This document is intended to be used as a school-initiated course. Students in First Nation communities can obtain a credit in high school for the completion of this course and can also benefit from having done interviews with their Elders. First Nations can use this guide as a tool in the development of a community history project. For example, First Nations may want to use this guide to interview members on their knowledge of the history of the community.
For First Nations, the communication of historical information was exclusively oral in the past. However, with the introduction of writing, people have come to rely almost entirely on written documents for information about the past. Most First Nations people still hold onto stories from their ancestors and welcome opportunities to share them. First Nations people recognize that all knowledge is embedded in a larger system of cultural beliefs, values, and practices. When students learn the history of their community first-hand from their Elders, they begin to connect intrinsically, not only with their ancestral past, but with existing knowledge keepers.
The use of oral history will help students and community members to acknowledge and respect how cultural values and beliefs influence the interactions of people from different cultural backgrounds. The use of oral history in the educational system will help present and future generations understand how past events were shaped by their ancestors.
Oral history is a sound and/or image recording of historical information, obtained through an interview, that preserves a person’s life history or eyewitness’s account of a past event or experience. Oral history recordings can help listeners understand how people hold different viewpoints in society. Different people hold different viewpoints because of their cultural experiences, interactions, and connections with other people and the environment. The recordings carry the witness of the past into the present and future, where they can instruct, inspire, and inform future generations.
Oral history allows people to express the personal consequences of change, from the simple things in life to the more complex. Oral history provides a more accurate picture of the past by enhancing the information provided by public records, photographs, maps, letters, and other historical materials. Eyewitnesses to events can help us understand various viewpoints and perspectives that help fill in the gaps in documented history. We may even find that some eyewitness accounts correct or contradict the written word. Oral history allows people to share their stories in their own words, with their own voices, through their own understanding of what happened and why. Future generations can view today’s generation through listening to or viewing these audio and image recordings.
Learning Approaches and Teaching Strategies
The cooperative learning approach is suggested for use in the classroom as a method of teaching and learning. Cooperative learning is more than working together, it means making learning more student-centred, rather than just coming from teacher-fronted instruction (Jacobs, 2004, p. 5). Students will actively participate in the Oral History Project. They will conduct taped interviews, type the dialogue of the interviews, and print the results in a book. The year’s project will culminate with publishing the interviews and making books available to the interviewees, students, and interested members of the community.
A hands-on approach will be used as students apply their knowledge while working in the community conducting interviews. Students will learn the interview process as they do interviews with peers and then with community members. They will learn to use recording equipment as they interview peers and will be proficient before they record community members.
Students need to be active in their own learning in order to be lifelong learners. Experiential learning is a process where students are engaged in relevant and authentic experiences that allow them to make discoveries and experiment with knowledge. Experiential learning also allows participants to reflect on their learning as they develop new skills and ways of thinking.