Humans of Saskatoon: Lamarr Oksasikewiyin
- Moe Morin | September 14, 2015
Moe Morin is a freelance writer and photographer and the co-founder of Humans of Saskatoon. She photographs and interviews people and run their stories on her highly popular Facebook page. This month she asked Lamarr Oksasikewiyin, a Grade 7 & 8 Teacher As an Aboriginal Educator, what is your advice to junior and high school students coming back to school? Below are his unedited words.
tânisi nitôtêmtik, asây mîna ê-kîskinohamâkisiyahk - In our culture, teachings and learning comes from within and you have to know who you are as a person. A lot of Aboriginal youth (including myself back in high school, I didn't know who I was nor did I fit in). I remember that, and there is a teaching about adolescence and people ask how is it that I can teach adolescents. You have to understand them, and in order to understand them, you have to define them. I was told this by Phillip Whiteman Sr., who teaches that adolescents are contrary people. Give them a hat, and they'll put it on backwards, they wear clothes that are not appropriate to the weather, and they'll be talking constantly to one another but ask them to speak, and they are quiet. So they do a lot of things that are contrary. Their role in society is to reflect society, so when I look at young Aboriginal people, the high suicide rates, the high dropout rates, etc., I know it is reflective of society and it is not their doing. It is the environment that they're growing up in, so as I'm teaching them, I teach and want them to understand, "you matter, people care about you, you're an okay person, and anything that you do is a normal reaction to circumstances you have gone through." I take an empathic approach to teaching, and it's what motivates me. They need the stability of walking into a classroom and know they are welcome there. I make it a point to say hello and making it a point to be polite and saying thank you. I believe in empowering students, it will benefit them, and they learn to heal themselves. As a person, once they start to do this, they can then start learning about their community, the world around them, and see that the world around them is actually bigger than what they believe it to be. I need them to also understand that culture is more than just pow-wows, or round-dances, that culture is a way of life. For a while it was not okay because of residential school and such, it left a bad taste. I'm here to get them to understand that it's okay to be upset, go ahead and be upset, I'm still going to be here for them and teaching. I believe in education, and education is not just the school that these kids go to, as long as they're willing and their minds are open, they're life-long learners. My late Moshoom told me he was still learning and to me he was the walking Wiki-pedia. I'm actually still learning to be a teacher even though I've been teaching many years. I attempt to pass this message onto the students and also that our culture teaches us love, empathy and compassion, treating each other in this way is important. I also want to say I didn't know I wanted to get into Education, and it was only when I went back to high school to upgrade my marks. I sat in a math class, and a fellow student from my community (Sweetgrass) was having difficulty with a question and asked me for assistance. I turned around, and showed her at which time, she said, "you made this so easy...you should become a teacher". So I did and entered into the ITEP Program at the University of Saskatchewan in 1990.