What can the Métis sash teach us about truth, and then reconciliation, for educators?

Faculty of Education

By Marketing et communication

Faculté d'éducation | Faculty of Education, uOttawa

Madelaine McCracken
Photo by Mitchell McCracken, GLAMSHOTS Mobile Studio
Métis scholar Madelaine McCracken (MEd ’21) knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was just eight years old. What she didn’t know was where her youthful enthusiasm for education would eventually lead.

Her story starts in the third grade, helping her classmates with their homework in a small elementary school in St. Norbert, Manitoba. It was the spark that led to her earning a bachelor’s degree in education, starting a teaching career, and completing a master’s degree. Helping others was a recurring theme throughout these years, a character trait she says came naturally as an integral part of her upbringing. Now, as an SSHRC-funded doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education, McCracken is exploring the potential of podcasting, storytelling, and raising awareness about her culture, to advance work on reconciliation.

We sat down with McCracken to learn more about her educational experiences, doctoral research, and other initiatives. This interview is part of our Scholars in Education series.

Q. Tell us about your background and path to doctoral studies.

MM: I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and spent my youth and early adulthood in southern Alberta on Treaty 7 territory. My kinship familial relations are Chartrand, Larence, Pangman, and Bruce families primarily located in St. Laurent and Winnipeg, Manitoba, a part of the historic Northwest Métis homeland.

When I first became an elementary school teacher, my colleagues often asked for help in teaching First Nations, Inuit, and Métis stories and perspectives, and in finding appropriate educational resources. In these moments, I realized that although I loved teaching students, my bigger passion was teaching teachers. When I was accepted into my PhD program, I told my family as we sat on a couch together and we all started crying with joy! Becoming a scholar was something I never expected, but I know this is the path I need to be on. Fast forward to the Winter 2023 term, when I taught my first university course to future teachers, namely PED 3138 - First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Education: Historical Experiences and Contemporary Perspectives. It was a dream come true!  

Q. You said you loved sharing stories, and how important oral histories are to Indigenous knowledge. How did this influence your next steps?

MM: During the summer of 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, I started a podcast called Educate the Earth’s Research Time. In these conversations, I shared articles and resources on social justice and reconciliation with colleagues who work, teach, and do research in the broad field of education. Podcasting is important to me culturally, personally, and academically. Such a platform honours our oral histories and our storytelling abilities, and allows us to connect as kin. I believe that research needs to be easily accessible to everyone. Open access really matters, and so I also curated a list of resources for everyone living in Canada to take ReconciliAction today! 

Q. Can you talk about the importance of the Métis sash?

MM: The working title for my thesis is A Métis Sash Research Methodology: Re-Storying Truth and Then Reconciliation Education Together. I plan to conduct research honouring my kinship ties and supporting the intergenerational well-being of my community. I’ll use a Métis-specific narrative inquiry (a research method for understanding lived experiences) to share our stories through oral storytelling in podcast form. I aim to understand how Métis curriculum and teacher education scholars feel about their responsibility for storying truth and then, enacting reconciliation with future teachers. I am interested to learn how they might draw on their teachings and interpretations of the Métis sash in their teaching. The Métis sash has different colours for families and communities and the colours carry different meanings. For example, Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak (Women of the Métis Nation) gift purple sashes to women because the colour represents the healing of our matriarchs and grandmothers. For my work, I will be using the most recognizable one: the red Métis sash. I was honoured to receive mine from one of my Elders and kinship familial relations the day I graduated with my Bachelor of Education from Mount Royal University, on Treaty 7.

I will draw upon various meanings in my Métis sash as I carry out my doctoral project, guided by principles of love, responsibility, reciprocity, and kinship. I am extremely excited to begin this research! 

Q. Who do you hope might benefit from your work? 

As a Métis woman and curriculum studies scholar, I notice that when I carry out work of Truth and then Reconciliation education, it reaffirms my own commitments to the Calls to Action.I formulate the phrase in this way because learning truths must come before reconciliation can move forward. I hold onto the hope of achieving what the survivors gifted to us: responding fully to all 94 calls. 

My research project intends to raise awareness about the importance of valuing Métis culture and orally based studies as scholarly knowledge. Our stories are not only meant to be read, but also they are important to be heard, as they can inform future educational policy, teacher education, and relationships between Métis and non-Métis peoples. Podcasting is a culturally significant way to share our perspectives, experiences, and lives with others. I hope my community (and others) benefit the most from this work; it is always for them. 

Q. Why did you choose the University of Ottawa?

MM: When I was completing my undergraduate studies in 2016, I visited Ottawa for a conference and I fell in love with the city. I felt like I belonged. I remembered the feeling when it came time to apply to graduate studies… the rest is history! I am grateful for being on this educational journey and for my family and friends, every professor who has taught me so far in the Faculty of Education, my mentors, colleagues, the Indigenous Resource Centre, and my PhD supervisor Professor Nicholas Ng-A-Fook. He dedicates so much of his time to ensuring all his graduate students feel supported. I would not be on this academic path today if it were not for his guidance and leadership. 


Discover more about Madelaine McCracken's research on her uOttawa profile, listen to her podcast, and follow her on social media: LinkedIn, Twitter/X, and Instagram.

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