How did you first develop an interest in the role that stories and
storytelling could play in education?
In 1972 I became an elementary school teacher for several years
in my home area of the Sto:lo people in the Fraser Valley. I thought
the curriculum needed to have more from the perspective of
Indigenous people and I had the privilege of working with elders
on Sto:lo history and culture. Stories became a core part of that
work as I listened to their stories and documented them. What
I really learned from them was the process of understanding
stories and about making meaning through stories for educational
purposes. I termed that “Indigenous story work” because at our
cultural gatherings we usually had a spokesperson who stood
up and said, “My dear friends, the work is about to begin.” When
we’d hear that we knew it was time to pay attention. That was
the start of my Indigenous-based journey in education, which
continued to my PhD and throughout my professional career.
Where did that journey take you?
I found through my doctoral studies, and various research projects
that I’ve undertaken since then, that we have Indigenous storytellers of all ages. It’s important to acknowledge them and start to
bring back and use storytelling more. There are traditional stories
but then there are also life-experience stories – stories of resilience,
of overcoming problems, making connections and building family
and community relationships. We can use life-experience stories
in much the same way we use traditional stories. Whether it’s
teaching in the classroom or at the community level, we should be
talking with one another, getting away from our technological
gadgets for a while, connecting with one another through stories.
How do stories help us build these important personal connections?
Stories are very holistic. They can help us learn using the intellect;
they help us identify emotions; they are spiritual, touching our
inner being; and they help us reflect upon our actions. The teacher
may use a story, for example, where a trickster gets into trouble
and the idea is for students to figure out how to problem-solve. It’s
really engaging to be a part of the story. It’s about the power of
using your imagination, your critical thinking, and your creativity to
Smart Ideas: Q&A
This series sponsored by the Federation for
the Humanities and Social Sciences features
notable humanities and social sciences
researchers with smart ideas for a better
tomorrow. This month we speak to Jo-ann
Archibald, also known as Q’um Q’um Xiiem,
who is director of the Indigenous Teacher
Education Program (NITEP) at the University
of British Columbia.
Jo-ann Archibald’s quest to sustain
Indigenous knowledge, culture and pride
think about actions that one might take. I believe that Indigenous
stories and storytelling have started to gain acceptance from
teachers as an important learning tool for all students.
What role has NITEP played in these changes within schools?
NITEP is a Bachelor of Education degree program for Indigenous
people. We facilitate the NITEP students’ development of their
own cultural ways of teaching and learning, while they are learning
everything else they need to be an effective teacher. That’s been
going on for 42 years, with many of its alumni working in leadership
positions now in educational systems, and they’re making policy
and curriculum change.
What does the broader application of storytelling look like
There is one project with a local First Nation, the Musqueam
people, which is called “Awakening the Spirit: Revitalization of
Canoeing in Musqueam.” The Musqueam community wanted
to find a way to have the young people more engaged in some of
the traditional ways of canoeing that developed cultural values,
strength and pride. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research
Council funds this project. The research team consists of principal
researcher Shelly Johnson, a professor in the School of Social
Work, with co-researchers Corrina Sparrow, manager of Social
Development for Musqueam; Andrea Lyall, First Nations coordinator
in the Faculty of Forestry; and me in the Faculty of Education.
We worked with Elder Dick Louis from Musqueam and others in
B.C. communities to find a Red Cedar tree that he could use to
carve out a canoe. It took quite a while to find one that was long
enough and it was about 350 years old. This project documents
the process of making the canoe and the cultural knowledge and
processes connected with canoeing. When elders and other cultural
knowledge-holders tell the stories – which we’re documenting in
writing, photos and video – you can see and feel the pride of their
identity and achievements. I share this project as an example
of how story work can be powerful in a research setting to build
family and community spirit.
SMART IDEAS RECONCILIATION WITH ABORIGINAL PEOPLES
Learn how smart ideas are helping realize a national commitment to reconciliation.
Learn more here: ideas-idees.ca/smart-ideas idees-ideas.ca/bonnes-idees