hamlet (with Benedict Cumberbatch!), I went to the web, and printed off a page with the top 20 most famous quotes from the play.  I stuck it up on the wall in the kitchen.  Over meal times, I read the quotes to the boys, and said a bit about what the phrases meant (again, you can rely on the web and a short amount of pre-reading…indeed, the web will have pages that EXPLAIN those famous lines for you).   Then, at the play, in order to earn money, all the kids had to do was poke my arm when they heard those lines show up in the play (but hopefully not poke me too hard).  Again, the result was that some of the language of Shakespeare was in their ears and minds before we got there, and then was attached to the action of the play itself.

So… while it might be preferable if I did not need to rely on bribery to get my kids to come see Shakespeare with me, rely is what I have done.  And in my case, bribery has been efficient (cheaper than paying a tutor!)  The result is that my kids can listen to the language of Shakespeare without being defeated by it, can follow the plots, and laugh at the humour, and keep me company in the cinema (so I don’t have to go alone).   It is a win-win!

Thanks mom and dad for passing on guilt and bribery as parenting tools!

 

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Thinking about “The Law of Evidence” through the Structure of Indigenous Language

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My new favourite book

With classes nearly over this term, I happily turned to my “Books to Read!” pile.   At the top of the pile was a new book by Marianne Ignace and Ron Ignace, Secwépemc People, Land and Laws (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2017).

So many of the summers of my life have been spent on the shores of the Shuswap Lake. The smell of the forests, the feel of the winds, sound of the water, the taste of thimbleberries… all that has been imprinted deep in my heart.  I had been looking forward to spending some time with this book, to continue to learn about the history of the land, the people, and the laws of this place that I so love.  I am only into the 4th chapter, but I am not disappointed.  I can already see that this is going to be a book I will be carrying around with me.

 

In line, then, with my new goal for myself (to do at least one blogpost a week on what I am learning), let me share one of the amazing things I learned today from the this book.  I learned that the Secwepemc Language is an amazing resource for learning about law!  I finished reading Chapter 4 (“Secwepemctsin: The Shuswap Language”) this afternoon, and then spent the next hour walking up and down the halls of the law school, hunting down colleague after colleague to make them listen to what I had learned (Val, Pooja, Jess, Simon, Tim, and Bob have got to hear my enthusiasm first hand!).

 

The big discovery for me (on p. 138 of the book) was something called “Evidentials”.  This is a form of suffix that does not exist in English grammar.   In Secwepemctsin, as I understand it from the chapter, a suffix can attach to a verb, in a way that lets the speaker tell the listener about the evidentiary support for the statement.  That is, it indicates how the speaker comes to know the truth of the statement:

  1.  from first hand knowledge,
  2. from hearsay (what others have said), or
  3. because there is physical evidence of the action.

In short, as the Ignaces point out here, when people are telling each other about things that happen in the world, they are also sharing information about the evidence that exists for the statements made.

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Page 138

Of course, we can share information about evidentiary support in the English language: it is just a matter of adding more detail.  And when it comes to legal action, those evidential details matter a lot: if you appear as a witness in  a common-law court, you will be asked how it is you come to know what you know; the presence of physical evidence to support the claim is alway relevant; there are all sorts of rules to govern hearsay evidence.  That is, there is much to explore around evidentiary rules related to the relevance, credibility, reliability and sources of statements.

But there is something so interesting in how such questions are organized in Secwepemctsin in part through grammar.  Questions of evidence seem to be woven into the structure of speech and thought (rather than being separate questions emerging primarily in the context of formal legal settings.)  An orientation towards evidence is embedded in grammar itself.

What is so beautiful to me (or do I just mean mean ‘surprising’?)  is that the structure of Secwepemctsin itself, as a language, orients itself towards transparency in the  practices of validating knowledge.  Grammatically, people tell each other not only what they know, but HOW they know it.  This means speakers are grammatically required to make (suffix based) choices about the actions they describe, and listeners have the capacity to make choices about further inquiries needed on the basis of what they hear. Given suffixes, they can determine whether to seek further information from others, or to validate information by looking to physical traces to support what they have heard.  Certainly, this requires speakers and listeners to engage their own faculties of reasoning in conversation, by reminding them that all statements have an evidentiary status of some sort.  This is such a sophisticated and nuanced structure of thought.   I have been reading a number of Secwepemc stories in English, and I have a new appreciation for the ways that that the stories, in their original language, would be carrying additional information and nuance.

I also think that the book, with its discussion of Evidential Suffixes, is a wonderful way to draw insights from Indigenous Language and Indigenous Law into the Evidence Law classroom!  Can’t wait to learn more from what Marianne Ignace and Ron Ignace have brought together in this book!

 

 

Children’s Art and Indian Residential Schools

In between some errands that took me to downtown Victoria this week, I grabbed a few minutes to stop in at the Legacy Art Gallery.  The current exhibit is titled “There is Truth Here: Creativity and Resilience in Children’s Art From Indian Residential and Indian Day Schools”

I had some expectations of what I might see there:  for the past two years, the UVic Law School has invited Professor Andrea Walsh (the Guest curator of the exhibit) to come and speak to the first year class about a collection of paintings done by children at the Alberni Indian Residential School.  This collection of children’s art, preserved by their extra-curricular art teacher Robert Aller, was gifted to the University after Mr. Aller’s death.  At that point, recognizing that it might be possible to identify the creators of some of that art, steps were taken to locate the now-grown children, and return their art to them.   The story of the Mr. Aller, the students, their art, and its re-patriation is a powerful moment in understanding the Canadian history of Indian Residential Schools and resistance by both children and some settlers to formal and informal policies of assimilation and cultural genocide. [Click here for a link to a short video on the project]

IMG_20171125_115846.jpgWhat was new to me were the pieces of art from the former Inkameep Indian Day School (the Osoyoos Indian Band, in the Okanagan).  I took advantage of a few stolen moments to take a quick stroll through the Gallery to get my eyes familiar with the pieces, knowing that I would be coming back for an extended visit later this month.  I also picked up a copy of a 2005 Gallery Catalogue Guide edited by Andrea Walsh, titled, “Nk’Mip Chronicles: Art from the Inkameep Day School.”

Having finished reading the Guide, I have been reflecting on some of the things that really struck me.  One of these was the reminder that if a person is serious about learning the history of Residential Schools in Canada (and many of us are indeed serious), then there is much to learn: there were many schools, which operated over many years, and there are many stories to be told.

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Nk’Mip Chronicles, p.17

 

One of these is the story of the Inkmeep Day School.  It is a story that speaks of the important work done by Chief Baptiste George to have a day school built in the community, “to keep his people together and to retain the Okanagan teachings.”  The school opened in 1915, with the Band using their own funds to build the school, and hire and pay the first teacher (an African American man who had married an Okanagan woman and thus knew the language).  The Guide makes visible the real challenges involved for the Band in attracting and keeping long-term experienced teachers (a challenge shared by many Indigenous communities).

The centre of this particular story is the relationship between one settler teacher (Anthony Walsh), and the children and families of the Inkameep community.  During the ten years he taught at the Inkameep Day School (1932-1942), Anthony Walsh worked actively to learn about the people and culture of the place he was living.  He learned to listen, and he valued and honoured the philosophies, stories, and experiences of the children.

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Nk’Mip Chronicles, p.18

 

During that time he worked with them, the children produced art that Walsh submitted to the Royal Drawing Society of London.  The children produced plays based on Okanagan stories, were invited to perform them for audiences in both Canada and the US, and raised money for charities like the Red Cross.  The children’s art was exhibited across Europe and Canada. Walsh worked with the children and their communities, “using the children’s art to oppose dominant views about aboriginal children and their place in Canada.”

When Walsh finally moved from the community, the teachers that followed did not follow his path: rather than incorporating Okanagan culture into the curriculum, they followed the assimilationist path more common in the rest of Canada (which included the decision by one teacher to burn papier-mache masks that the children had used in their dramas, as well as children’s art which remained at the school).

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Nk’Mip Chronicles, p.23

The story of Anthony Walsh and the children at the Inkameep Day School time thus invites us to both remember and reflect on the efforts of this one community (a First nation and its non-native neighbours) to be involved in the ongoing practices of building relations through cross-cultural exchanges through both visual and performing arts.

This story, and the art and performances it generated, left me thinking about the stories of the past that we choose to draw forward.

It reminded me of the importance of seeing forms of resistance, possibility and respect that were enacted in the past. It left me thinking also about the importance of similar action in the present.  It reminded me of the importance of art in opening up spaces of connection, and spaces of relation.

It also made me think about ways people today might respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s Call to Action #83:

83. We call upon the Canada Council for the Arts to establish, as a funding priority, a strategy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process.

Perhaps what should interest us is less the call for government to provide funding for such collaborations (though such funding would facilitate this work!) than the call for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake such collaborations.  I think the story of Anthony Walsh invites even those of us who are not artists to imagine ourselves as participants in this call to action.  In his work as a teacher, Walsh collaborated with others through his engagement with the space of art, through learning to how listen to what the children’s art (and the children themselves) could teach.  The engagement came even in the context of restricted funds.  As Anthony Walsh himself argued in the 1976 interview above, “we miss opportunities because too often we wait for ‘funding'”.  And so one question is, “what are we waiting for?”

There is much inspiration to be found in this story of the Inkameep Day School.  It sets out for us an example of engagement through the arts.  What we have here is the collaboration of children, their families, a  teacher and the neighbouring community in drawing on the arts to open up space for sharing truths, for listening, for healing, and for learning different (and better) ways of living with each other.   Surely this is a story worth telling, and also one worth trying on for size in our own lives.

If you are in Victoria, head over to the Legacy Art Gallery to check out the show.   If  time or geography makes that impossible, you should still check out the website for the exhibit.  Content and design by Dr. Jennifer Claire Robinson, it is rich with resources that can be worked into your own teaching.  Indeed, you can see picture of all the works included in the exhibit from the four different schools (along with some discussions of the work from either the curators or the artists themselves):  Alberni Indian Residential School, Inkameep Indian Day School, St. Michael’s Indian Residential and Day School, and Mackay Indian Residential School.  The website (which is being updated during the run of the exhibit) will also include intergenerational essays by relatives of the child artist included.  Plus there is more!:

  •  Click here for the background story to the return of the Alberni Indian Residential School art
  • Click here for RIDSAR (Residential and Indian Day School Art Research) videos, and news media
  • Click here for a list of additional Resources (to both the Exhibition and TRC related links)
  • Witnessing is an important aspect of protocol for many First Nations.  Below are links to four important discussions of what it means to be a witness in the context of Indian Residential Schools:

Tips for Organizing Reconciliation Events

Tasha Henry (who wrote the post on “Art as Intervention”) sent an additional note pointing to a toolkit resource they had found especially helpful for teachers and professionals trying to organize reconciliation events.  She noted the following tips:

  • Ensure that the location is culturally safe and accessible to everyone invited.
  • Ensure proper acknowledgement of the territory at the start of the event.
  • Where possible, invite an Elder to open the event with a blessing and invite them to give you direction and advice to ensure proper protocol is being followed. Be sure to find out how best to honour their time and contribution.
  • Where possible, explore ways to incorporate Indigenous cultural practices into the event in a respectful manner, such as singing and drumming by Indigenous community members. Make sure to honour this contribution.
  • Approach guests/speakers as early as possible, and ensure that all aspects of the event including honorariums are clearly communicated in writing.
  • Arrange for food and drinks. Sharing food is an essential part of the event.
  • Where possible, invite participants across sectors and cultures (e.g. multicultural organizations, Indigenous organizations, faith based organizations, the justice system, restorative justice groups, Ministry of Children and Family Development, First Nations Court workers, social service workers, counsellors, health care professional, women’s organizations, child and family services etc.)
  • This discussion may be triggering to some participants, so make sure that supports and opportunities for debriefing are available on-site.
  • Consider funding costs to cover transportation for guest speakers if required.

(Reference: Eguchi, L., Riley, J., Nelson, N., Adonri, Q., & Trotter, S. (2016). Towards a New Relationship: Tool Kit for Reconciliation/Decolonization of Social Work Practice at the Individual, Workplace, and Community Level. Vancouver, BC: British Columbia Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from: http://www.bcasw.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Reconciliation-Toolkit-Final_May-11.pdf

 

Lulu and Pandora’s Box

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Marlis Petersen in Berg’s Lulu

I spent the morning at the movie theatre watching the Live at the Met production of Alvin Berg’s opera Lulu staged by William Kentridge (thanks Gillian and Arta for coming with me!) Here is the trailer.  It was four hours of what felt like an atonal musical assault.

 

Maybe that seems a bit unfair. It was amazing.  I loved it. But I also left it feeling wrung out.  It left me thinking about the narrative story, the visual field and the musical soundscapes.  There was much there that was unexpected. In the face of everything unexpected, I felt very much  grounded in the experience of the story.

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Louise Brooks as Lulu in Pandora’s Box

For maybe ten years, I taught a Law and Film Course using Pabst’s 1928 silent film classic, Pandora’s Box, which is also the story of Lulu. The arc of the story in both the opera and the film is similar. Lulu, a femme fatale, is taken in by (and ‘takes in’) man after man. Always, Death follows in her wake.  In the end, Jack the Ripper has to be brought into finally quell the threat that she poses to men and women in the world around her.  As Orit Kamir points out in her excellent analysis of the film (in her book, Framed: Woman in Law and Film), it is as if one serial killer has to be brought in to finish off another.

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Lulu dancing with the Countess Geschwitz

Having seen the movie so many times, I was prepared for the narrative which situates woman as Pandora, as responsible for the introduction of desire, disease and death all around her.  No surprise.  Fabulous story for feminist analysis.  But today was my first experience with Berg’s adaptation of the story.

Of course, musically, it is a complicated piece of work.  Not much in the way of easy melodies, or catchy tunes to carry you through.  But it was not just the difficulty of the music.  There was also so much that was unexpected in the production. The visual field was staggering. The back stage was used cinematically with layers of film, newspaper texts and images whipped on and off throughout the piece. Opera these days is always subtitled, so I am accustomed to reading the libretto text, so it was not really a big deal that the opera is in German. But I did feel conscious of how rapid my eye movements were because of how lush the background scene was, how rapidly the images moved and how it drew my eyes away from the narrative text up to the visual field. It was a visual field that completely matched German expressionist painting style of the ‘30’s.  But it was cinematic, and always in motion.  And as my eyes were continually being pulled across the stage, i could feel a matching rise in discomfort in my body.  I suppose in some ways that is what I mean when saying it was an assault both of sound and of image.

The opera is astonishingly visceral. It does operate in multiple registers.  In addition to the musical language, and the visual field of cinematic expressionist art, there are two  characters who are silently on stage throughout.

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Joanna Dudley, holding a position in Lulu

The first is Joanna Dudley’s character, who appears first as a pianist sitting at the bench, dressed in an outfit that is evocative of Pabst’s 1928 film, like a character in black and white. As the opera moves forward, the character we initially believed to be a pianist begins to perform as a dancer, sometimes drawing our attention during a scene change and also seeming to provide an exteriorization of an inner feeling, thought or moment that belongs to Lulu. The second silent character is Andrea Fabia, who appears as a tall and gangly waiter whose body contorts into shapes that  capture the feel of something out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show or Young Doctor Frankenstein, or even the musical Cabaret. He often appears delivering the weapon that will deliver death. These two characters provide a silent and physical language giving yet another register of experience.

So, for example, when Lulu is seducing the artist behind a screen, Joanna Dudley’s character is out front, sliding her stocking up and down, spreading her legs open and closed, and weaving her body in ways that suggest a dance of sexual seduction, a dance that carries the feeling of 1930’s German expressionism. There is a certain angularity and almost a violence of line in her body and movements. Throughout the opera the movements of the dancer, of this ‘interior Lulu’, are marked by this sense of hold, legs askew in certain positions and very uncomfortable positions held with a sense of agony or tension, that as a viewer I kept noticing I was feeling in my own body, the discomfort of the hold.  This resonates with Kendrick’s decision to show Lulu throughout the opera with a piece of paper covering her heart with an ink line drawing of a breast – but which is its stylization, also appears as an inverted fermata, the musical indicator “to hold.” Again, the feeling of the silence was almost physically violent at times. It was almost like an interior psychological space, exhausting watching the bodies contort and be held in stillness. It is like a third language being played out on the stage.

 

I was particularly struck by one difference between the film and the opera. In the cinematic version, the Countess Geschwitz sacrifices herself for Lulu in order to enable her to escape to London.  In the operatic version, the Countess Geschwitz stays close to Lulu to the end.  The Countess, like many of the men who swirl around Lulu, is also desperately in love, a love that Lulu never requites.

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Geschwitzt pledging to save Lulu

 

Near the end, as Lulu takes another customer to her bed, a customer whom we as the audience suspect to be Jack the Ripper, Geschwitz remains on stage, singing.  Having  considered throwing herself into the river or hanging herself, she determines to go on, to leave her broken heart behind, to return to Germany, to enrol herself in the university, to study law (you heard that right…Law!?) and take up the fight for women’s rights.

After Geschwitz has articulated this decision, we hear Lulu scream, and see the backdrop screen is covered by splatters of India ink, like blood.  The murderer comes out from behind the screen and then also kills stabs Geschwitz in the belly, expressing himself to be a lucky man to have had such a chance (two victims, not just one).  Even more than with Pabst’s film, Berg’s opera captured such a field of woman-hating.  Leaving the theatre, feeling the exhaustion of the musical and visual assault, I found myself thinking about the profound woman hating that structures both the opera and the film. Of course, many of the men around Lulu also die, but there was something quite powerful about the final scene involving this double killing of the embodied sexuality of a woman and the embrained core as well through Geshwitz: the act a denial of the productive agency of either a woman’s body or mind.

 

Of course, a person can read a film or an opera against the grain. I think it is certainly possible to read this film with great affection for Lulu and indeed to see her as a powerful character asserting her own will and her own morality, against the pattern of constraints and limits on her. She gives freely, both her sexuality and her money, but reserves the right to make her own choices about when she will or will not give those gifts. The background screen both captures something of the cruelty in the text, the cruelty of inter-war Germany, maybe even inter-war Europe to be precise, and the cruelty of the world of erasure in which Lulu lives. She is constantly misnamed by those around her: Mignon or Eve. And the text makes visible the ways in which she is a shifting object constructed by the desire of all of those who circle around her. You don’t have to go too far into psychoanalytic theory to find these themes. But the backdrop does make visible the ways she is a projection of those around her and made to pay for the gap felt by those who seek her to grasp something in her that they themselves had tried to place there.  The opera foregrounds commodification, set in the period of the economic crash which mirrors nicely the fact of value itself being a projection, rather than a tangible thing. Very much like Lulu is read by those around her.

The music student in me sees that the opera was lush, beautiful and there is every reason to see it. Marlis Peterson, like Louise Brooks in the cinematic version, completely occupies the role. At the same time, the significant woman-hatingness of the piece left me reflecting on strategies that different people use in the face of cultural narratives that carry such deep distain for and fear of women.  What would it mean to just turn away from these stories? I am not sure there would be any opera left to see if a person took that approach seriously. Maybe the best one can do is read the story in a way which makes visible the ways that these narratives, while projections, are none the less projections with tangible consequences.

Reconciliation Necklaces

During the summer of 2015, I spent my time thinking about the Report of the TRC (The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools).  I was particularly obsessed with its 94 Calls to Action.  I found myself thinking a lot about Recommendation #50, which argued for the creation and funding of Indigenous Law Institutes:

  1. 50. In keeping with the United Nations Declaration on
    the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal organizations, to fund the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Some may not think this call speaks directly to ordinary citizens, but it really did speak to me.  I work at a law school (University of Victoria) that has already established just such an institute (the Indigenous Law Research Unit).  The ILRU has been doing exceptional work over the past years, working with and alongside Indigenous communities, focused on the issues, processes and traditions important to those communities.  The work of the ILRU, including the work on the graphic novel Mikomosis and the Wetiko, (click here to link to the teaching guide) has been a central part of my own intellectual and political life over the past years.

And of course, there is always more work to do than time or money to do it with.  And so I had been thinking of a way to make the TRC call #50 ‘my own’.  Were there ways that, though perhaps not called to direct action, individuals could support Indigenous Law Institutes?  Could contribute to fund-raising?  Or to symbolic support?  Or could find ways to make visible all 94 calls, and particularly the need to fund structures for the development, use and understanding of Indigenous Laws?  To think with and using Indigenous Laws?

Shuswap Lake – view from the wheel

So… this summer, I decided to take my usual summer vacation (making stoneware necklaces to give away for my September birthday), and spend my time making pendants invested with my own hopes for energy and resources for the work of the ILRU.  Thus, during the summer, I spent my vacation in OCD mode, making necklaces.

PLACE:  I  made the necklaces in Secwepemc Territory (Shuswap).  My family lives there, and I have spent nearly every summer of my life there, surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins.  My heart lives there.    My aunt bought a kiln and wheel several years back, and they invite us to play with clay under the deck (sheltered from the sun).  So I made these necklaces while sitting under the deck, watching beauty of the land around.

MATERIALITY: Depending on the batch, the clay was one of these:  CKK6, Klamath Red, Midnight Black, Dove, Polar Ice.  It is stoneware, or porcelain and was fired to Cone 6.

clay drying in sun

I played with a number of oxides and stains this summer, and mixed them into the clay.  I then wedged the plain and coloured clays together.  I then shaped the individual pieces (rib tools, modelling tools, carving tools, etc), played around with them at the leather hard stage, then got them dried to greenware.Depending on the batch, the clay was one of these:  CKK6, Klamath Red, Midnight Black, Dove, Polar Ice.  It is stoneware, or porcelain and was fired to Cone 6.  I played with a number of oxides and stains this summer, and mixed them into the clay.  I then wedged the plain and coloured clays together.  I then shaped the individual pieces (rib tools, modelling tools, carving tools, etc), played around with them at the leather hard stage, then got them dried to greenware.

 

unloading the kiln

At that point, I loaded them into the kiln for a first bisque firing (cone 04, aka 1060 celsius) [basically, a day to get the kiln loaded, fired, cooled and unloaded again).] 

At the next stage, I played around.  Here is where i glazed, used wax resist, glass and rocks!  Then, it was back into the kiln for a second firing (up to cone 6, aka 1222 celsius).

eb802-img_20150815_140533
tying slip knots on cords

And last but not least, I took the kids to the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival, where we sat listening to music and tying chords for the necklaces.

 

And… just for more background, here are some comments/thoughts on the different kinds of necklaces that were produced, and how (in my own mind) they linked to the work of the TRC.
“HISTORY RETHOUGHT – Contact of Laws”

I began with two balls of clay.  To one of them i added an oxide or a s
tain (a dry powder), and then wedged it in until the second ball was a different colour.  I then sliced each clay, and layered them together.  I then wedged the clay and cut and relayered it, so that they were mixed, but not blended (ie. the goal was not to fully ‘assimilate’ so that the entire ball was a new mixed shade, but to let the two colours move with and against each other.)

After letting the clay firm up a bit, I tried cutting pieces apart.  It was a challenge to do so in a way that didn’t blur the distinctions between the two colours.  I was struck during the process by the ways the patterns changed even from one side of the slice to the other (let alone the differences between slices separated by several pieces).  I know it is perhaps mundane, but I spent a lot of time while doing this thinking also about how the experiences of people [in the context of our shared history of colonialism] can be so vastly different, and yet still  ‘true’.

From a ‘technical’ point of view, it was also the first time i have really used stains or oxides in this way.  I could see how much learning there is in simply figuring  out how much of which colour to use in each ball, and then what happens if have more of one colour or the other as I am mixing them together? (ie. how much ‘white’ is just ‘too much white’) [my first attempt with white and pink really did overwhelm the pink…you can see it, but you have to look really hard to do so]

MULTIJURIDICAL MIXINGS

After I had tried working with two colours of clay, I decided I might as well up the ante.

Since my own politics suggests that things are rarely lived in a binary fashion (black and white; yes and no; left or right), it might be interesting to explore a more ‘multi’ approach to the clay.

GLASS WORK

In this series, i decided to work not just with two colours of clay, but with two different formulations: clay and glass.

They are, I suppose, similar in some ways:  both contain silica, and the higher the temperature travelled by the clay, the more ‘glass-like’ it becomes.  Of course, i am aware of the limits of my science knowledge.  That has been one of the pleasures of playing with sand and heat.

In any event, for these pieces, i began with a clay base, and carved out some holes/trenches in the clay at the leather hard phase (if you wait too long, you break the piece as it is drying).

My wonderful aunt Janet had taken a stained glass class as some point, and had bought a big box of coloured glass.  And so I broke off pieces (started by trying to use a glass cutter, ended by using a hammer [and safety glasses]) and then arranged them inside the grooves, hoping to figure out how much was not enough or too much.  In a previous year, I went overboard, and ended up fusing the pieces to the kiln shelf.  At the end of the day, I ended up with a number of piece that worked.

  • Made 49 in polar ice white, using largely blue and green glass
  • made 14 in Buff stone clay, assorted glass
  • Made 20 “NDP” necklaces (‘orange’ glass)
  • Made 40 in Klamath Red clay with assorted colours
  • Made 2 with Midnight Black clay

Well… i did try to make a batch of 40 with Midnight Black Clay.  But only 2 survived.  Here is where i learned that the black clay and glass do not interact well with each other.  Too much of something similar in each of them, and the glass, instead of melting beautifully, turned into dangerous shards.

Well… those 50 necklaces returned to the earth, but I learned some stuff along the way about the ways that two beautiful things may not be beautiful if they are made to work together without some real skill!  (I am sure there is a Dene story that carries knowledge about the challenges of two powerful brothers [Yamoria and Yamozah] who at one point were in too close of proximity to each other, and the care that needed to be taken to minimize risks of damage to everyone around them).

SHUSWAP ROCKS!

For these, I carved out the pieces (like a mini sarcophagus) of clay (the same way i did for the ‘glass’ series.

After the pieces were bisque fired, I put a small amount of glaze in the carved out space, and then set in small stones collected while sitting on the edge of the water at the end of the day (watching the sunset, while letting the water wash of the day’s pottery dust).

I fired these flat, so that the glaze would simply hold the rocks in place (and so i would not have to put wax resist on the bottoms)

CEDAR PRESS

After rolling some clay flat, I took part of a cedar branch from one of the trees to the side of the house.  I then pressed them into the clay, and left it to dry.  During the bisque firing, the branch burned away, leaving the imprint of its having been there.  For the second firing, I painted wax resist into the shape of the cedar, and then covered the rest of the piece in glaze.  These pieces had to be hung on a bead wire for the second firing.

BRUSH WORK – set of 7

After wax resist in the hole, I used an oxide and water, and then a paint brush to put the image down on the bisqued pieces.  Then simply a white glaze over top.  They were hung on a bead wire for the second firing (cone 6).  I wished I had done more.

The Non-Series Series
This would be ending with where I usually begin: the project of playing with clay, making necklaces to give away for my birthday.  Here are the things that I do when i am in my ‘summer mode’:  that is, thinking about life, teaching, theory/practice, play, and transformation.  So these necklaces are all ones that emerge as I enjoy spending time with my hands, thinking about heat and time (that is, about the capacity of ‘heat’ and ‘time’ to change things)
Some are smooth, some are rough, some symmetrical, some not, some are opportunities to see what happens with different glazes on similar shapes, or different clays interesting with different glazes.  They are occasions for interpretation.  I am often struck (in the process of giving them away) by the things that different people ‘see’ in them.
Meaning exists so much more in the moment of investing the pieces with meaning than it does in the piece itself (which is in many ways little more than the combination of mud, heat, and time… but maybe that is also true for all of us?)

#ReconciliationSyllabus – Finding Resources close to my Shuswap (Secwepmc) home…

TRC Recommendation #28 says:

We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

I have been thinking about how to develop curriculum that addresThe view from my mom's Shuswap homeses this recommendation, and in doing so, have been thinking about how to make this recommendation more ‘personal’.  That is, I have been thinking about ways the recommendation could be rooted in my own sense of “home”.  What would it mean to find resources that speak to my own embedding, as a Settler-Canadian, in these histories?  What would it mean to see MYSELF in this history?  And so, I started to think about resources that are linked to my ‘heart-home’:  the Shuswap Lake.

Here are some pieces I have been thinking might work together as a pod of resources, one which is located in BC (given my location here), and which is located in the Shuswap (Secwepmc territory)  where I spend my summers.

I thought it a good place to start because I have spent so much of my life there, I deeply love the land there, and grew up (like many Settler Canadians) knowing NOTHING of the real history of the place, or of the law of the Secwepmc, or of this history of Setter/Secwepmc interactions.

Partly, I wonder if one way for many of us in law schools to start doing this work is to start it from the place that we are AT.  That is, to try to gather together the resources that might enable us to really teach our students in the spaces that they learn… so they begin to see how the various stories of law are all around them in a very concrete way.

I do not, of course, think that is the ONLY way to approach the work, but I do wonder about the ways the work might feel if we take seriously the ways in which we too (i am presuming a settler ‘we’ here, but am open to conversation on that point) are living on particular places, and might benefit from taking seriously the histories and resources of those places.

And so, here is a first intervention, and I REALLY welcome ideas and feedback about resources, stories, documents that might work together to think about law school curricula linked to Secwepmc territory.

so… a starting place might be basic information about the territory, told from the perspective of current indigenous political communities.  As a starting place, it might involve some attention to using the names indigneous communities use for themselves.  So… if not ‘drop’ the Shuswap, then at least think about also usins Secwepmc (or at least beginning the discussions of naming).  And so, maybe begin with some links to how the communities describe themselves and their lands.  Maybe a link like this?  http://tkemlups.ca/our-land/

Might be useful to start with questions about land and governance.

  • Memorial, to Sir Wilfred Laurier, From the Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau Tribes of British Columbia. Presented at Kamloops, B.C. August 25, 1910 

http://shuswapnation.org/to-sir-wilfrid-laurier/

Then, what about histories of residential schools?  In this case, we have a wonderful memorie written by a student who attended the Williams Lake residential school.

  • They-called-me-number-one-250x386 Bev Sellars, They Called Me Number One.

This book came highly recommended by friends.  I just finished it last weekend.  So much in there to talk about and discuss.  Here is a link to a short review of it:

https://www.alumni.ubc.ca/2014/events/book-club/they-called-me-number-one-by-bev-sellars/

The book is full of material that could link in easily to any number of courses and topics.  It deals with language, parenting, land, education, torts, crime, politics, policing, governance, religion, hope, despair, etc.

There are some very obvious links to mainstream curriculum.  For example, the Principal at the Williams Lake Residential School was Archbishop O’Connor (familiar in the criminal law curriculum with respect to the right of an accused to have access to the private counselling records of a ‘complainant’ in a sexual assault case).   I found it interesting to re-think/teach the story of O’Connor against the context of the work done in Bev Sellar’s memoire.

  •  R v. O’Connor

          http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/1323/index.do

Another recourse to link in could be this:

  • Report on the Caribou-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry 1993

http://www.llbc.leg.bc.ca/public/pubdocs/bcdocs/149599/cariboochilcotinjustice.pdf

Here, there is a chance to look at the Report of an Inquiry, and in this case, a fairly short report.  Nicely, Bev Sellars was involved in the Inquiry, so her memoire provides an occasion to ask questions about what does or does not end up in the Report of the Inquiry itself.

  • Links to the present might include exploration of the 2010 BCLA intervention in on-going conflict between RCMP and the Williams Lake Community (which gives an opportunity to explore how contemporary moments of conflict find roots in the deeper histories)

https://bccla.org/news/2010/09/conflict-between-rcmp-and-aboriginal-community-in-williams-lake-must-be-investigated-and-resolved-says-bccla/

Well… this is just a start.  Would love to hear ideas from others about how these pieces might be pulled together (or substituted with others) in the interests of moving towards TRC2015 Recommendation #28