During a recent workshop on active archives and archives in the classroom my co-presenter brought up the idea of using self-location as a starting point for talking about residential schools and reconciliation. In subsequent days I’ve had a few conversations with colleagues about the value of using self-location as an instruction tool and how it can be used in teaching history.
The fact that the university I work at is located on the site of two former residential schools can deeply shape how conversations about place unfold. The history of the institution is directly tied to the legacy of residential schools. How students, visitors, and faculty interact with spaces on campus today says a lot about how the site evolved from a residential school and the fact that the physical space has tangible connections to the past. How people interact with campus history can be emotional, triggering, and challenging. But we need to have those difficult conversations and talk about how the legacy of residential schools interacts with the space we occupy as an institution.
Self-location can be a simple but nuanced a way to discuss how individuals came to be in a place, connections to a physical space and concepts of community. Where did you come from? How and why did you come to this place? What is your relationship to this place? How do you define community in relationship to this place?
In terms of reconciliation discussions about self-location can be a starting point for conversations about land, marginalization, and colonization. It can also help in the acknowledgement of what background experiences are being brought into a dialogue. This is also a great way to start conversations about local history, community history, and Canadian history more broadly. I could also see self-location discussions being shaped to fit students at a variety of education levels depending on how the conversation is framed.
Have you used the idea of self-location as discussion tool before?