Reading Experience as Communitist Practice: Indigenous Literatures and Community Service-Learning

  • JD McDougall
  • Nancy Van Styvendale
Keywords: Indigenous literatures, community service-learning, Indigenous education, Cree philosophy

Abstract

Our paper analyzes a community service-learning class on Indigenous literatures from the perspectives of graduate student and instructor. Enacting Jace Weaver’s theory of communitism (a portmanteau of “community” and “activism”), the class asks students to read Indigenous texts through the lens of their experiences at communitybased organizations in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and to consider how these readings shape their interactions with and responsibilities to Indigenous communities. First, the instructor discusses the complexities of community service-learning as an engaged approach to literary study in a settler colonial context. Informed by Tomson Highway’s novel Kiss of the Fur Queen, the second author then analyzes their1 contributions to the social justice club at Oskāyak High School, highlighting Oskāyak’s unique academic culture, where music and Indigenous language learning are incorporated into the fabric of everyday life. Ultimately, we argue that a communitist approach to Indigenous literary scholarship creates or furthers relationships with/in and responsibility to Indigenous communities, while encouraging an integrative approach to literary study through critical embodiment.

Published
2019-06-01