By Lisa Mackay
Jacquelyn and Hunter Cardinal, the brother and sister team that formed Naheyawin, have been involved with our Rozsa Arts Management Program (RAMP) for the past few years, and participants have highly praised their session on Indigenous Worldviews. Deliberately placed at the beginning of the program, the session prompts participants to actively apply Indigenous knowledge and perspective in every session of the program that follows.
Hunter and Jacqueline are once again launching the RAMP program with the first session on October 5. This year will work slightly differently, however, as Naheyawin has launched a new, immersive online learning platform that RAMP participants will be able to access as part of the program. This online course called “Foundations” will cover much of the historical context normally covered in the RAMP session, and by having participants learn that material ahead of time, the session will be able to focus much more on the application of these teachings professionally and personally.
Jacqueline and Hunter have described the course as both a “reconciliation engine” and an “immersive, story-based journey.” The platform has a beautifully designed space with ambient sound and clear navigation through the various chapters of the courses, inviting you to engage with the material at your own pace. As you move through the program, you encounter different modules and methods of engagement, from dragging the missing word into a comprehension sentence to selecting the correct answer from a multiple-choice quiz. The sounds of nature in the background and the game-like sound effects as you advance help keep the participant engaged, and the further you go, the more badges and points are collected. This gamification of their storytelling feels light and contemporary, creating an experience that is more like Duolingo than an online university course.
This was entirely the intention of the Cardinals in the development of the platform. “We want to help people take their first step in reconciliation,” said Hunter, “and then walk along with them at their pace. We always encourage beginning reconciliation ‘in a good way,’ and for us, that means when you are ready.” This easy-going approach that is a hallmark of Naheyawin’s teaching, is palpable in every facet of the platform.
The Cardinals believe that by beginning with stories, everyone can feel included and move forward together; that often it is the feeling of distinctness that makes that forward movement difficult.” The course assumes no previous level of knowledge or understanding about Indigenous history and includes a tool kit that grew out of the questions most often asked at the end of their in-person sessions.
In the introductory video to their Foundations program, Hunter puts it this way: “This course is a stepping stone to further exploration and real-world action, empowering those who want to play a more active role in the longer journey we are on of righting Indigenous and non-indigenous relations in Canada.” Their emphasis on the length of this reconciliation journey helps ease the pressure of needing to have all the answers right now.
Jacquelyn and Hunter’s positive attitudes immediately put participants at ease. One past RAMP participant commented on the evaluation, “I very much appreciate [Hunter’s] positive approach to presenting the material. The history of Indigenous peoples in Canada is so difficult and I was braced for a long session of shaming and negativity. Instead, there was compassion and understanding—and still the challenge to change the lenses that we don’t even realize we look through.”
Jacquelyn acknowledges that while learning Indigenous history as a Settler can be difficult, it does not help when people feel “shame for reasons that are hard to navigate as an individual. By focusing on the successful bridges that were made between Indigenous and Settler peoples in the past we can inspire people to learn more and ask better questions.”
“We want to start with strength,” agreed Hunter. “We have a beautiful long journey together as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. It began hundreds of years ago and will carry on hundreds of years more. This most recent century is a terrible chapter, but it will be but a small part of the whole story in the end.”
“We want to move the brain and the heart,” he told me. “Centering healing is what helped us feel excited about the future.” The Foundations program is available on the Naheyawin website and Rozsa Foundation newsletter readers can receive a 25% discount on the course at THIS LINK, valid until midnight October 31. Images courtesy of Naheyawin.