This week we were asked to create an inquiry within a neighbourhood and study the area for signs of colonialism, settler presences and indigenous presences. I decided to look and follow my neighbourhood of Wortley Village. I grew up in this neighbourhood and have almost memorized my favourite paths and sidewalks. When asked to do this inquiry and walk around with a new purpose within my neighbourhood, it opened up my eyes on different aspects and objects I had not noticed before. For example, I did not realize how much of a settler presence was here in my community. Most of the buildings have heritage stamps and are protected by the London Heritage Council. Also we have a variety of old churches (some of the oldest in London) in our area. I attend St. James Westminster Anglican Church and realized how dominant and apparent the building is in our community. As well, the Normal School is in our neighbourhood, one of the original the old teachers college’s in Ontario. The settler ideal of having to educate teachers in order to ensure the proper way of doing things will continue onto the next generation. Again, I did not realize how much of a settler presence there is my neighbourhood.
I also noticed how little there is of indigenous presences within the neighbourhood. The closest building represented for First Nations people is located downtown on Richmond St. I wonder how we can incorporate a better balance within our neighbourhood. Why do we not have more committed areas or presences of First Nations people?
While walking down Wortley Road I felt a strong connection to this neighbourhood and a feeling of wanting to protect it from changing. There have been new developments within our neighbourhood that people have not been happy with. The London Heritage council have put in place strict guidelines and rules to new properties within this community. For example, a new building has to carefully plan the exterior, the exterior must “fit” or emulate characteristics of the neighbourhood. I began to think about how we have the privilege to protect and keep our neighbourhood when our First Nations/ Indigenous people did not have the opportunity to think about protecting theirs.
How can I teach my students about these provocations that I have towards my neighbourhood. How can I teach them we have had the privilege of keeping our neighbourhoods the same for many years? Why are we allowed to have Heritage Council who protects our buildings or keep the idea of commercialized buildings away from this area?
I can start off small by taking my students through the neighbourhood and asking them to tell me what they notice. I won’t tell them to specifically look for anything but would be interested to hear what their thoughts are and their questions are of our neighbourhood. Will they notice the buildings are old? will they notice the kinds of families that are present in this neighbourhood? I will be interesting to see what they see.