“I Never Read Anything Like That Before:” Mapping the Identities of Blackfoot Readers
Our research emerges out of a concern that Indigenous readers, generally speaking, are not having opportunities to read and discuss culturally relevant fiction. Children’s literature and reader response scholarship does not fully engage with what Indigenous voices could bring to our understanding of young people's responses to and engagement with fiction. We are currently conducting a community-based, participatory project with Blackfoot First Nations young adults who live on the Kainai Blood Reserve in southern Alberta. We are looking at the ways in which our participants perceive of and represent their social, cultural and place-based identities within and beyond the text. Our participants are reading and discussing several Indigenous texts, including a graphic novel set on their reserve. We are interested in the ways in which these readers reflect on their identities while discussing culturally relevant fiction, within reading discussion groups and the creation of journals (comprised of visual responses, such as maps, sketches, and photos). Within this article, we share how using culturally relevant and local, place-based fiction is spurring Blackfoot youth to have discussions about their identities within and beyond the text. We suggest that these methodological approaches are empowering the Blackfoot youth to develop their own self-representations by relating these stories to their own lives, including their memories of growing up on a reserve. In positioning our participants as experts in their own cultures and lived experiences, they are visualizing their own diversity, complexity and importance in the world.
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