Tag Archives: indigenous youth

Strength-based programs for Indigenous youth

For my final weblog, I wanted to include some of the articles and resources that I have found helpful for my final project. I realized as I started working on it that I needed to look at programs and activities that have data to support their effectiveness. Many of these links are focused on if and how strength-based programs and extra-curricular activities can be beneficial for Indigenous Youth in Canada.

1. Uniting our Nations

I came across this program while reading an article by Crooks, Chiodo and Thomas (2009). Their article presents information about strength-based programs that are aimed at building and improving school engagement for Indigenous Youth. This article is particularly important for my final project because they presented concrete successes and failures of the programs based on student participation and feedback. Uniting our Nations is a range of programs developed for Indigenous students in the Thames Valley District School Board in London, Ontario. The programs, which were developed in collaboration with Indigenous educators, students, counsellors, and community partners, include an elementary mentoring program, a secondary peer mentoring program, a grade 9 Four R Health program and a literacy test preparation program.

2. Engaging and Empowering Aboriginal Youth: a Toolkit for Service Providers

Another resource by Crooks, Chiodo and Thomas (2009) that I found interesting was this toolkit they developed. The objective was to explore how to make programs more relevant and empowering for Indigenous Youth. The information is broken down as such:

  • Section 1: Background and Overview
  • Section 2: Guiding Principles
    • Principle 1: Understanding and Integrating Cultural Identity
    • Principle 2: Increasing Youth Engagement
    • Principle 3: Fostering Youth Empowerment
    • Principle 4: Establishing and Maintaining Effective Partnerships
  • Section 3: Opportunities and Challenges in School-Based Prevention Programming
  • Section 4: Research and Evaluation

Focusing on the importance of a strengths-based approach in supporting Indigenous youth and helping them succeed, this toolkit uses case studies and analyses different programs to present ideas and strategies for how to create better programming.

3. McKellar Park Case Study

This article is a case study of the McKellar Park Central School in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where 50% of the students identify as First Nations. The school uses a strength-based approach in order to address issues of bullying and to support First Nations students. Of particular interest is their use of the Ambassador’s club, where students, selected by the staff, spend time with administration during selected lunch hours. They use the identified strengths to work on social skills and the students help come up with ways to improve certain aspects of their classes/school and to come up with activities for other students. The school also runs a New Experiences Program, in conjunction with the Children’s Centre Thunder Bay. Students meet once a week and parents/caregivers are invited. The workshops focus on the students’ needs, such as trauma, grief and coping skills. Both these programs have helped support First Nations students and have helped improve their school experience.

This paper presents the qualitative and quantitative data from the programs:

4. Participation in sports and cultural activities among Aboriginal children and youth

This article refers back to one of my links from the second module, the Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) of children and youth. Using information and data from the survey, Smith, Findlay and Crompton (2010) unpack the participation of Inuit, Metis and off-reserve First Nations children in sports and cultural activities. Participation is increased with regards to higher levels of parental education, time spent with Elders and involvement in other activities.

5. Tides Canada: Northern Well-Being

Tides Canada has a variety of initiatives aimed at encouraging northern leadership among young Indigenous peoples and fostering strong and healthy northern families. They also support the knowledge of natural resources in order to create sustainable communities. Their initiatives include: Arctic Funders Collaborative, Dene Nahjo, Northern Youth Leadership and Our Voices.

Module 4 – Post -3 – Indigenous Youth in STEM Program by Kevin Andrews

Indigenous Youth in STEM Program (InSTEM) is a customized, community-based approach to engaging First Nations, Métis, and Inuit youth in locally and culturally relevant STEM education programs. Over the past twenty years, members of this program have worked closely with hundreds of Indigenous communities and tens of thousands of Indigenous youth.

Actua, a national charity that is preparing youth to be innovators and leaders by engaging them in exciting and accessible STEM experiences that build critical skills and confidence,  has also developed strong connections with thought leaders in Indigenous education and national organizations like Indspire, the Aboriginal Human Resource Council, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and others. As a result, their model of Indigenous outreach is based on current thinking and successful practices in Indigenous youth engagement in STEM.

There are many people talking about this resource and how it has open the eyes of so many Indigenous students providing opportunities that would have otherwise not been available. Below are some examples:

  1. The Labradorian – Opening Their Eyes
  2. Financial Post – Science and technology inspire young northern minds
  3. CTV News – Iqaluit students learn to remix throat songs

These and many other examples will be evidence I’ll use to further my argument of the possibility for Indigenous communities to still preserve their culture while embracing technology to promote it.

Module 3 Weblog

Keywords: decolonization, research methodologies, colonization, law, traditional knowledge, Indigenous youth, curriculum, technology, language, culturally responsive education

1.Stand Film


This documentary film touches on important issues pertaining to the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii. Centered around paddleboarding as a vessel for action, we see how some Aboriginal youth in Bella Bella learn to make paddleboards in school as a way to connect to the land and to make something purposeful. Their engagement in evident in the way they speak about the boards and their connection to place. Their personalized boards, and they way they speak about them demonstrate how important their culture is to them.  In connection with elders in the community, the youth are inspired to take action against the potential of oil spills on the Northwest Coast as a result of the Northern Gateway Pipeline by speaking at cultural gatherings and participating in a hunger strike. As the youth make their paddleboards and take action, it becomes evident that this is a project that is culturally responsive.  


Pictures of the boards:


2. Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives in the Classroom:

This is the BC Ministry of Education’s 2015 document on Aboriginal worldviews in the classroom. Pages 39-57 focus on “Attributes of Responsive Schooling”. As an educator, this section of the document is less theoretical and more practical. It consists of participant responses to each principle of responsive education, with advice and suggestions to support educators. What strikes me with regards to this document, is the difficulty in which I had to find it on the BC Ministry of Education Website. Although Aboriginal education is integrated throughout the revised BC Curriculum, this document provides educators with practical information which lends to the visualization of responsive schooling.



3. In Practising Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education by Cynthia Nicol, Jo-ann Archibald, and Jeff Baker, the following concepts are introduced for culturally responsive mathematics education: grounded in place, storywork, focused on relationships, inquiry based, requiring social consciousness and agency. Simon Fraser University’s Math Catcher Outreach Program uses the concepts of place, storywork, and inquiry to engage students in mathematics. They also offer classroom visits, workshops, and summer camps for Aboriginal children. The digital resources include youtube videos in English and one or more Indigenous languages and are all based on real life situations. They could also act as a math catalyst between school and home. I wonder how these resources are being implemented in the classroom and if they are being used with the other concepts of culturally responsive mathematics ed.



4. In the following TEDx talk entitled Aboriginal math education: Collaborative learning, Stavros Stavrou explains how he takes an “anti-oppressive math education” approach. He co-teachers with an Aboriginal teacher and attempts to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and principles of knowing with mathematics. Watching his lecture, his approach seems to echo the concepts of culturally responsive math education as outlined by Cynthia Nicol, Jo-ann Archibald, and Jeff Baker in Practising Culturally Responsive Mathematics Education. As an educator, this sounds like an amazing situation, where a non-native teacher specialist is able to collaborate and co-teach with an Aboriginal teacher. Stavrou provides an example of how he connected with a student on a cultural, mathematical, personal level. He illustrates for us what we hear echoed in the messages of Inuit youth in Alluriarniq – Stepping Forward, students are motivated and engaged when teachers connect with them personally.  


4. Designing Games with First Nations Youth


This is a project, entitled Skins, conducted by Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) (Concordia University), where Aboriginal youth, in partnership with game experts learn to create digital games based on stories from their communities. Upon reading the paper, it becomes evident that much thought has been put into this project through consultation and connection with the Aboriginal community. Protocol is important as noted in the article and in the references which demonstrate depth of research around appropriate methodologies. There is evidence of the principles of culturally responsive education: “ 1) flexible curriculum, 2) a dedicated instructor connected to the community, 3) defined roles, and 4) creative freedom”. In addition, upon completion of the project researchers were able to conclude that, “Stories from the community came alive for the students in both the telling and discussions about them, and, ultimately, in the game itself. They were then able to synthesize their own original story, and furthermore, transform that narrative into a gamespace and gameplay.”

Exploring the Significance of Body Within Indigenous Hip-hop: Michael Cebuliak

Upon working through the rough copy of the final assignment in ETEC 521, it became apparent that there were many holes within my research.  Many of the articles in which I read, for example D. Dehyle’s “From Break Dancing to Heavy Metal”, B. Bonar’s “Can hold us back! Hip-hop and the racial motility of aboriginal bodies in urban spaces” and A. Woloshyn’s “Hearing Urban Indigeneity in Canada: Self-Determination, Community Formation and Kinaesthetic Listening with A Tribe Called Red”, have explicitly, and rather thoroughly, stated the significance of Indigenous bodies in self-representation and self-determination.  Michel Foucault is widely acknowledged as creating highly influential work that explores the relationship between body and power structures.  Even though his name is not explicitly mentioned in any of the three previous articles, I felt further understanding of the issue, and his work, would be especially insightful when exploring indigenous bodies in hip-hop and the relation to the structures of power; consequently, some of the sources that I recently selected explore the application of Foucault’s work to relationships of power between government/state and Indigenous bodies.

I was also interested in further exploring different genres of Indigenous hip-hop.  A Tribe Called Red courts an entirely different audience than much Indigenous gangster rap.  Dehyle’s article concludes that some Indigenous youth from Dakota have essentially given up on the fight against traditional power structures and embraced the rebellious, fatalistic and highly marginalized world of heavy metal music.  I wondered if the Indigenous youth attracted to gangster rap feel similar to their heavy metal counterparts.

Evan J. Habkirk and Janice Fosyth

Truth Reconciliation, and the Politics of the Body in Indian Residential School History


This is an interesting article as it examines the role of the body as a means to assimilation within residential schools.  The authors perceive the body as a cultural text and highlight the difference between traditional Indigenous bodies and those that were sculpted by means of sports at residential schools.  I wonder if similar things occur within hip-hip.  Popular depictions of the male body in hip-hop celebrate muscle, bulk, strength and power.  Although there are many exceptions to this in both Indigenous and African American hip-hop, it does create an expectation for the body that seemingly challenges traditional structures of power.  One wonders if assimilation via hip-hop for the Indigenous body is through association with African American norms, and via support of those norms,  while defiantly challenging, and confronting, the body of traditional Anglo power.

Joanna Ziarko

Marketing Indigenous Bodies in the Fiction of Leslie Marmon Silko, Louis Erdich and Sherman Alexie


This is another interesting article as it illustrates how many non-indigenous peoples romanticize First Nation culture and inadvertently create a romantic notion of the past that paradoxically many First Nation peoples are incapable of escaping: there is a hegemonic interpretation of how First Nation people should live.  I remember within Sherman Alexies’ The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian the comedic encounters the Indigenous people of this novel faced with such romantics.  However this is far from a laughing matter as healthy acceptance by those on the fringes of hegemonic cultures can help strengthen identity and purpose.  Consequently, it is imperative that non-indigenous peoples embrace First Nation hip-hop so that power structures change not through Indigenous peoples fighting the status-quo but rather through non-indigenous persons challenging the status-quo by being respectful, supportive and understanding of contemporary indigenous issues, as illustrated through the art of these people.

Robyn Bourgeois

Colonial Explotation: The Canadian State and the Trafficking of Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada


I was interested in this article primarily because it offers an historical perspective to the treatment of indigenous bodies in a colonial context.  The author argues that colonialism long sought to eradicate Indigenous bodies as they were an impediment to settlement.  Bourgeois sees the trafficking of Indigenous women as a continuation of this practice and posits that colonialism is alive and well today because of it.  I was also interested in this article because I am worried about the depiction of Indigenous women in hip-hop produced by those very members that belong to the culture.  It has long been argued that much African American hip-hop has very misogynistic depictions of women and knowing that many Indigenous cultures are maternal, I was curious if this reverence would be illustrated in their hip-hop art, or whether they would merely perpetuate the misogyny of their African American counterparts and thereby reinforce traditional colonial practices by commodifying female indigenous bodies.

And More Hip Hop Style Pow Wow


I cam across this video clip when I was in search of other expressions of Indigenous hip-hop culture.  It occurred to me that I was focusing primarily on music and ignoring graffiti, break dancing and dj’s.  I found this clip rather interesting as it was similar to the typical representations of females in African American rap music. The truth be told, this video made me feel somewhat uneasy.  I’m not sure if it’s because I tend to romanticize much First Nation culture and this seemed to me as appropriation, and perhaps even assimilation, into the oft characterized misogynistic world of African American rap and this is not how I wanted to perceive the current state of Indigenous hip-hop culture.   However, I do remember watching another documentary explaining how the Anglo American’s disdain for the overt sexuality characteristic of other cultures is a means of controlling these bodies.  As many First Nation cultures tend to be maternal in nature I wondered if this depiction of women defied traditional values or is it just a continuation of the Madonna-whore complex, where women are seen as binary in their makeup but men are permitted to embrace their entire sexuality.

Six emerging Aboriginal artists that are inspiring change


Again, this article captured my interest as I came to the realization that I hadn’t explored elements of Indigenous hip-hop other than music. I attempted to search for examples of break dancing, or hip-hop dance, and graffiti.  Unfortunately, there weren’t very many articles devoted to these topics so I did find this interesting introduction to the graffiti of Jesse Gouchey, a Cree artist from Alberta.  I was particularly interested in how, or even if,  Gouchey would incorporate traditional elements of First Nation art into his graffiti.  I was also interested if Gouchey would place his work in public places and make it conspicuous, as the original African American graffiti artists did to promote their culture in a very visible manner.  Again, this ties into the theme of Indigenous bodies that I was exploring this week, as graffiti is an art primarily of cultures that are geographically segregated from the prominent cultures within urban centres.

Warriors Off The Res: Aboriginal Gangs in Winnipeg


Lastly, this video explores the similarities between the American gangster rap aesthetic and that found within Indigenous gangs of Winnipeg.  Exploring Dehyle’s previously mentioned work, it is suggested that many Indigenous youth abandon the positive messages expressed within the origins of hip-hop for the more fatalistic and defiant world of heavy metal and gangster rap.  This may be problematic to liberating First Nation youth from the “two worlds” metaphor that perpetuates colonialism by not permitting the evolution of Indigenous cultures.

First People’s House At McGill University

I have personally worked very closely with Kakwiranoron Cook, director of First People’s House at McGill University. McGill’s First Peoples’ House provides a sense of community and a voice to Indigenous students who have left their home communities in order to pursue higher education. They also extend themselves to Secondary schools with Aboriginal you to come to McGill to get a taste of University life by providing Doctor For A Day workshops and bringing in various Aboriginal speakers.  Many of my students loved the activities provided by the First People’s House and felt a sense of belonging before even entering McGill University.

Module 3 | Post 2 New Fire CBC program

This is from the new program on CBC Radio One.  This program is described on the website as follows:

From remote reserves to bustling big cities, join Urban Native Girl Lisa Charleyboy as she brings you to the surprising heart of the conversations important to Aboriginal youth. Drop in as they reveal the complexities, challenges and contradictions of what it means to be young and Indigenous today.

The program plays on Tuesday mornings at 9:30 am and on Thursday evenings at 7:30.  I heard the episode this week and it fits very well with Module 3 and with the videos we watched last week.  The title is “What happens when you leave home?”  The link to this episode is at http://www.cbc.ca/radio/newfire/what-happens-when-you-leave-home-1.3138068.

This resource is a link that I will share with my own students as it is an accessible and weekly contact and link to current issues and youth in indigenous communities in Canada (and from where ever their travels may take them).