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Inspire: Indigenous Pedagogy (Sub-Module 2 of 3 of Inquire Module)

"Indigenous pedagogy is a teaching method that connects aboriginal stories as a guiding path toward knowledge, relying on the relationships between people and nature with broad, holistic interconnectedness. The role of Indigenous pedagogy is to promote learning through four distinct areas: personal and holistic, experiential, place-based learning, and intergenerational" (Theories of Collective and Individual Learning).

Resources: Indigenous Pedagogy

Two-Eyed Seeing

Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall describes Two-Eyed Seeing as the ability “to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous ways of knowing, and to see from the other eye with the strengths of Western ways of knowing, and to use both of these eyes together” (as cited in Peltier). Two-Eyed Seeing allows us to "acknowledge the entirety of Indigenous knowledge systems alongside Western knowledges and worldviews, so that we can continuously ‘weave back and forth’ between knowledges to create meaningful and respectful research and community-based programs that recognize the complexity of being a young person today" (Bartlett, as cited in Bujold et al.).

Sources: An Application of Two-Eyed Seeing: Indigenous Research Methods With Participatory Action Research (Peltier) | Etuaptmumk Two-Eyed Seeing: Bringing Together Land-based Learning and Online Technology to Teach Indigenous Youth About Food (Bartlett, as cited in Bujold et al.)

Video: Etuaptmumk: Two-Eyed Seeing | Rebecca Thomas | TEDxNSCCWaterfront

Etuaptmumk - Two-Eyed Seeing is explained by saying it refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing ... and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all.

Land Based Learning

"Indigenous land-based education is its own paradigm based on Indigenous worldviews and beliefs and the passing on of knowledge to one another and to the next generation. It is also a form of understanding our place within, and our responsibility to, the wider universe. It gives context to the knowledges that arise from the land as well as from a specific nation. It encompasses the preservation of culture, language and philosophy, and addresses the ramifications of colonization and 'epistemicide'—the severing of Indigenous knowledge systems as a consequence of policies designed to limit or cut off access to food, sacred places, culture and language” (Wilson as cited in UNESCO).

Sources: Land as teacher: Understanding Indigenous land-based education (UNESCO)

Learn more

Video: Land Based Indigenous Studies in the WRDSB

Students in the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) aren’t confining their learning to the classroom, thanks to Land Based Indigenous Studies.


"We all have stories within us. Sometimes we hold them gingerly, sometimes desperately, sometimes as gently as an infant. It is only by sharing stories, by being strong enough to take a risk - both with telling and in the asking - that we make it possible to know, recognize and understand each other." - Richard Wagamese from Richard Wagamese Selected: What Comes from Spirit.

The oral traditions of the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis cultures have long been used to transmit information from one generation to the next. Teaching about cultural ideas, values, customs, rituals, history, practices, relationships, and ways of life traditionally involves telling stories. Traditionally, stories are told by community members who have attained the status of Storyteller as well as Elders, Knowledge Keepers, or historians in some cultures. Storytelling is a foundation for experiential learning, relationship building, and holistic learning (Empowering the Spirit).

Storytelling fosters a classroom atmosphere that responds to each student's needs while establishing links between previously learned material and new information. In order to make learning relevant and transformative, teachers use storytelling in all of its many different forms to connect concepts to analogies or parallels that students can understand (First Nations Pedagogy Online).

Sources: Sharing Through Story (Empowering the Spirit) | Storytelling (First Nations Pedagogy Online)

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Video: Learning from Story

This video is part of the course "Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education". This course explores strategies, teaching exemplars, and resources that support the teaching and learning of Indigenous ways of knowing.

Experiential Learning

According to Canadian Council on Learning, "The traditional Aboriginal classroom consisted of the community and the natural environment. Each adult was responsible for ensuring that each child learned the specific skills, attitudes and knowledge they needed to function in everyday life. Experiential learning is seen as connected to lived experience, as in learning by doing, and is structured formally through regular community interactions such as sharing circles, ceremonies, meditation, or story telling, and daily activities. Although experiential learning is most often associated with activities that occur outside the formal classroom, it is a purposeful and essential mode of learning for First Nations, Métis and Inuit."

Intergenerational Learning

"In Indigenous communities, the most respected educators have always been Elders. In pre-contact societies, Elders had clear roles to play in passing on wisdom and knowledge to youth, and that relationship is still honoured and practiced today. Some Elders are the knowledge holders of 60 different Indigenous languages in Canada, and language is a key component of Indigenous culture that should be integrated in teaching practices if we are to move toward Indigenization of curriculum. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students can learn a lot from Elders, and curriculum developers can seek opportunities to engage with Elders as experts in Indigenous pedagogies. Section 3 of this resource provides more information about how to respectfully engage with Elders" (Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers).

Classroom Strategies

The following is adapted from Truth and Reconciliation, Building Your Bundle: Classroom Strategies (Jenn Peters, Seneca Polytechnic).

Guiding/Reflective Questions

As you begin to think about classroom strategies for integrating Indigenous themes, topics, issues and approaches into your classroom, consider:

  • What can you do right now to decolonize and Indigenize some aspect of your classroom?
  • What fears, anxieties, or apprehensions might you have about this process?
  • How are the classroom interactions you are planning informed by concepts that you’ve brought into the curriculum itself?
  • In what way can Indigenous knowledge systems enhance how you design classroom activities or formative assessment for your students?
  • Recognizing that colleges and classrooms in Ontario have not been decolonized and still operate under colonial constraints, how can we work within those constraints to move toward decolonization in our own classrooms?

Decolonizing the Classroom

Decolonization is efforts that work towards, “dismantling structures that perpetuate colonial ideologies of superiority and address unbalanced power dynamics” (Pulling Together). Here are some suggestions for integrating these efforts into your daily practice.

Outside Class

  • Arrive early to class to allow students to ask you questions in person or just to check in to see how they are doing
  • Answer emails
  • Schedule office hours and make sure students know it doesn’t have to relate to a specific assignment or course outcome

During Class

  • Eliminate the hierarchy
    • There is no head of the classroom, faculty serve as conversation facilitators not leaders
    • During discussions, ensure everyone who wants to speak, has a chance to speak
    • Offer alternative methods for contributing to conversations (e.g. online chat)
  • Empathy
    • Start class with a check in
    • If someone is struggling or having an off day, allow them to just be present, don’t punish them for not participating
    • Allow students to progress at their own pace. Whether they need to slow down or speed up, be flexible to support them in their personal learning journey.
  • We are all teachers
    • Ask your students what their current experience is with topics you are discussing, acknowledge their prior knowledge and understanding.
    • Allow students to choose their learning journeys as much as is possible. Can they choose their own topics, modalities, timelines?
  • Make connections
    • Try to use anecdotes where possible, stories can create connections
    • Connect topics and teachings to local communities, and generations backwards and forwards
  • Invite silence and contemplation, allow for self-reflection
  • Reduce the tyranny of the clock, as much as possible
  • Ungrading - alternate methods for assessing learning, e.g. self-assessment, peer-assessment, self-grading, etc.
  • Go outside
  • Build something - either something tangible or digital
  • Do something that benefits the community (neighbourhood, hometown, local Indigenous community, etc.)
  • Do something that works towards the TRC’s Calls to Action

Building Understanding through Reconciliation and Indigenization

The following is from Truth and Reconciliation, Building Your Bundle: Classroom Strategies (Jenn Peters, Seneca Polytechnic). Below you will find activities and prompts for working towards reconciliation and Indigenization in your courses and classrooms.

  • Use Indigenous-themed examples to teach a non-indigenous topic. For example: Using examples of video assignments students have done about MMIWG2S or residential schools.
  • Conduct a group activity using a story/case study involving The Indian Act or residential schools.
  • Ask students to explore colonialism in their home country and how it impacted their ancestors and present-day family.
  • Ask students to consider what their discipline will look like in 1, 3, and 7 generations. What do Indigenous Worldviews teach us about relationality?
  • In health and social work programs, ask students how does intergenerational trauma impact health and well-being?
  • How could our world have been different if generations ago, colonists had collaborated with indigenous peoples instead of trying to eradicate them?
  • Ask your students to research a land acknowledgement for their neighbourhood or home town. Explore why land acknowledgements are used by Indigenous Peoples, and why non-Indigenous people should also use them and how the two differ in their purpose.
  • If students are in the visual arts, education or library fields, consider what literacy looked like in Indigenous peoples at first contact. How was it different from the colonial view of literacy? What impact did this have?
  • Ask students what they could contribute to their community at home or at school, or to a nearby indigenous community, to improve conditions and support citizens.
  • Identify and explore systemic discrimination in your discipline. Compare and contrast this to historic discrimination against Indigenous peoples in Canada.
  • Explore problematic Canadian myths and how they relate to the Indigenous Peoples in Canada, historically and in our current day.
  • Identify Indigenous partners important for their discipline, do they already exist? How could they be established?
  • For education students - contrast the approach to teaching and learning found in Western pedagogy to Indigenous pedagogy. Identify strengths and weaknesses in both.
  • Reflect on how colonial education approaches have impacted their own learning journey. How could this journey have been improved with holistic Indigenous Worldviews?
  • Using the TRC’s Call the Action, identify 3 things you could do today to work towards reconciliation.
  • Identify what your treaty is currently - for your home, school, and/or work. Identify what responsibilities are outlined and explore how you could fulfill those responsibilities.
  • Explore intellectual property laws and how they can impact cultural artifacts, especially in Indigenous communities. Use a case study of a designer appropriating a pattern or design to use in a clothing collection. Should intellectual property laws apply to Indigenous cultural symbols and artifacts? Should indigenous IP ever come into the public domain?
  • Explore what constitutes cultural appropriation and the impact it has on Indigenous communities.
  • Profile an Indigenous leader in your discipline, what are their contributions, what have they transformed or repaired?
  • Consider instances of oppression that you have experienced or witnessed in your life. How can you strengthen your allyship, specifically for Indigenous peoples?
  • Advocacy activity: Write a letter to the Prime Minister, Minister of Indigenous Services or other relevant politician to advocate for a critical issue currently affecting Indigenous Peoples, e.g. clean water on reserves, MMIWG2S, First Nations public libraries, mental health supports.