Indigenous Waldorf Week at RSCT — Day One

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Photo above: Teachers for Indigenous Waldorf Week at the RSCT: Amy Bomberry, Sean Thompson, and Chandra Maracle.

Notes and report by Joaquin Munoz

Many things about this morning were incredible. Being able to see Haudenosaunee folks, speaking their language, telling their stories, describing their lives, and teaching, is a powerful testament to the resilience of indigenous folks.

From Trauma to Resilience

Sean Thompson may have provided the best frame for this, telling us that if there is a thing like “intergenerational trauma” then there must also be something like “intergenerational resilience.”

When we speak of resilience, we are considering the practices and methods which support the strength and well-being of peoples, that they can persevere in the face of trauma, aggression and oppression, to succeed in the fulfillment of their own potential and special gifts.

The Fullest Manifestation of Themselves

These processes are not meant to make students successful in the traditional sense of the word, like good grades, good attendance, and behaviors that are deemed appropriate in school. 1 Rather, these resiliency practices are designed to support people in connecting to themselves, and to their culture, in order to develop into their fullest manifestation of themselves.

As Dr. Martin Brokenleg (Rosebud Souix) notes, resiliency contributes to the development of “respectful, responsible children” who are able to address and resolve issues of trauma.

When we speak of resilience, we are considering the practices and methods which support the strength and well-being of peoples, that they can persevere in the face of trauma, aggression and oppression, to succeed in the fulfillment of their own potential and special gifts.

Part of what we are seeing in the work of folks like Amy Bomberry, Sean Thompson, Chandra Maracle and others is an incredible act of resilience.

Protocols of Ceremony and Story

The maintenance of their language and cultural practices, exhibited in the offering of the Thanksgiving Address, for example, demonstrates a powerful connection to language, to “protocols” of ceremony and story, as Amy noted, and to the power of tradition.

What is so very intriguing about their work is its connection to Waldorf-education and Anthroposophy, a Germanic education reform and spiritual movement established in the early 1900s by Rudolf Steiner.

Their approach is unique in that it considers the potential for engagement and confluence between aspects of Waldorf education and their own Haudenosaunee based educational philosophy and practice. It is around these questions of confluence that the richest discussions can be had.

Part of what is interesting about the discussions we have had thus far is the summed up in a quote from Sean, which he is reported to have said after spending time at the Everlasting Tree School, and prior to his completion of Waldorf teacher training: “there’s something going on here, I can feel it in my heart.”

Blend of Thought

It is here that Waldorf education and Indigenous education practitioners and theorists can have some important conversations. How can Haudenosaunee and anthroposophy have a “blend of thought” as Chandra put it? Notice, as we consider this question through the lens of resilience, that we ask how, not “if.”

Because there are many that might criticize or critique these conversations, stating that Waldorf education is not appropriate for Indigenous peoples because it is European. Resiliency maintains that people are able to enact practices to support their academic and social success in school, the health of their family and friend relationships, and healthy community interactions, according to Brokenleg.

Nowhere does this maintain that it must occur through a particular approach or modality. Thus, rather than being a rejection of traditional ideals and beliefs in favour of European norms and sensibilities, the work of Everlasting Tree demonstrates the work of blending and confluence of different approaches. This was evident in the descriptions of relationship, and its importance in Haudenosaunee culture and tradition.

The Relationship of the Adult to the Child

Paramount to this is the significance of the relationship of the adult to the child as being a spiritual bond. The “spiritual life” of a child is seen as central here, as evidenced by the practice of “introducing children to the world.” Thus, children are perceived to be functional people, with particular needs to be attended to. The children are taught that “all of the things in the world are here for you. All of the people and beings are here on this earth to help you” as Amy noted.

The children are taught that “all of the things in the world are here for you. All of the people and beings are here on this earth to help you.”

These sessions at Rudolf Steiner Centre will no doubt help to enliven great learning and thinking amongst the participants, and will also help us to consider the new movements and impulses of Waldorf education.

The Everlasting Tree School offers an incredible example of meeting the future with impulses from tradition, from new movements, and from a desire to develop strong, resilient Indigenous children. It is a blessing to attend these sessions and be a part of the rich, beautiful learning here.

1 Though undoubtedly, these effects are often the side effects of

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