Royal Roads U: New writing guide bridges academic and Traditional Knowledge
June 18, 2019
A new guide from the Royal Roads University Writing Centre bridges Coast Salish Traditional Knowledge and academic writing.
The Four Feathers Writing Guide launches June 21 with Royal Roads’ celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day and an interactive display about the guide in the university’s library.
The guide presents Traditional Coast Salish teachings and approaches to learning to support Indigenous students develop as academic writers through four Traditional stages of learning: vision, gathering, knowledge and sharing.
The guide was developed by Cowichan Nation Elder Shirley Alphonse (THE-LA-ME-YÉ), who is a spiritual leader of the T’Sou-ke Nation on Vancouver Island and the late Scia’new Nation Elder Nadine Charles (TEȺȽIE) along with Royal Roads University’s Blended Learning Success Manager, Theresa Bell.
Alphonse stresses the importance of having a vision as the foundation for all activities, including learning. “In the Hul’q’umi’num language we call it Uy’skwuluwun, which is a good mind, a good heart,” she says.
She hopes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students will find the guide helpful.
“Abide by it. Enjoy the stories that we share. Understand where we’ve come from. Our lives were very different long ago and nothing was ever written. It was just learned from our parents and grand-parents. Nothing was written down. We learned by living and following our parents and grand-parents and other Elders. All Elders in a community always watched over the children. They could correct the children if they saw them doing something wrong,” she says. “Everything was learned by witnessing. We learned by witnessing everything, seeing everything happen and learning through experience.”
The guide is dedicated to the memory of Nadine Charles, who died in February 2019.
Charles’s commitment to education was central to her life, she wrote in her biography for this project: “My passion is to teach our way of life, past and present, to help people to understand who we are and let go of the stereotyping. Make people aware of our culture and tradition and way of life based on fact, through life experience and teachings passed down from my Elders. Life is a learning experience right from birth, we never stop learning. Even as an Elder I am still learning. It never stops, knowledge is rewarding.”
“Nadine was passionate about sharing information and was extremely generous in sharing her teaching materials with Shirley and me for the development of the Four Feathers Guide,” says Theresa Bell. “Her legacy from her work in schools and all her contributions to Royal Roads University is tremendous. She often told me that if something she said helped just one person better understand, then she had achieved her goal. There are so many things that she helped me to understand more clearly as she was so good at explaining things clearly with a great deal of patience – and often humour – and her passion for learning was totally infectious.”
“Collaborating with Shirley and Nadine on the Four Feathers Writing Guide has been a transformative experience for me. Shirley, Nadine and numerous other Indigenous Knowledge Keepers generously shared their teachings, culture, wisdom, humour, patience, and kindness with me, and I’m profoundly grateful”, she says.
Participate in an interactive experience of the guide and view artwork by Indigenous artists at the Royal Roads University Library Showcase June 21 to June 28 and July 8 to July 31.