June 2020

Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (AWSNA) + Indigenous Waldorf Education in Canada

We thought we would share the following document which AWSNA has published in response to recent events in Minnesota and throughout the US:

Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

From the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America

Jun 1 2020: Dear AWSNA Community Members, We write today acknowledging societal injustice and the resulting anger that has escalated throughout the United States this past week.  We offer our thoughts to the communities of City of Lakes Waldorf School and Minnesota Waldorf School so near the epicenter of both peaceful protests and rioting spurred by the murder of George Floyd. We grieve for the family of George Floyd and are outraged by the unjust acts perpetrated by the police officers involved whose very task it is to protect their communities. We are once again reminded of the systemic racism that exists within the United States. 

Yet, we recognize that sadness and outrage are not enough. At the foundation of Waldorf education lies the mission of social renewal. As Waldorf educators we hold the dignity of life and the human being at the center of our work. It is our responsibility to bear witness to what is happening in the world, to elevate the voices of marginalized people, to change the course of inequities, and to break down structural prejudice in all forms where it exists, particularly in Waldorf education. 

Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is one of the guiding forces behind AWSNA’s strategic priorities, and as an executive team of AWSNA we are spending more time than ever asking the following questions:

How do I participate, consciously or unconsciously in systemic racism?

  • What meaningful actions will I take in service to the leadership and agency of people of color?
  • Where are the possibilities for me to prioritize racial justice in my work to further Waldorf education?
  • We ask you to join us in exploring these questions and in elevating your own commitment to social justice.

So What Has Been Happening in Canada in this Direction?

Although Canada does also have some history of slavery and discrimination against black and coloured peoples, one of the most glaring injustices in Canada has to do with our treatment of Indigenous people. At least that is where we, as representatives of Waldorf education have found a way of starting to work with with issues of social justice right here in our own country.

Indigenous students lead a circle dance at the 2019 RSCT Summer Festival.

Indigenous Waldorf Education in Canada

Here in Canada, many of us in the Waldorf community have become acutely aware of the many injustices committed against Indigenous people in Canada, particularly through the system of residential schools. 

This awareness has inspired initiatives to explore possibilities of cultural sharing between Indigenous peoples and Waldorf educators. One place where we can start to see the fruits of this collaboration is at the Everlasting Tree School near Brantford.

The following is from the history page of the school's website: "In 2010 a group of parents and teachers seeking a holistic, experiential education, founded The Everlasting Tree School. The first of it’s kind to deliver Kanyen’keha and Rotinonhsonni culture following a Waldorf Education template, we are an independent, alternative school located at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, privately funded by donation." 

The Everlasting Tree School has recently become a recognized Waldorf initiative, and is on its way to becoming a full-fledged Waldorf school.

Education for Recovery from Trauma

Last year there was a Waldorf-inspired conference on Emergency Pedagogy, presented by Bernd Ruf (from Germany) at the Everlasting Tree School. Emergency Pedagogy is a stream of Waldorf education developed to address the particular needs of children who are recovering from trauma in their lives. Here's a link to Bernd Ruf's book on Amazon.

Another Ontario school where Indigenous Waldorf conferences have been held is the Akwesasne Freedom School, which is a Mohawk (Haudenosaunee) language school on the St. Lawrence river in Eastern Ontario.

A total of ten conferences and courses on Indigenous Waldorf have so far taken place in these and other Indigenous communities across Canada. Some of these events have sponsored or organized through the Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf Education. 

Two years ago, the Rudolf Steiner Centre offered a summer course on Indigenous Waldorf Education, led by teachers from the Everlasting Tree School. Indigenous students have also taken part in both the full-time and part-time Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers programs at RSCT.

Indigenous student teacher Wasohnti:io Hill (left) and Waldorf Early Childhood teacher Patti Wolfe making music for "The Dancing Stars" marionette show. Wasohnti:io also helped choose the story and develop it into a marionette show format.

Dancing Stars

One of the Indigenous student teachers at RSCT, Wasohnti:io Hill (left in photo above), worked with a local Waldorf marionette troupe to develop a puppet show for children based on an Indigenous legend. Initially it was performed at a Toronto Waldorf School children's festival and at the Everlasting Tree School. The following year, in February 2020, the group was invited to bring their marionette show, "The Dancing Stars", to the annual WECAN conference in Spring Valley to share it with other Waldorf early childhood educators.

Douglas Cardinal, who in addition to his work for Indigenous Waldorf, is also a world-renowned architect, has recently published an article in the Toronto Star newspaper on the subject of what the Covid-19 crisis can teach us about our humanity. We've reprinted it on the RSCT blog. You can read that story here.

Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf Education.

Watch a 45 minute video with Douglas Cardinal on Waldorf Education by and for First Nations.

RSCT Executive Director James Brian (second from left in picture below) is also president of the Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf Education. James has written a story for the forthcoming issue of Renewal magazine outlining the history of Waldorf education in Canada with a particular focus on recent developments in Indigenous Waldorf education. 

James Brian presents a certificate from AWSNA to representatives of the Everlasting Tree School, attesting to AWSNA's recognition of their status as an initiative on the way to becoming a full-fledged Waldorf school. (July 2018)

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