April 25, 2017

Digital Storytelling in Métis Communities

Using technology to honour traditions in new ways
Angie Rob
Angie Rob

The potential for technology to promote collaboration, connection, and creativity is being increasing realized in education. Whether in the classroom, or in the community, digital practices are helping to transform education, art, and engaging new perspectives. For Dr. Yvonne Poitras Pratt, a Métis scholar, using digital media to support decolonization efforts has been a central focus of her work.

Beginning with her PhD dissertation in 2011, Dr. Poitras Pratt has been using digital stories and storytelling to help Métis communities revitalize and reclaim cultural traditions through creating media projects. Working with Fishing Lake Métis Settlement, the home community of both her parents, 19 digital stories have been created which highlight the contemporary lived experiences of the local community members. In the 3-4 minute vignettes, the residents narrate themes of survival, community belongingness, and traditional ways of life.

The stories were created in a collaborative setting, with at-risk youth working with community elders. The project brought members together to tell their stories in a collective way – by, with, and for Métis people. The format, using audio, video, music, and other media, was chosen to honour the oral traditions of Aboriginal people. They also represent an authentic voice, disrupting the filtering of stories through historical accounts typically told by others. For the community, it helped them realize the potential of reclaiming their stories, and to reinforce their value, both for themselves and those beyond the settlement.

Digital Media in Indigenous Education

The project highlights one example of meaningful community engagement with Indigenous peoples. It also shows the potential for technology to support teaching and learning from Indigenous perspectives. The use of technology and newer pedagogies, particularly multimodal learning, can be well suited for Indigenous ways of knowing.

These stories, and digital storytelling, can help students in understanding both the history and the current lives of Métis. These digital stories not only embed Indigenous perspectives in curriculum, but also connect students with the lives of fellow Albertans.

Dr. Poitras Pratt has used these stories in the mandatory class on Indigenous Education for pre-service teachers; they have also inspired students to attempt multimedia assignments on Indigenous education. These digital activities can prompt new understandings and allowed the participants to creatively and meaningfully engage with Indigenous perspectives.

See the work of students reflecting on Indigenous Education

Connected Citations

Poitras Pratt, Y. (forthcoming). Educating with digital storytelling: A decolonizing journey for an Indigenous community. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

Poitras Pratt, Y., & Daniels, L. (2014). Metis Remembrances of Education: Bridging History with Memory. In P. Preciado Babb (Ed.). Proceedings of the IDEAS: Rising to Challenge Conference, pp. 179-187. Calgary, Canada: Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. Available Online.

Poitras Pratt, Y. (2011). Meaningful Media: An Ethnography of a Digital Strategy within a Métis Community.  Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. University of Calgary.

Poitras Pratt, Y. (2010). Taking a Stance: Aboriginal Media Research as an Act of Empowerment. In S.B. Hafsteinsson & M. Bredin (Eds.) Indigenous Screen Cultures in Canada, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.

Poitras Pratt, Y. (2010). Merging New Media with Old Traditions. Native Studies Review, 19(1), 1-27.