I love the way the air feels in my lungs when it shifts from its muggy warmth to evening crispness; in that single breath, my entire being is reunited with the land surrounding my grandparents’ home. In times of transition in my life, this place was my constant—reuniting with loved ones from across the country during one sacred week every summer. The cold, spring-fed lake surrounded by birch trees and well-worn dirt paths welcomed our small bodies from morning to dark. This was my place.
I am learning from indigenous friends: “Know who you are, where you are, and who you are with,” and “Know how you are connected or disconnected to this place.” These words, from Mona Smith of Allies: media/art and Emily Johnson of Catalyst Dance, have washed over me hundreds of times. Every time I hear them, I’m challenged—challenged by everything I was taught, challenged to continue acknowledging what I do not know. These words call me into a place of humility, fighting against a culture disconnects humanity through “othering” and its checkbox mentality, demanding a mastery over knowledge that renders stories like mine invisible.
The Minnesota Humanities Center works with amazing partners who are teaching us how this concept of “place” can surface the stories and lived experiences of the people who consider this place we now call Minnesota “home.”
By using the concept of place to bring absented stories into public, we can productively address:
- Stories of origin and arrival: How did I(we) get here?
- Stories of inclusion: What makes this place home?
- Stories of character: What makes my local community distinctive?
- Stories that connect the past with the present: What is the history of this place?
The 2016 Summer Educators’ Institute: Transforming Education Through Absent Narratives will focus on these concepts. Participants will start with the stories of the people who have the longest relationship to this place, learning from Dakota scholars and the bdote area—where “two waters come together”—in the Twin Cities. Through rich humanities content, participants will deepen their knowledge base and practice around ways of knowing and being, interrupt the dominant narrative, and identify strategies to retell and reimagine our stories. Participants will leave with a plan to use place-based strategies to incorporate absent narratives in their classrooms.
These days, I think a lot about place. And now, I think not only of my grandparents’ home, but also of the many people and beings who have lived and continue to live in that place. I think about how I ended up here, and how the acknowledgement and telling of these stories makes me whole, and allows me to add my story to the layers of stories that make up this special place.