This unit is the first of five units that make up the second learning phase, Awakening Personal Narrative: Poetry, Memoir & Short Story. At the heart of this learning phase lies the cultivation and activation Weeka’dza or the Linguistic Domain (Romero 163). This dimension of giftedness is exemplified by, “linguistically gifted people [who] have a notable ability to learn and use the Native language, such as in speech, song, and prayer” (Romero 163). Weeka’dza is integrated into this learning phase in several key ways, encompassing critical readings and creative writing, and the gradual creation of a Participatory Literacy Community (Fisher 117) that fully emerges in later units.
This first two-week unit opens with the memoir by Ernestine Hayes, Blonde Indian. By traversing the landscape of words created by this Alaska Native writer, Identity Project students have the opportunity to share in the perspective of an author whose personal story (culture, values and language) may be reminiscent of their own. One of the primary goals of this unit is the exposure to narratives of this kind because they situate students within a larger literacy community that acts to affirm and reflect their indigenaity.
Once students have explored the text through guided close readings they then move to using the text as inspiration. Thoughtfully tailored creative writing prompts based on excerpts from Blonde Indian directly engage students in nurturing personal voice. In their writing, students are asked to stretch the limits of what a “poem” might be, tapping in to the performative aspects of the Linguistic Domain, incorporating speech, song and prayer. In producing pieces of writing that expand the limits of an existing form, students are stretched to use their creativity and originality to problem solve. In addition, students are continually encouraged to write in their language of choice, embracing their multilingualism and indiengaity with each personal act of literacy.