Learning to Remember / Resist / Redraw: Bringing the Graphic History Collective’s work to an elementary teacher education classroom

by Casey Burkholder (@CM_Burkholder)

I’m a teacher educator at a university in Eastern Canada, teaching in the Wabinaki Confederacy on the unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik peoples. I’m also a former history student and a graphic novel enthusiast. The Graphic History Collective combines so many of my truest passions. History (check). Drawing (check). Disrupting homogenizing historical narratives (check). Centering peoples, communities, and stories, downplayed or marginalized in the territory that is now known as Canada (check). The Graphic History Collective is my cup of tea.

I bring drawing to my research and teaching practices in order to speak to multiple audiences (rather than just communicating to academics). From my graphic fieldnotes in my doctoral work (above), to the notes that leave on my office door (below), drawing is central to my ways of making sense of the way I see the world.

I encountered the Graphic History Collective’s Remember / Resist / Redraw project through Twitter in 2017, and I was inspired to share the project with my students: folks who would go out to teach elementary school in New Brunswick. I thought that the practice of radical remembering, of making visual the stories and events that are minimized and downplayed in the New Brunswick elementary curriculum would make an excellent assignment for the students.  I asked my students to read, view, and engage with the Remember / Resist / Redraw posters, and then to create their own posters centering specific histories and actors in response. The students’ creations center all kinds of stories from New Brunswick and Canada that they had not engaged with in their schooling experiences.

One student, Shoba, created a poster that highlighted Canada’s history of xenophobia, through the example of the Komagata Maru.

Another student, Sam, explored the ways in which he had learned about the Oxbow River in his childhood in Northern New Brunswick, and how he unsettled his previous understanding by engaging with stories and histories of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq First Nation.

Rebekah painted Shanawdithit—the last living member of the Beothuk people from what is now known as Newfoundland.

Each of the student posters makes visual the stories that had been absent from their social studies experiences. The practice of learning, crafting, and disseminating these stories in classrooms and publics is meant to disrupt hegemonic narratives that so often ignore and suppress the stories of folks, communities, and events that do not align with dominant or nationalistic narratives of the past. As a teacher educator, I am committed to encouraging learners to remember, resist, and redraw in order to teach and live more equitably in the territory that is now known as Canada. I am thankful to the work of the Graphic History Collective for encouraging me to bring the Remember / Resist / Redraw project into my Introduction to Social Studies Education classroom.

You can see all of our posters at: https://nb-social-studies.com/posters/