In the first year of my master’s degree in Curriculum and Leadership, I met Coyote. Coyote first appeared to me as I unpacked how my Indigenous ways of knowing fit into the world of academia. I often found myself in a place of unsettledness and found that writing in partnership with Coyote helped me balance who I was as an Indigenous learner and educator while fulfilling the expectations of academia and work. Coyote helped me understand that I did not have to choose one way of knowing but that I could learn to dwell in between these different worlds. This relationship with Coyote helped me on many levels, as I found it safe to engage in conversations with Coyote in what had become not just a writing style but a virtual space of gathering. I realized that I was dwelling in what is often referred to as third space (Nakata, 2007). This space where I met Coyote was safe, and I was able to reflect on and speak freely about areas of contention and my growing understanding of what Indigenous ways of knowing and understanding meant to me as an Indigenous student and educator. During this time, I also met Ted Aoki’s (1986/2012) Miss O and was instantly drawn to her. Ms. O dwells between curriculum-as-lived and curriculum-as-planned (Aoki, 1986/2012). I resonated with Ms. O for reasons outside of the fact that being flexible in what we have planned to teach makes good sense, but I felt like this is what I was learning to do as an Indigenous educator. I was learning to dwell in the space between my Indigenous ways of knowing and academia in a comfortable way. As I learned to walk in both these worlds, I could begin to make sense out of how to uphold Indigenous ways of knowing and worldviews in a Eurocentric curriculum without losing any of my own beliefs about learning. Of course, it was not quite that simple, and I still find myself questioning how to engage in academia in a way that encompasses Indigenous ways of knowing and embraces my worldview in relevant and meaningful ways. I grapple with a sense of loss, as I know there are stories that will forever be lost to me due to growing up away from my home territory. My aunty offers me the word kiscâyãwin when I explain to her how hard it is to explain longing for something you have never had. She tells me it means to belong somewhere, and this belonging is missing for many. “They are kaskeyihtamowin,” she tells me. This means to long for home to a point that it causes physical illness. I think about what this means and how my need for a sense of belonging has caused physical, emotional, spiritual and mental sickness throughout the course of my life. Connection to the land, connection to place, pedagogy of place and space, walking in two worlds and land education are all discussions and theories I know well and yet I still long for a place to call home. Daniels-Fiss (2008) reminds me as a Nehiyaw woman that I am tied to the traditional land of my people through song, story and blood memory. It is this tie to a land that I have never lived on that continues to call to me and move me forward in my work. I am reminded of a dream I had when I first started graduate school, and now as I revisit the story I can see that the stories that inform my worldview were waiting for me even before I was aware of them (Cajete, 1994; McLeod, 2012).
It was hot, and I could smell the scent of sweet grass on the wind. It was dark, and I could not quite see where I was, but I knew I was at home. The sounds and smells of my home territory were all around me. I could hear the drums in the background and the sounds of a pow wow I was suddenly eager to find. It was as I went to start off towards the sound of the drum that I realized I was not alone. I turned, and there stood an old man; he was small and seemed friendly. “Who are you?” I asked. He didn’t seem to speak, but I could hear his chuckling in my head.
“So many times we have been visiting lately, and you don’t recognize your old friend. How many lessons, how many fears have I put to rest, and how many laughs have I given to you?”
Suddenly, the man was gone, and in his place was Coyote.
“You hurt Nanabush’s feelings, and now he won’t play our game,” Coyote whined at me.
“Raven, Raven! Where are you?” Coyote’s voice echoed around me
“Is this a dream?” I asked Coyote as Raven appeared.
“Is it? Haven’t you been asking questions all week? Perhaps we are here to answer them,” Raven said as he flew in circles.
It was now that I realized that Coyote and Raven were standing in a grove of cedar trees and that I could smell the earthy, wet smell of a rainforest. I was still standing on what I knew was my home territory, and I still could hear the pow wow drums. But I was not quite home. I seemed to be straddling a space between the land I grew up on as a guest and the land I called home. I looked towards the sound of the drums and felt the sense of peace that always comes over me when drumming starts. I looked back, and both Raven and Coyote were gone, but Nanabush was back but in a younger form. He was dressed as a young grass dancer. “You are keeping me from the pow wow,” he stated. “What will our relatives do if I am not there for their stories? What kind of a pow wow would that be? Listen carefully, you have a habit of not listening,” Nanubush said and seemed to glow a little. “I have been here always. If I don’t have the answer, ask Raven or Coyote. Boy, do they love to talk! Whether you knew it or not, you learned from us, and now you know if we are not around you are not doing things in a good way.” Nanubush disappeared, and I was standing at the edge of a river with my feet in the water. I heard some rustling behind me, and Coyote darted through the bushes.
“By the way,” he said in panting breaths. “If you don’t know something, ask and listen to the stories. It’s never too late to say, ‘Can you tell me that story again’”.