Blackfoot healing curriculum through storytelling and art: Faceless Dolls, a young-adult illustrated novella

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Heavy Shield, Hali
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education
The study “Blackfoot Healing Curriculum Through Storytelling and Art: Faceless Dolls, a Young-Adult Illustrated Novella” is an arts-based dissertation of creative exploration in which I sought healing through storytelling and visual art pedagogy. K-12 programs of study and post-secondary education that incorporate the arts have effectively engaged and connected with teachers and students, particularly with youth. In this thesis, I explored the research question: “How can an illustrated novella that expresses Blackfoot storytelling pedagogy promote learning and healing from trauma?” I chose a qualitive arts-based approach and methodology that aimed to create meaning from written and visual text and to expand my own and my audience’s understanding of my research question. This framework recognizes that art can convey truths about knowledge of the self and others. I included 25 of my own artworks to convey such truths together with the written narrative. Under the umbrella of arts-based research, I engaged in fiction-based research, namely “social fiction” based on Patricia Leavy (2017), to write a realistic and authentic portrayal of a Blackfoot youth’s experience in my home community of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta. I based my creative and scholarly work on four Blackfoot values: aatsimoyihkaan (spirituality), kimapiitpitsinni (kindness), ikakimaat (do your best) and kakoysin (being aware/observant). I found that my own arts practice, based on these Blackfoot teachings enabled me to experience transformational change through imagination, creativity, and holistic learning and knowing. Colonization and the Residential School system have left a devasting legacy of woundedness and trauma. In doing the research for the novella, I have identified how both traditional and contemporary Indigenous art and storytelling practices can be modes of survival and recovery, heal woundedness, and garner spiritual wisdom and well-being by attending to Blackfoot values in a K-12 education context.
Blackfoot storytelling pedagogy , healing curriculum , trauma , learning , visual arts , storytelling , arts-based research , fiction-based research , social fiction