Author Archives: StephenTod

Connecting to the land and connecting with others

In reading this week’s postings, I have found that many of the learning I have gained in this course is about making connections as a means of sharing learning.  Inspired by what I had read this week, I have the following resources to share:

Technology cuts through isolation for northern students

For many Aboriginal Canadians living in isolated areas, there is often little opportunity to learn and share with those from more connected communities.  Based on what has been happening in African communities, communities in Nunavut have been connected with schools in Alberta as a means of cultural exchange.  This sharing of information has helped create a larger cultural exchange between students to re-connect to the land and re-discover themselves.

Students from Moosonee and Toronto meet in Ontario’s far north

A cultural exchange a little closer to home for me, the Catholic school in Moosonee hosted students from Toronto as part of a cultural exchange.  During the visit, the students from Moosonee shared with their Toronto guests many traditional practices to gain a new appreciation for everyday life of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples and life in the north.

Aboriginal Education as Cultural Brokerage: New Aboriginal Teachers Reflect on Language and Culture in the Classroom

In this roundtable discussion, issues around education and Aboriginal cultural beliefs and practices are shared.  As I am discovering in this course, and through my experiences in Moosonee working with Aboriginal youth, traditional post-secondary education programs often offer little in preparation for working in northern communities.  The discussion shares how there needs to be more emphasis on traditional practices and customs while also providing more opportunities for holistic learning rather than book-based.

Storytelling as a Foundation To Literacy Development for Aboriginal Children

Published by the government of Alberta, the focus of this document is the sharing of a curriculum-wide narrative that students can use to trace their own cultural teachings and beliefs through education.  This document was created in response to Aboriginal youth facing many difficulties and an overall lack of cultural and land-based learning.  Using oral histories and teachings, students learn through a narrative more about literacy, their culture and themselves.

The Effects Upon Students of Supplementing Aboriginal Post-Secondary Transition Programs With Traditional Cultural Activities

This thesis shares the effects of incorporating traditional practices and beliefs into Aboriginal student transition programs as a means of helping improve student success.  Part of the findings that stands out to me the most is the need to have culturally-relevant learning opportunities that are created in cooperation with local Aboriginal communities. In the case of my students from Moosonee, such programs would profit them greatly as they prepare for post-secondary opportunities.  Based on the change of student success from those in the thesis, a program can be created for students coming from northern Ontario communities to southern schools.

What can be learnt

This week I wish to present a series of articles on topics of great interest and what can be learnt from traditional Aboriginal teachings to better the system.

Canadian law can learn from Indigenous law

In Quebec, students are now being taught Aboriginal law alongside Quebec law.  Of particular interest from this article is the focus that Aboriginal law is based on relationships and how they can be strengthened.  Mr. Borrows, the educator mentioned in the article and interview, has worked with Aboriginal groups rom across Canada and the world.  In incorporating more Aboriginal law into everyday practice, Burrows argues, it will help strengthen Canada’s system as a whole with a continued focus on mending relationships and rehabilitation rather than punishment.

Forget Smokey the Bear: How First Nation fire wisdom is key to megafire prevention

The firekeepers of the Okanagan valley were responsible for purifying the land.  In this article, published by the CBC, the discussion of the Aboriginal practice of slash and burn is shared as a means of how it helped prevent the types of fires seen in Britih Columbia and Alberta over the past few years.  Shared in the article is the story of Annie Kruger, a former firekeeper, and how her teachings may be used to prevent larger fires in the future and how it’s important to use these teachings moving forward.

Canada seeks traditional aboriginal knowledge on climate change

Climate change affects us all and in this Star article the importance of using oral histories and knowledge is shared.  By speaking with elders, scientists are discovering how the climate is changing over time and working on ways to slow or improve the process.  Scientific data, it is argued, helps, but it is also important to speak with those who are seeing the changes and are affected by it.  Not only is Canada investigating changes using elder accounts, the United States is getting in on it as well.

How science and First Nations oral tradition are converging

A saying I often hear goes that there is truth rooted in every story.  For long, Aboriginal traditional histories have been ignored because there are few written accounts.  Recently, however, there has been a convergence of science and oral histories in helping shape views.  An example is an oral history of an earthquake that hit in about 1700.  Using the oral histories, scientists were able to determine what they found of an ancient tsunami coincides with the story.  Part of science is proving theories correct or incorrect and we are finding that many theories, or stories, shared from Aboriginal traditions are helping shape science and give a better view of the past.

First Nations Mental Wellness: Mobilizing Change through Partnership and Collaboration

Mental health is important for those living in the 21st century.  We are bombarded every day with materials and pieces of information that can cause a strain in our mental abilities.  A new mental health strategy for Canada is using traditional knowledge as a means of supporting positive mental health.  Shared in the strategy is a balance of purpose, hope, meaning and belonging, all key points in traditional teachings as much as in modern society.  In order to keep these together, one needs community.  An excellent read with a wonderful continuum shared on pages 99 and 100 that an be used in every setting.

Using HipHop as a means of cultural expression

In Moosonee, the favourite form of music among youth is hiphop.  The reason many share why they enjoy it is the messages shared sometimes hot close to home for themselves.  With the popularity of this genre of music, I am going to share in this post some resources in how hiphop is used as a form of capturing a cultural snapshot and sharing of culture and identity.

A Tribe Called Red – W5

This clip from W5 earlier in the year is a great resource with members of the band sharing how they are able to blend traditional Aboriginal music into modern hiphop music.  A great interview that can be used in English, media, music or native studies classes.


Shibastik – 7 Grandfather Teachings

Shibastik is originally from the Moosonee/Moose Factory area who has produced numerous hiphop recordings that focus on traditional teachings.  Some of his better-known songs include Moose River (my snowmobile is in there somewhere), Hand Drum and The 7 Teachings (shown above).  In the above video, Shabastik shares the 7 Grandfather Teachings that play a major role in the educating of Anishinaabe youth.  In the form of a hiphop music video, Shibastik shares the teachings as a way for youth to rediscover their heritage and identity.  His music always had a positive focus and he also has developed workshops that work with youth in helping them rediscover through music and art.


First Nations youth redefine resilience: listening to artistic productions of ‘Thug Life’ and hip-hop

This article, written by Brooks et al., examines how Aboriginal youth have used HipHop as a form of resiliency in defining their place in greater society.  Because of the greater effects of colonialism on Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, today’s youth are searching for identity.  In that search, HipHop provides an “out” through the telling of stories of those leaving the “ghetto” while making a name for themselves.  The paper is an excellent resource as it focuses on how “Thug Life ” and HipHop music can be used as a positive in enabling and empowering youth.  Examples of how this can occur in helping reclaim identity are found in the styles of music above.

Research Overview Hip Hop as Methodology: Ways of Knowing

Written by Charity Marsh (Canada Research Chair in Interactive Media and Performance, and Associate Professor in Media Studies, University of Regina), this report chronicles her involvement with Aboriginal youth in the creation of HipHop.  As shared in the report, she asks “How does hip hop challenge contemporary Canada to think about “Aboriginal” politics and colonialism in the present and the future, rather than framing them as only relevant to the past?”.  Through the creation of workshops and the opportunity for youth to create works of media in a way to “keep it real” and share teachings, traditions and values through music.  This provides an excellent blueprint to opportunities that can allow creation of similar projects all over Canada (and the world).

Native North America, Vol. 1

This compilation album features FMNI performers from the period of 1966-1985.  This album is the work of Kevin Howes, who worked to capture Aboriginal music from the time.  The choice of songs in the compilation focus on the shift in Aboriginal rights and recapturing of culture using music as a means.  Some of the artists may be well-know, others not so much.  I became aware of this album as two artists, Brian Davey and Lloyd Cheechoo, come from Moose Factory.  You can hear a preview of the song son the site but I hope you have an opportunity to purchase the album as you can hear the influences and groundwork towards what is today’s empowering music for Aboriginal youth. (It can be found on Apple Music)

Some wonderful sites

In this week’s activities, I have come across some wonderful sites that bring some insight into this week’s readings.  The focus in this case will be close to home for me as I work in a community that is primarily Aboriginal in northeastern Ontario.

As new educators come into the community, and as new technology options become available, it is important that these be shared with students.  Anecdotally, it has always been a concern of parents and students in the area that as a result of colonialization and residential schooling, much of the local culture and language has been lost.  There exists a need to work to re-acquire this connection with language which in turn will help with re-acquiring culture.

Below are some sites/resources that I feel work with this along with this week’s readings:

Aboriginal Perspectives: Teacher’s Toolkit

This is a resource that was developed in 2009 by the Ministry of Education in Ontario.  The focus of this toolkit is to support teachers in Ontario by providing opportunities for teachers to bring more Aboriginal teachings into their classrooms.  Supports are in place to utilize technology options for creating a stronger sense of identity and positive self-image for FNMI students in the system as well as sharing some of the cultural teachings and histories with those who do not have an FNMI background.

Path of the Elders

This resource was developed for educators and students who fall into the Treaty 9 territories in Ontario.  Taking on the role of a character living in the lands of the Mushkegowuk and Anishinaabe Peoples, those taking part will encounter elders who will share oral histories of the area and peoples.  Along the way, there will be opportunities to learn words and meanings from the Mushkegowuk Cree dialects.  This game is appropriate for any level and is beneficial to learn some of the teachings that may otherwise be lost.

Moose Cree Talking Dictionary

This is a dictionary that was created by current and former members of the Moosonee and Moose Factory area.  It has been in use recently by the Cree-language teachers in the area schools as a means of teaching students the proper pronunciations for the Moose-Cree dialect.  This is the first time the Moose Cree language has been made available online in a manner that allows for full practice and creation of sentences.  As well, not only is the language online, so are the syllabics to help write it out (despite the Moose Cree language being traditionally oral).  Have a look and see.

Kanien’keha:ka – Living the Language

I apologize that this film has to be purchased, but I swear it is worth it!  It was created by a filmmaker from Moose Factory into how the Mohawk community of Akwesasne is using technology and immersion as a means of preserving language.  Unlike most schools that focus on grammar and practice, this school instead focuses on the true immersion into traditions and identity preservation.  If you have a chance to watch it, I recommend it as it is setting a blueprint for the renewal of the Cree language in the Moosonee and Moose Factory areas.

Creative Spirits

This site is one that I have found that shows the effects of colonialism and re-discovery of aboriginal cultures is not isolated to solely Canada.  In viewing this resource, which was started by an Australian teacher, it is evident that it has a wealth of resources available to Australian teachers (and those who wish to learn more about Australian Aboriginal peoples).  Through the sharing of files, posts, and media, it brings a wealth of pieces that can come together to create a fuller picture of the re-discovery and preservation of Australian Aboriginal cultures.