Testimonial: Tara McGowan-Ross on our outreach program in Native Montreal

On Vallum’s Outreach Program…

My name is Tara McGowan-Ross, and I’m writing to express my support for the Vallum Society for
Education in Arts & Letters outreach program. I was a facilitator for a series of workshops they facilitated
at Native Montreal. We had a diverse array of attendees, with children and their parents in attendance
ranging in ages from 3 months to pre-teens. The workshop series focused on storytelling and reading of
Indigenous children’s literature. The focus was on introducing children to stories from their own and
other nations across Turtle Island, increasing literacy by recreationally engaging in literature-based
explorations, as well as on facilitating togetherness between children and families.

Storytelling is an integral part of Indigenous cosmologies, family structure, and the process of inter-
generational knowledge transfer in First Nations communities. Throughout the majority of pre-contact
history, most of this knowledge transfer happened orally, even in nations with a robust written language.
As a result of the process of colonialism, much of the original languages of our First Nations people have
been lost—but what remains is a hybrid tradition of oral and written story transfer. The result of the work
done by VSEAL was a workshop involving the labour of a dynamic and inter-generational team of
Indigenous women working to provide an international and multi-linguistic educational and
entertainment program for children ages 13 and under. The workshops allowed me and the children to
learn new words in English, French, and Indigenous languages (including my own heritage language,
Mi’kmaq), practice pronounciation, and see how they worked in context. The children were exposed to
traditional means of craftmaking, hunting, gathering, community cooperation, spirituality, and the process
of having functional relationships with non-human animal communities….

The impact of the work done by VSEAL created a strong sense of togetherness, heightening educational
levels as to the myths and cultures of both our own nations and others on Turtle Island. The children also
had additional language exposure, which can have massive impacts, especially at a young age, and
especially when the language is about our own history. It’s also worth noting that this program is very
unique in the city, which is predominately francophone. The facilitation was in both French and English,
and the stories which were read were split between French a

nd English as their primary language (with
words in Mi’kmaq, Ojibway, Cree, Inuktitut, Mohawk, and other languages making an
appearance)—having a diverse program that is accessible to kids is wonderful for a city with so many
multilingual residents!

Wela’lin, – Tara McGowan-Ross