One of the first things many residential school survivors experienced was the cutting of their hair. Today, many Indigenous People are choosing to grow their hair long as a statement of cultural pride. However, hair has a greater spiritual meaning for many Aboriginal cultures.
Boys with Braids is an educational movement dedicated to sharing the teachings of why boys, men and elders wear braids. Started by Michael Linklaster when his son was bullied for having long hair. Linklaster hopes to stop bullying by raising awareness about the spiritual and cultural significance of long hair. He also hopes that Indigenous children and youth will take more pride in their long hair.
Cecil Sveinson, host of a March 2016 Winnipeg Boys with Braids Event hopes to raise awareness among non-Indigenous Adults as well. Hoping that with raised awareness adults will be more culturally sensitive.
A Short AJ+ Documentary Titled Alaska Natives: Our Fight to Survive looks at the past, present and future of Indigenous Peoples in Alaska; including major obstacles, such as the division among the people caused by oil and gas exploration. As people struggled between a desire to protect the land, and the need to earn a living.
The documentary is informative and well done, but I found it interesting that none of the producers are Indigenous.
The documentary does raise many issues. One of which, is food insecurity faced by the Inuit due to high rates of unemployment, and low paying jobs, brought on by the rapid modernization of Canada’s north in the last fifty years. The Feeding Nunavut Program reports that 60% of Nunavut’s children live in households without a dependable quantity of nutritious food.
One of the solutions to the program was paying harvesters to hunt and distribute the food gathered throughout the communities participating. Interestingly the traditional food, called country food, could not be shared with the schools because of health regulations. The author of the report, Taye Newman, noted that this was discouraging as the rules are in direct contrast with the goal of feeding children, and encouraging traditional foods. Another success of the program was the involvement of youth in learning how to hunt, gather, and prepare traditional foods.
BC has recently revamped its curriculum and one of the main new components is the focus on Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. However, the teacher training and educational resources to support this new curriculum are not all in place. This article from the Tyee Newspaper is a reminder that sometimes the best sources of knowledge and teaching can come from the students. While I would never advocate putting a child on the spot to talk about their heritage in front of the rest of the class, if a student is willing to share his/her personal experiences and ideas on a subject, it often has a much more impactful and intrinsic connection with the students (and teacher) receiving this teaching.
For our final research assignment, Kathryn, Sara and I have decided to look at the relationship of technology and STEAM learning and Indigenous girls. We were drawn to focus our research on girls because of the unique differences they have in learning compared to boys as well as the fact that Indigenous girls, already from a marginalized community, are even more vulnerable as they face gender bias and stereotypes in a male-dominated technology industry. In our research of current programs and initiatives in place, we found “Native Girls that Code” . The goals of this program are:
Build leadership of women and the capacity of women-led projects and organizations
Build the capacity of our youth to develop strong identities through Indigenous knowledge and stronger supports for their education
Advance the preservation and revitalization of traditional Native knowledge through environmental justice programming that focuses on following the original teachings of Mother Earth
This program has found a way to incorporate STEAM learning with place-based learning that connects the girls with the land around them.
The success of this program but shows the promise and capability of integration between Indigenous girls and technology and could pose as a model for other similar programs.
This weeks readings about the neutrality of technology had me reflecting on a lesson I used with my grade 8/9 technology class. The topic was media use for the advocacy of First Nations. Teaching to international students, I had to take a step back and introduce and explain what the terms Indigenous, Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit and First Nations meant. Many where unaware that their home countries too had Indigenous people. After a few background lessons, we then began to discuss the artwork of Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. We watched two videos of totem poles being made and then we discussed the following questions.
What relationship does environment have with with First Nations art?
How is First Nations culture and society represented in the artwork?
Is this artwork any less beautiful or impressive when using modern technology?
The last question caused the most debate because many of the students found that by using CNC technology, something had been lost. The majority of the students believed that carving a totem pole by hand was harder and more time consuming and therefore more impressive and for some, also more beautiful. I found this a bit perplexing as the Generation Z (iGens) have known nothing but a life of technology and constantly seek the fastest route of action for an outcome. I too have to admit, even despite my love for technology, that I agree with them and it’s something I can’t quite put my finger on as to why I feel this way. The counter argument made by the minority of students was that it was equally impressive and beautiful and that not only were they continuing a longstanding tradition but they were also learning new 21st Century skills that would help them in “today’s world”.
I see both viewpoints. Both take skill and knowledge that must be passed down from elders. But when technology is involved sometimes a gain also means there is a loss. Perhaps in this scenario it’s that deeper spiritual connection the artist has with his/her hands on the wood and the time and care it took to create their piece of art.
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.
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.
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.”
The list of resources below continues my research into Indigenous spirituality and its incorporation into education. A more recent theme found is the link between spiritual strength and resiliency among Indigenous people.
This article discusses the uniqueness of Indigenous spirituality in that it is closely bound to cultural practices and daily living. Therefore, when researching the topic of Indigenous spirituality and resiliency, a holistic approach is needed.
One conceptual framework suggested is that of ‘enculturation’ or the degree to which spirituality is integrated within the culture which, in turn, leads to protective factors, such as better academic achievement and lower substance abuse.
Another framework is ‘cultural spiritual orientation’ which is also predictive of protective factors against substance abuse and suicide, but which can be distinguished from the specific spiritual beliefs of the tribe in question.
The goal of the research is to enable communities to use their own cultural and spiritual traditions to promote resilience.
This article discusses how essential it is to include spirituality in any study looking at Indigenous knowledge. Spirituality is the basis for the cultural concept of ‘personhood’ which involves their relationship to others and to the world. It is intricately tied to the notion of well-being and thus must be included in any discussions of healing from colonization.
This piece discusses the reclamation of traditional spiritual practices within Indigenous communities and specifically how spiritual strength fosters general resiliency.
It is written from a social worker’s perspective on how to honour and integrate the spirituality of Indigenous clients.
Stevens sees spirituality as an important component of healing for everyone, but for Indigenous peoples, it is also central to identity, purposefulness and resilience which can be seen to be manifested in their daily living.
In this book, each chapter is filled with stories of how a limited recognition of spirituality decreases the richness of learning experiences, especially for those who see the world holistically, wherein everything is interconnected.
In addition, an absence of spirituality in education, under the auspices of ‘rationality’, undermines the knowledge foundations of Indigenous societies and belies the fact that we are connected to each other and the world in subjective ways.
This is a literature review on Aboriginal literacy designed to provide information and direction for those working in the field of Aboriginal literacy.
It describes people as having a body, heart, mind and spirit, with spirit being the most important part because that is the essence of who you are. Therefore, they state that it is imperative that adult educators engage learners spiritually by helping them make meaning out of what they are learning, in order to help them answer their deepest questions, as these are a people who believe that we are one with creation, not separate from it.
The learning spirit is the state of being that facilitates learning and will help a person fulfill his/her purpose for being in this life.
Kitchen, J., Cherubini, L, Trudeau, L., & Hodson, J. (2009, Fall). Aboriginal education as cultural brokerage: New aboriginal teachers reflect on language and culture in the classroom. McGill Journal of Education, 44(3), 355-376. Retrieved from: http://mje.mcgill.ca/article/viewFile/2853/3980
This is an interesting report on six Aboriginal teachers in Ontario using a talking circle to explore their roles as teachers as they prepare their students to walk between two parallel but very different worlds.
They state that Aboriginal education is oriented around a ‘spiritual centre’ and that it is important that aboriginal teachers attend to their own healing if they are going to be expected to heal and teach others.
“Our Aboriginal spirituality is a link from the past to the present a shared pathway that helps us to understand more about where we come from and who we are as people.” (Micalleff, 2017, para. 16).
This site tells a particular creation story. However, more importantly, it explains the importance of handing down ‘dreaming’ stories as part of Aboriginal education in Australia. These stories link people over time to physical places in creation. Micallef also describes how the land then becomes a cultural connection to their prehistoric history.
This article discusses the concept of ‘spiritual ecology’ which is the “application of special intellectual, ritual, psychological, and spiritual teaching tools that facilitated deep levels of learning and understanding” (Cajete, 1994, p. 223, as cited in Weenie, 2012, p. 59) and which is the essence of meaningful and constructive Indigenous curriculum.
For Weenie, ceremonies and traditional activities, like storytelling, provide a ‘spiritual sustenance’. In time, the deep significance of these teachings can induce direct and powerful understandings of basic truths about how to interact with the world.
The Elders teachings that ‘everything has a spirit’ leads to the principle of living in harmony with the environment and developing healthy communities.
After the last several weeks of readings and discussions, I have become more keenly aware of the resources I use in the classroom, or at least where I look for those resources. My goal is to create a bank of useful resources that are created with an indigenous perspective, or at least in collaboration with authentic cultural input. Some of these links I have posted below are not necessarily teaching resources, but ones to instil a sense of awareness for all educators to be more culturally aware in their practice.
Working Toward Transformation and Change: Exploring Non-Aboriginal Teachers’ Experiences in Facilitating and Strengthening Students’ Awareness of Indigenous Knowledge and Aboriginal Perspectives
This resource is a graduate thesis that includes a discussion about culturally responsive teaching for the non-indigenous teacher. The latter half of the document delves into a qualitative research study about how non-Aboriginal educators incorporate Aboriginal knowledge and perspectives into their instruction. The conclusion falls short of making suggestions or offering resources for use in the classroom (intentionally), but does offer a critical reflection and insight on practices used, including student opinions. It could resonate with many non-indigenous educators who find themselves facilitating lessons that are similar.
Indigenous Principles Decolonizing Teacher Education: What We Have Learned
I predominantly like this paper for its Figure 1 chart titled “Ways of knowing” which highlights the differences between Euro-American-Centrism/Neoliberalism and Indigenous curricula. However, it is also local, and created in collaboration between non-indigenous and Lil’wat First Nation educators. Figure 2 highlights the Lil’wat principles of teaching, which I see as being valuable to incorporate into a variety of classroom practices.
After discovering a few great articles that came from this site, I realized it is a useful platform that is a peer-reviewed, open access journal, based in the field of education. It is also out of the University of Saskatchewan, offering Canadian specific content.
Best Practices for Teaching Aboriginal Students
Adapted from: Best Practices in Teaching Aboriginal Children: From an Aboriginal and Non- Aboriginal Perspective. By Theresa Wilson, (Master’s Thesis: Conversations with First Nations Educators) 2001 UVic
This short pdf doc is an easy to read, bullet pointed document that could be shared and distributed amongst teaching staff as a daily reminder to stay mindful of how to differentiate our teaching for indigenous students. I see it being very accessible for everyone.
Beyond Words: Creating racism-free schools for Aboriginal learners
This BCTF document has a few sections I find particularly impactful for myself, and to share with my colleagues. Three sections serve as a self-reflection on one’s own teaching, as well as one’s school culture:
Questions for Teachers to Consider (p. 19)
A Self-Assessment Guide for Teacher (p. 25)
School Review of Inclusiveness for Aboriginal Students (p. 45)
In thinking about what I would like to do my research on, I was brought back to a concern or sense of confusion I have about the new BC curriculum. I teach grades 2-3 in North Vancouver, and have several students with First Nations ancestry. In rolling out the new curriculum this year, I have found that the curricular outcomes targeting First Nations content in the primary years are extremely broad, and I’m finding it challenging to find appropriate relevant resources to target those particular outcomes. It would be beneficial to explore authentic, meaningful resources developed by the First Peoples for First Peoples and others.
Here are a few I have come by so far…
Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives in the Classroom http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/administration/kindergarten-to-grade-12/aboriginal-education/awp_moving_forward.pdf
This document provides useful background information on engagement, a vision for the future, and discusses attributes for responsive schooling, including those of teachers. It falls short of providing classroom lessons and examples of how to role out the process, but offers a more general idea of the way to move forward in the realm of education.
Authentic First Peoples Resources http://www.fnesc.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/PUBLICATION-61460-FNESC-Authentic-Resources-Guide-2016-08-26.pdf
An annotated list of resources written by First Peoples for a student audience. It is a collection of informational and fiction works, but is quite language heavy, and would work well for teaching themes and issues in the older grades.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1302889494709/1302889781786
Government of Canada resource with links to reading and listening activities, primarily for the younger grades.
In Our Own Words http://aboriginal.sd34.bc.ca/sites/default/files/In-Our-Own-Words-final-Apr-16-web_0.pdf
A collection of practical lesson ideas for the K-3 classroom by the First Nations Education Steering Committee (see below)
First Nations Education Steering Committee http://www.fnesc.ca
FNESC is a regional (BC) committee of First Peoples who work “at the provincial level to provide services in the areas of research, communications, information dissemination, advocacy, program administration and networking.” As they work in a multitude of areas in the public sphere, one avenue of information dissemination is through schools in the K-12 education system. As such, they provide a variety of links to curricular resources divided into relevant topic areas.
I will keep searching for relevant information and tailor my research interests from here.