Learning about Learning: Musqueam Teacher Diamond Point Finds A Rhythm in Education
“Learning takes time and patience,” says Diamond Point, a member of Musqueam First Nation who was born in Vancouver and now lives in nearby Ladner. She works as an Indigenous Education Coordinator and as a high school teacher at a Vancouver-based independent school called West Point Grey Academy.
She teaches social studies and Contemporary Indigenous Studies, a course she created. Point got into education after her artwork was first exhibited at the Museum of Anthropology and a school reached out to her and asked her to help support their art teacher. That’s when she first saw herself as a teacher and she applied to the Indigenous Teacher Education Program at UBC.
“A lot of my focus is forwarding Indigenous education. I find that my art worlds and my education worlds really connect with one another and overlap one another.”
After graduating from high school, she went to University of Victoria for their general arts program, hoping to be a museum curator, taking anthropology, and First Nations studies courses. A difficult relationship got her off track academically and she took time to rediscover herself once she got out. While working, saving money, making art, she found a new relationship and had a child. She returned to post secondary as a mother and mature student.
“I think I'm a way better student now as a parent,” she reflects. She felt pressured to go right to university after high school and to know what she wanted to do with her life, but she needed time to figure that out for herself. When she returned to school, she did so with a more mature outlook. Point knew what she wanted to do with her life and had a child to keep her motivated.
Her advice for Indigenous youth considering university is to get familiar with the departments and services that are built around developing an Indigenous community, explaining “I feel like those supports just really build that home away from home.” She found she didn’t look for those opportunities herself because she was living in her home community but she found connection in her Indigenous focused program, building a network of Indigenous community members and relatives, and connecting with her best friend.
She loves what she does but she’s had her share of challenges. “Sometimes… you'll find your values you hold as an Indigenous person will almost come at a challenge with the bureaucracy of the systems, whether you're in education or any other kind of public sector, and it can be really hard and emotionally laboring, mentally exhausting, and difficult,” she shares.
“When you're starting off a new career, sometimes you don't want to ruffle feathers, challenge anybody or put the attention on you. But I'm starting to find that we have very powerful voices. We know what is going to build up our communities, our knowledge systems, and our perspectives. If something is not being done the way that it should be, don't be afraid to speak up about it, and just say ‘No, that's not how we're going to do this,’” she continues.
When it comes to the inspiration she draws to do what she does, Point looks to her great great grandfather, James Point, who she feels very connected to. He was a Musqueam leader and historian and she is passionate about history, too. That's why she wanted to be a social studies teacher and why she reflects on engaging with history beyond memorization.
“There's so many different ways you can embed, connect to and communicate history. Our people have such unique ways of doing that. That has been something I really like to translate even within my artwork and my art practice. I always kind of go back to this aspect of what it means to be a Musqueam historian or visual communication? How can we tell history in unique ways?” she explains.
Looking back, she wishes she had listened to mentors who told her to slow down. She would get anxious, overwhelmed and rush things, while beating herself up when things weren’t happening fast enough. Now in her teaching practice, she tries to decenter urgency and go back to First Peoples’ principles of learning.
Diamond Point now knows learning takes time and patience and she’s hoping to teach that to students in the work that she does. Anchoring herself in familial and cultural identity, she draws on who she is to get where she wants to be the way she wants to get there. She’s learned from the past so she can teach for the future and knows that when you slow down, good things happen.. and good things are happening every day at school.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.