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Inspire: Ways of Knowing (Sub-Module 1 of 3 of Inspire Module)

It's important to recognize that each Indigenous community is unique and will have its own set of worldviews and ways of knowing. This section highlights some of the diverse ways of knowing and worldviews observed in various Indigenous cultures.

Resources: Ways of Knowing

Indigenous Education

"In the conception of the perfect stranger described by Susan Dion, it’s this pain and questioning that settler teachers seek to avoid. By saying that they have no experience with Aboriginal peoples and know little about them, settler teachers attempt to feel their way toward a space in which they can continue to rely upon dominant discourses, which assure settlers of their rightful ownership while effectively rendering Indigenous peoples invisible" (Awakening Perfect Strangers).

Tips for Facilitating

  • Familiarize yourself with the student supports at your institution should the conversations trigger any of the participants.
  • Be transparent and explain that the objective of this learning is to develop critical thinking and challenge personal and public thinking.
  • Set ground rules for respectful and engaged interaction.
  • Be a model of diplomacy by teaching your students to understand and appreciate different viewpoints.
  • Be proactive and ask the students how they are going to take care of themselves following the lessons and offer healthy suggestions.
  • Thank the students for being open and honest.
  • Consider using Indigenous Methodologies for facilitating conversations such as using a talking stick or a sharing circle.

Video: Education in the Reconciliation Era

The Agenda discusses how Canada's less tolerant track record can be presented to foster understanding.

Holistic & Balanced

"Indigenous pedagogies focus on the development of a human being as a whole person. Academic or cognitive knowledge is valued, but self-awareness, emotional growth, social growth, and spiritual development are also valued. It is a useful for curriculum developers to keep this in mind when creating learning experiences that interweave both Indigenous and Western ways of knowing. For example, Indigenous approaches can be brought to life by providing opportunities for students to reflect on the four dimensions of knowledge (emotional, spiritual, cognitive, and physical) when they engage in learning activities. This may also include allowing students opportunities to challenge dominant ideologies that neglect emotional and spiritual knowledge domains" (Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers).

Learn more

Video: One Take | The Medicine Wheel

From Fanshawe Institute of Indigenous Learning. Knowledge Keeper Liz Akiwenzie talks about the medicine wheel and all that it takes part.


A worldview is a way of thinking or living by a person, a group, or a society. In general, a worldview is a set of values and beliefs that are upheld and respected by individuals. An individual or group's worldview affects how they relate to the people, animals, and other elements of their environment (Understanding Worldviews).

Learn more

Video: In Our Voices: Indigenous worldview

Perspectives from Sheridan's Indigenous community. How do you define an Indigenous worldview?

First Nations Lifelong Learning Model

"For First Nations people, the purpose of learning is to develop the skills, knowledge, values, and wisdom needed to honour and protect the natural world and ensure the long term sustainability of life. Learning is portrayed as a holistic, lifelong developmental process that contributes to individual and community well-being. This process is both organic and self-regenerative in nature, and integrates various types of relationships and knowledge within the community" (Canadian Council of Learning).

The model contains four main components. They depict the dynamics that enable First Nations to experience holistic lifelong learning as a purposeful developmental process. The components include (Assembly of First Nations):

  • The roots - the sources and domains of knowledge
  • The rings – the individual’s learning cycle
  • The branches – the individual’s personal development
  • The leaves – the community’s well-being

First Nations Lifelong Learning Model

First Nations Lifelong Learning Model (Assembly of First Nations) 

The model uses a stylized graphic of a living tree to depict learning as a cyclical process that occurs throughout the individual’s lifespan.

First Nations Lifelong Learning Model

The First Peoples Principle of Learning represents an effort to find commonalities among the various First Nations teaching and learning methodologies. This includes:

  • Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
  • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
  • Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one‘s actions.
  • Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.
  • Learning recognizes the role of Indigenous knowledge.
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
  • Learning involves patience and time.
  • Learning requires exploration of one‘s identity.
  • Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations. (First Nations Education Steering Committee)

First Peoples Principles of Learning poster

First Peoples Principles of Learning 

Infographic outlining the First Peoples Principles of Learing