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  • Writer's pictureConvening Storytelling Team

Aloha Circle: Where Are You From + Storyteller Reflection

By Jillian Kuhlmann and Kevan Kiser-Chuc

We are pleased to share with you today a piece from our storytelling series of reflections and noticings coming out of our convening in Tucson!

Please stay tuned for more writings from our team of storytellers and revisit the blog here to see them all in the coming months.


A number of storytellers captured their thoughts in images and short pieces. We'll be sharing those as well as the longer writing.

In February 2023, the Assessment for Learning Convening took place in Tucson, AZ, bringing together the AFL community and inviting in dozens of new friends and partners. At the event were 27 storytellers, gathering, crafting, and reflecting on all manner of things AFL. Jillian Kuhlmann and Kevan Kiser-Chuc are two of those storytellers.

At the Thursday morning session, ‘Aha & Mo’olelo: Ceremony and Story as Research and Assessment, the presenters introduced us to a new/very old framework for crafting story. But before that, the presenters—Cheryl Ka’uhane Lupenui, Puni Jackson, Kaimana Chock, and Megan Inada—asked us a simple question: Where are you from? For no one in the room, was the answer simple or trivial. Jillian Kuhlmann reflects.

The Ohio River at Sunset Wikicommons Photos

I am standing in a circle and I am challenging myself to introduce the place where I am from in a way that acknowledges the original caretakers of the land. I have never done it before. I have never been asked to do it before. No one is asking me to do it now. (It would be easier not to.) I am wrestling with the discomfort of pronouncing the names of Indigenous peoples incorrectly, to be seen as someone who does things incorrectly. I do not want to take (yet more) space away from them by mangling their language on my white tongue.

i’m from Cincinnati it was taken care of by the Miami and the Shawnee

I am stumbling over my words, my own nerves. I am editing myself in the moment.

i’m from Cincinnati the land belongs to the Miami and the Shawnee

I am looking at a map after to be sure I got it right. I got it wrong.

i’m from Cincinnati the land belongs to the Osage and the Hopewell and the Kaskaskia and the Adena and the Myaamia and the Shawnee

I think I do not belong to a place and no place belongs to me. I cannot claim without seeming to take.

And then we are talking about belonging, about building a sense of it. What it looks like and feels like, the privilege and the power in it.

I am listening when Cheryl Ka’uhane Lupenui says,

“We hear what ‘I don’t belong here,’ sounds like. Sometimes it sounds like, ‘I want to belong.’ Sometimes it sounds like, ‘I don’t want to take responsibility.’”

(for belonging)

I feel the keen bite of a necessary truth. White belonging requires taking responsibility. It is not about getting it right but creating space to acknowledge wrongs.

i’m from land that was taken from the Osage and the Hopewell and the Kaskaskia and the Adena and the Myaamia and the Shawnee

I will be standing in a circle next time and it will not be easier.

I will do it anyway.


ALP Conference Storyteller Reflection

Kevan A. Kiser-Chuc, PhD


About the Storytellers

Jillian Kuhlmann is the senior manager for communications at KnowledgeWorks, a nonprofit organization that partners with states and schools to align policy and practice, reimagining what education can do through personalized, competency-based learning – and what it must do to prepare students for a lifetime of learning.

Kevan A. Kiser-Chuc is a master teacher, teacher mentor/coach, and adjunct professor in both a public school district and at a land grant research university in the borderlands of the Southwestern United States. As a teacher researcher, Kevan proposes a classroom curriculum that is relevant and responsive, encouraging students to explore their identities using expressive arts and multimodal literacies.

By theorizing and practicing an approach to teaching and learning that privileges an interconnectedstrategy of student and teacher voice, self-efficacy, and agency for critical engagement, Kiser-Chuc has been grateful to witness and participate in transformative experiences in the classroom.

Dr. Kiser-Chuc holds a BA in History and Spanish from the California State University at Northridge, an MA in Intercultural Education for the Universidad de Las Americas in Mexico City, an MEd in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, and a recent PhD in Language, Reading and Culture from the University of Arizona in Tucson.


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