Indigenous Pedagogy

Develop an understanding of traditional learning and teaching practices.

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Good teaching practices are found across all societies. Indigenous pedagogy has existed since ancient times and has endured and evolved to the present day. Effective pedagogical practices are recognizable across every First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultural group and share many commonalities with current mainstream academia. In many cases, the terms and methods used are alike except for the terminology.

Indigenous Pedagogy:

Simon discusses the week’s activities with his student teacher, Nathan.

Simon has 20 years of experience teaching at the Métis settlement where he was born and raised. Nathan, an urban Métis from Edmonton, has been co-teaching with Elder John, a trapper and hunter from the community. He is pleased to note similarities between Elder John’s methods and the concepts he learned in his university foundations class. Simon explains that as a traditional Knowledge Keeper, Elder John brings authentic experience to the classroom. His way of teaching, known as Indigenous pedagogy, takes many forms but it is based primarily on relationships that respect and include all participants.

Beaded in the floral style, this wild rose is emblematic of our shared Alberta heritage. With delicate buds and oval fruit, the wild rose is used by many First Nations, Métis and Inuit for medicine, food and decoration.

The short video clips on each petal are examples of Indigenous pedagogical approaches.

Reflection Statement

The meaningful education of children has an underlying purpose: to transfer knowledge for the preservation of one’s culture and society.

Reflecting on the Indigenous pedagogy presented, where do you find similar examples in your own practice?

Preservice teachers and their instructor discuss teaching and learning from Indigenous perspectives.

Elders and Knowledge Keepers in these interviews describe the benefits of holistic and intergenerational ways of knowing that can enrich any learning situation.

Select a video.

Bernie Makokis | Plains Cree | Saddle Lake First Cree Nation

Bernie Makokis, Saddle Lake First Nation, discusses how imagery in stories helps children learn.

Tina Fox | Nakoda | Wesley Band, Stoney Nakoda Nation

Tina Fox, Nakoda (Stoney) speaker, encourages teachers to learn about Nakoda culture. The first 12 seconds of her interview is in Nakoda, and the remainder is in English.

Kathy Yellowhorn-Breaker | Siksika | Siksika Nation

Kathy Yellowhorne-Breaker, Principal of Siksika Reserve School, advises teachers to keep an open mind about accessing traditional knowledge as it can be very helpful to both students and teachers.

Bob Cardinal | Plains Cree/Nakoda | Enoch Cree Nation

Nakoda/Cree Elder Bob Cardinal talks about building bridges with teachers and employing a holistic approach in order to affect First Nations, Métis and Inuit student success.

Victor Prinz | Métis | East Prairie Métis settlement

Elder Victor Prinz advocates teaching a child’s Indigenous culture and language along with regular curriculum.

While Victor Prinz passed in 2008, we are privileged and honoured to still have his words to share.

Wilton Goodstriker | kainai | Blood Tribe

Elder Wilton Goodstriker explains how the grandparents’ role of teaching values creates a bond between the generations in his Kainai First Nation.

Beyond a Pedagogy of Fort

Dr. Dwayne Donald, Department of Secondary Education, University of Alberta, and four students from a spring session course on Indigenous curriculum and pedagogy meet in September. They discuss teaching and learning from Indigenous perspectives.

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While some First Nations, Métis and Inuit experts have recommended these documents, they are not authorized by Alberta Education.

 Empowerment Through First Nation Control of Education: A Sakaw Cree Philosophy of Education. Dale Auger

Using stories, Dale Auger illustrates the main aspects of Sakaw Cree worldview and focuses on the critical importance of Indigenous knowledge, which he wants to be transmitted to future generations. He identifies common elements of Indigenous educational systems, such as Elders as teachers, the use of Indigenous languages for instruction and curricula that embodies the worldviews of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

 Way of the Tireless Runner: An Aboriginal Pedagogical Guide. June Kaminski

June Kaminski of University of British Columbia describes pedagogical concepts, including storytelling and story-making, Elders and formal education, Four Directions teachings, talking circles, and First Nations knowledge.

 Talking Circles Protocol. Contemporary Issues Teacher Resource

Talking circles is a process that use First Nations, Métis and Inuit methods and consensus-building to share ideas and points of view. Guidelines for talking circles and a rubric for assessing participation are presented in this excerpt from Contemporary Issues Teacher Resource (Aboriginal Studies 30).

 Aboriginal Pedagogy. Peoples and Cultural Change Teacher Resource

Spirituality is at the heart of Indigenous pedagogy. This excerpt from Peoples and Cultural Change Teacher Resource (Aboriginal Studies 20) presents foundational ideas, such as holistic learning, the interconnectedness of all things, the importance of connection to community and land, the dynamic quality of the world, and the role of oral tradition.

 Worldviews and Aboriginal Culture. Our Words, Our Ways. Alberta Education

This excerpt from Our Words, Our Ways will help teachers gain an appreciation for the histories and cultural diversity of FNMI students and recognize the importance of reflecting FNMI cultures in the classroom through cultural continuity.

 Learning Strategies for Aboriginal Students. Our Words, Our Ways. Alberta Education

This excerpt from Our Words, Our Ways applies common learning strategies to FNMI content. Graphic organizers (with masters) include fishbone, T-chart, Venn diagrams, Plus-Minus-Interesting charts, place mat and K–W–L charts. Additional strategies include cooperative learning, mind maps, think-pair-share, inside/outside circles, brainstorming, graffiti, walk about, three-step interview, jigsaw, four corners and independent study.

 Assessment. Our Words, Our Ways. Alberta Education

Multiple approaches to assessment are presented to support the learning strengths of FNMI students in this excerpt from Our Words, Our Ways. Teacher stories and shared wisdom offer insights into use of these approaches.

 Evaluating Resources About Aboriginal Peoples. Our Words Our Ways. Alberta Education

Students need accurate, objective information about FNMI cultures, contributions and experiences. This checklist from Our Words, Our Ways presents sample questions to use when evaluating a potential resource.

 Recent Developments in K–12 Aboriginal Education. Education Is Our Buffalo. Alberta Teachers’ Association

This excerpt from Education Is Our Buffalo provides an overview of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework (2002), Blackfoot and Cree Language and Culture programs, the new Aboriginal Studies 10-20-30 program, and Aboriginal liaison workers. Also included are guidelines for teachers to incorporate First Nations, Métis and Inuit teachings into their classrooms.

 Aboriginal Education for Aboriginal Peoples. Peoples and Cultural Change

Control of education provided to First Nations, Métis and Inuit has changed over the last few decades. This excerpt from Peoples and Cultural Change (Aboriginal Studies 20) surveys the major features of these changes, including the increase in local control and the training of First Nation, Métis and Inuit teachers.

 Alberta Schools. Peoples and Cultural Change

First Nation, Métis and Inuit students have more choices for education than they did in the past. This excerpt from Peoples and Cultural Change (Aboriginal Studies 20) profiles two post-secondary schools, Blue Quills First Nations College and Red Crow Community College, and four secondary schools: Amiskwaciy Academy, an Edmonton public school; Kainai High School, a First Nations-operated reserve school; Father R. Perin School, a northern elementary school; and the Elizabeth Community School, a Métis Settlement school.

 Storytelling as a Foundation to Literacy Development for Aboriginal Children. Anne McKeough and others

This article addresses early literacy programs for Aboriginal children. Oral storytelling acts as a precursor to reading and writing and as a traditional Aboriginal teaching tool. It highlights the need for culturally based literacy resources and involvement of community members.

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Supporting First Nation, Métis and Inuit Perspectives in the Classroom

Educators in Wetaskiwin School District talk about support for First Nation, Métis and Inuit perspectives in their schools.