Meet Larry the Squirrel
A while back I heard the story of Larry the Squirrel let me tell you about his meeting with Nanabush the trickster.
Nanabush came across a bunch of squirrels preparing for winter. He saw them frantically hiding food and preparing nests. He saw them making multiple nests and having multiple food caches. He stopped one and asked why duplicate everything?
“Cause we forget where we put our nests and food so we have to have lots of spots” said one squirrel.
“That seems ridiculous,” said Nanabush and he reaches down and touched the squirrel.
“Hey! Hands off!” exclaimed the squirrel
“Relax, I just gave you the ability to remember where you put your nests and food caches.” Said Nanabush who strode off feeling like he solved the squirrels’ problems.
Come spring Nanabush happened to be back in this same area again. He started to look for his friend that he talked to in the fall. He searched and searched couldn’t see him. He stopped another squirrel and described the squirrel he was looking for, the squirrel knew who he was talking about immediately.
“Oh… you mean Larry…ya…he didn’t make it.” The squirrel said as he continued on with his business.
Nanabush was told that when Larry was headed to his nest or cache he came across another squirrel using or eating his food then he went one to the next one finding the same thing. Although squirrels forget where they make their nests or caches they find other nests and caches and simply use them.
Good story eh??? One of my favourites about the transformative nature of education. This is key in understanding Indigenous Education for Indigenous students as it related to Post Secondary. Larry forgot that he was a squirrel and valued what Nanabush had given him over his nature. Notice that Nanabush didn’t take anything away from Larry, he could have reverted back to his squirrelness but he did not.
OK I am going to blow your mind a bit…Residential Schools…has their origin in an Indigenous leaders dream. Well not exactly. Chief Shingwauk from Garden River First Nation in the 1850’s had a vision of a “teaching wigwam, where Indigenous children could get “the cunning of the whiteman” and still remain Indigenous. The cultural genocide, physical and sexual abuse, starvation, medical experiments etc. were not in this dream. Shingwauk new the power of education and the need for his children to have the identity of themselves while being able to compete with white people.
Shingwauk’s name eventually became a Residential School run by the Anglicans in Sault Ste Marie, and the building still stands as Algoma University. I have had the honour of meeting with many survivors and even doing a little research for them as they were prepping legal action. I have even walked the graveyard. It was hard.
We must be mindful that our actions in education have grave effects. Indigenization/decolonization can not happen overnight and/or be taken lightly. Too much harm has been done to children, communities to simply make reports and not to take action. I strongly encourage all CACUSS members to walk the grounds of a Residential School and reflect on what we are doing and how.
“Education got us into this mess and education will get us out” – Senator Murray SinClair