Importance of Cultural Identity

Alright, I’m going to try something a little different this week. I realize I am just scratching the surface with this one, but wanted to at least provide enough to start some discussion on the matter.  There are so many things we can look at when seeking out areas that will improve FNMI student success. 

One area that strikes me is the population movement towards urban centres.  The latest statistic I read was that some 70 percent of the FNMI population now lives in urban centres.  What does this mean in terms of cultural identity especially since this also means that new generations of FNMI students will grow up often without the same cultural context or connection as their parents or grandparents had?  How does growing up in an urban centre impact overall success rates? 

I believe the data suggests that those FNMI students who grow up in urban centres are enjoying better academic success (though still less than their mainstream counterparts).  However, the trade off seems to be that these same students often struggle with a lacking cultural identity and end up seeking out ways to solidify their identity later.  Most FNMI students growing up in urban centres simply do have the same opportunities to forge their cultural identity as those who grow up in smaller communities amongst their own Peoples.  They are subjected in large part to mainstream ways of being and knowing, with only glimpses of their traditional ways.  Having grown up on Reserve and now raising two boys off Reserve, I can imagine this to be the situation for my own children.

As we move forward, I believe the challenge will be to provide more opportunities for that cultural connection to those FNMI students who are seeking it out.  In my area, the Friendship centre provides some great programming for those wishing to learn, connect or reconnect to their People and ways of being.  It has certainly provided my boys with some great opportunities for this.

One might ask why it is so important to maintain or learn about our past and traditions.  To this, I might refer to part of the vision of ONECA.  My belief is that in order for us to be truly happy and Soar like Eagles like the Creator meant for us, we need to know where we came from, the struggles our parents and ancestors went through, the strength that carried them through, and the vision of hope they had for our future.   With this knowledge and firm sense of identity, we can go on to carve out a path for ourselves and our children.

I appreciate hearing other thoughts on this topic as the more I thought about it, the more I realized I could keep going and going.  If there is another area you would like to discuss, please mention and we can consider for a future entry.  Miigwetch.

John Jones,
ONECA/Transitions Site Administrator