David Suzuki and Tradition KnowledgeThis article

I was fascinated to find this article by one of Canada’s leading environmental activists and scientists acknowledging Traditional Aboriginal Knowledge.  David Suzuki describes how traditional Aboriginal knowledge can assist scientists in protecting the boreal forest.  “Traditional knowledge held by Canada’s First Nations is not just a relic of the past. It offers scientists, policy-makers, resource companies, environmentalists, and anyone else who cares about the boreal a vitally important information source to better manage the region’s land and resources” (Suzuki, 2010).  This article could be used in an ecological systems, environment, or climate change science unit.


November 25, 2012   No Comments

Residential schools – Stolen Generation

Weblog 4.1

The material on residential schooling and its impacts has many parallels to Australian Aboriginal (and some Torres Strait islander) peoples’ experiences in Australia. In Australia from the late 1800s to the 1970s, children were removed from their families and either placed in institutions or adopted by non-indigenous families. This is called the Stolen Generation.

The Australian public were encouraged to believe that Aboriginal children were at risk in their communities and were disadvantaged, so this forced removal would provide them with better education, a more loving family and more civilised upbringing. The reality was that it was a governmental attempt to assimilate. Even the teaching opportunities were limited and the idea was to create a serving class. Many children with an Aboriginal mother and Anglo-saxon father were specifically targeted.

After Heather’s talk (not being a school teacher) I explored what the Australian teaching curriculum was about the Stolen Generation. This lead me to the:

  • amazing resource Scootle that provides resources and teaching plans.

What I couldn’t find was any parallels of Heather’s resource for Indigenous children for teaching.

November 17, 2012   1 Comment

Decolonizing Methodologies and Indigenous Knowledge

The full name of the paper is Decolonizing Methodologies and Indigenous Knowledge: The Role of Culture, Place and Personal Experience in Professional Development.  The pdf can be found here.  The paper discusses the attitudes of teachers to including Indigenous knowledge in their curriculum before and after a presentation on indigenous Hawai’ian science topics.

The paper was very hopeful, indicating that it is possible to change teachers’ attitudes towards including Indigenous knowledge.  What was even more interesting, was that the researcher cited Linda Smith’s (1999) book on Decolonizing Methodologies.  The author states that, “Linda Smith (1999), a Maori researcher, describes 25 decolonizing research projects to recover marginalized cultural knowledge, practices, and identity.” (Chinn, 2007; p. 1252).  Chinn (2007) then identifies five of these decolonizing methods that she used in the research.  A very interesting article and study on a variety of levels, and one that ties in math, science and Module 3’s theme of decolonization.


Chinn, P. W. U. (2007).  Decolonizing methodologies and indigenous knowledge: The role of culture, place and personal experience in professional development.  Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Volume 44, No. 9, p. 1247 – 1268.  Retrieved online at:  http://www.d.umn.edu/~bmunson/Courses/Educ5560/readings/Chin07-CultEnv.pdf

Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. NewYork: Zed Books Ltd.



October 23, 2012   No Comments

Aboriginal Education Resources in B.C.

Module #2

Site #4

The BC Ministry of education offers a rich resource for aboriginal education of youth. Found at this site, http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/documents.htm, it includes a First Nations map of BC as well as a First Nations Language map. The site has native content lesson plans for grades 7,8 and 9 in language arts, science and socials math and P.E. and a resource guide for integrating aboriginal content from K-10. Finally, the site includes a framework for questioning resources for indigenous people’s in a respectful manner.

October 14, 2012   No Comments

Ancient African Math/Science Shatters Stereotypes

I found that this site fit beautifully into the topics for Module 2.  It is a blog posting from 2007 but it provided links to both a documentary on Africa called Cosmic Africa and to an article called Stars of the Sahara (full text available from the UBC Library) in New Scientist regarding finding evidence in Mali of the scientific and mathematics history of that area.  The two are tied together in the blog and the originator of the documentary, an Astrophysicist from South Africa named Thebe Medupe is quote extensively.  Although these quotes originate from Africa, they sound similar to some of the concerns that arise around math, science and stereotypes of North American Indigenous populations.

For example, Medupe is quoted as saying:

“…when I was 15, I started to question why everything was Eurocentric.  Textbooks were using European things and so on. So I used to ask myself whether it was because there was nothing Africa can offer. I refused to believe that. It remained a very big question for me for a long time, until I came across a review on African ethnoastronomy. I was very excited.”

October 13, 2012   No Comments

Native American Complexity

Computation, Complexity and Coding in Native American Knowledge Systems by Ron Eglash

I found this article/paper interesting because it delves deeply into the science and mathematics of a number of Native American peoples.  This is background knowledge that is useful to me as an upper level math teacher as I can use the examples authentically in class and tie them in to the curriculum.  I also found this article interesting because it begins with a discussion of stereotypes and assumptions that are common in the portrayal of Native Americans.  The following is a quote from the first paragraph:

“We see these assumptions at work in many popular television documentaries, where one hears of the “vanishing native” who “lived at one with nature.”  … We need to take special efforts to open our eyes to the dynamic histories and technological sophistication of indigenous cultures–for example, to think about active indigenous ecological knowledge rather than the passive portraits we so often hear, e.g. “Indians lived as part of the ecosystem.” ” (Eglash, 2002)

I think it is important to fight the common stereotypes by contradicting them with information about how sophisticated Indigenous knowledge systems were (and are), in a way that places those systems in context and respects the values associated with them.  This article dovetails with my research interests and with the emphasis of Module 2.


Eglash, Ron. “Computation, Complexity and Coding in Native American Knowledge Systems.” in Judith Hankes and Gerald Fast (ed) Changing the Faces of Mathematics: Perspectives on Indigenous People of North America. Reston, VA: NCTM 2002.  Retrieved online at:  http://homepages.rpi.edu/~eglash/eglash.dir/nacyb.dir/nacomplx.htm



October 5, 2012   No Comments

Janet’s Statement of Connection

As a math teacher, I am continually aware of the under-representation of aboriginal students in more academic math courses and the over-representation of aboriginal students in lower level math courses.  This is an issue because mathematics is a key entry requirement into many programs at the post-secondary level. Low success rates in mathematics, particularly in the academic math courses, restricts choices for aboriginal students and has a direct impact on the number of aboriginal students in health related careers, business and science.

My weblogs will be focussed around finding ways to support aboriginal students in mathematics, as well as how technology might fit into this support.  Finding ways to authentically use and promote aboriginal mathematics in the classroom will be one area of research.  Researching ways that First Nations peoples have traditionally taught and learned and how our classrooms might be adapted to support these styles of learning will be a second area of research.  At this point for my final project, I am looking at creating a compilation of resources, research and links that can act as a resource for classroom teachers, with the ultimate goal of supporting our aboriginal and First Nations students in mathematics.

Janet Barker

September 21, 2012   No Comments

Saskatchewan Ecological Network and Rekindling Traditions

#2 Saskatchwan Ecological Network

This website has general information for Ecological Issues in Saskatchewan, but has a great section on Eco-Education and Indigenous Education. In particular, one of their focusses is using technology in a way that supports Indigenous values.

Of particular interest was an interview with the Director of Cultural Resource Development and Publications for the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Center which provides an overview of how educators (particularly non-Indigenous educators) can teach in a respectful manner about sustainability including an Indigenous perspective. There are some great resources, written by Indigenous Educators, interviews with other important community members and links to other schools and organizations that might be useful for individuals (Indigenous or not) who have an interest inrespectfulIndigenous Education.


#3 Rekindling Traditions

From the Saskatchewan Eco-Network I found myself on a particularly interesting website which included units that combined TEK and Indigenous values with “Western Science”. Their goal is to provide resources so that “students are not expected to set aside their culture’s view of the material world when they study science at school”. The project is funded through 3 school divisions, the University of Saskatchewan, the Dr. Stirling McDowell Foundation and the Cameco Access Program for Engineering and Science and is called the Cross-Cultural Science and Technology Units Project.

One of the things I particularly liked about this website was that the way a user moves through it. For example, in the units menu you pick an animal to enter a section. The animals are in a circle. Whoever designed the website made a concious effort for it to be aesthetically more holistic (less linear) and perhaps more meaningful to Indigenous users. Even entering the website requires that you click on the raven, instead of an “enter” sign.

The resources specific to certain grades/topics and are very well laid out, providing additional resources for teachers and students in a print or web-based format. Contributors include teachers, elders and community members. A collaborative process like this, where the correct sources and individuals participate in a meaningful way, is a good example (or starting point) for how technology education can include Indigenous values in a respectful and meaningful way.


September 19, 2012   No Comments