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It Takes a Village

Last Wednesday, our community had the opportunity to listen and learn with Emily Taylor (Tlowitsis First Nation), who provided teachings related to integrating culturally safe practices in education and child-rearing. One of the statements she shared really stood out: “child-rearing is a community effort, and when negative behaviors happen, rather than pushing the child out of the circle, we pull them in.” She explained that when a child exhibits negative behaviors, instead of taking a punitive approach (suspensions, grounding, etc.), the child is surrounded by the community, positive influences, and teachings to encourage alignment with desired behaviors.

One aspect of Emily’s workshop that resonated with me was the conversation about children and fostering belonging. It made me reflect on my own upbringing and how I have raised my children. I had a very fortunate childhood, but some of the ways I was parented are quite different from how I see children being raised in Community today.

Growing up, there were clear expectations about children in adult spaces. When business interactions were taking place, there was to be no sign of children—we needed to make ourselves scarce. During social events, the kids were either sent to the basement or kicked outside. This was my normal, and we had a lot of fun flattening down mazes in my dad’s crops (he was less enthused), bottle-feeding orphan calves, or riding with four children on a quad (no helmets, of course—it was the ’80s, after all!). There was a clear distinction between adults and children, with an underlying expectation that we were to give the adults space to do adult things.

Witnessing the involvement of children in meetings and events has changed the way I parent my own kids. Rather than dismissing them to a designated ‘kid area,’ away from the adults, I now invite them to the table and encourage them to listen and, if appropriate, interact. Previously, I would never have considered bringing one of my children to work with me. Now, understanding the importance of involving family in important work in First Nations culture, I am humbled when the Nations I serve invite me to bring my children to help.

A few summers ago, I was invited to help host an important event to honor residential school survivors, and part of that preparation involved making gifts. I was touched when my then twelve-year-old crafty daughter was invited to participate in the construction. She joined the circle of makers and carefully crocheted straps that would be attached to bags. My normally busy, noisy child sat quietly, listened, and was given the opportunity to contribute to something of great importance. As the day wore on, the other women in the circle were pulled into other tasks, and my daughter was assigned an office to work in. Lauren, who sometimes struggles to stay focused on a task, disappeared for the remainder of the day and crocheted hundreds of straps. I had never seen her do anything like that before.

This day echoed the teachings Emily shared in ​Dr. Martin Brokenleg's video, "First Nations Principles of Learning,"​  where he emphasized the importance of creating opportunities to foster belonging, cultivate mastery, stimulate independence, and demonstrate generosity. Lauren had the opportunity to sit in a circle and learn from the other makers, who welcomed her warmly, engaged her in conversation, and shared teachings with her—providing feelings of belonging. While sitting shoulder to shoulder, she received guidance on her skills, which supported her in becoming more proficient at the task, striving towards mastery. These experiences inspired her to continue the work on her own, and she felt important and valued when she was assigned her own workspace, stimulating independence. Finally, Lauren understood the intention of the work we were doing and recognized the great importance of making things that would be gifted in a ceremony to honor Survivors. This inspired her to do good work with the intention of sharing it with others, inspiring generosity.

I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for the privilege of sharing in these moments and receiving these beautiful teachings. It has informing the way I am raising my children.

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