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Issue #30
May, 2012

Nurturing the Learning Spirit of First Nations Students: The Report of the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education for Students on Reserve

Summary: The National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education for Students on Reserve was established by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations to engage First Nations and Canadians in an exploration of First Nation education and to make recommendations for change and improvement.

Our report, entitled “Nurturing the Learning Spirit of First Nation Students”, includes 3 fundamental principles to guide First Nation education reform and 5 recommendations to support the goal of an effective First Nation Education System. We believe that these are practical recommendations that provide a roadmap to the future while pushing for an urgent timeline designed to ensure that improvements begin now.


  1. First Nation Education Reform must be based on the child’s right to their culture, language and identity, and to a quality education that is appropriate to their needs. The First Nation child must always be at the center of this effort through a “child first” commitment that is embraced by all.
  2. First Nation Education Reform must be undertaken in the spirit of reconciliation and collaboration among First Nations, the Government of Canada, and provincial and territorial governments.
  3. First Nation Education Reform must feature a commitment to mutual accountability for roles and responsibilities as well as financial inputs and education outcomes.


  1. Co-create a Child-Centered First Nation Education Act
  2. Create a National Commission for First Nation education to support education reform and improvement
  3. Facilitate and support the creation of a First Nation education system through the development of regional First Nation Education Organizations (FNEO) to provide support and services for First Nation schools and First Nation Students
  4. Ensure adequate funding to support a First Nation education system that meets the needs of First Nation learners, First Nation communities and Canada as a whole
  5. Establish an accountability and reporting framework to assess improvement in First Nation education

Strengthening our Voices – Saskatchewan

Source: Saskatchewan School Boards Association – Research by Gabriel Dumont Institute

Summary: This resource serves as a guidebook for the Saskatchewan K-12 school system to strengthen the engagement of First Nations and Métis peoples in support of their children’s education, their school and their board of education.

The Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) has commissioned this resource to strengthen the engagement of First Nations and Métis peoples in support of the SSBA’s broad goal to speak as the voice of public education and to ensure that the wishes of the community are reflected in schools and are an integral part of decisions that shape the education of Saskatchewan’s children. The Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) supports boards in this very important work.

With the understanding that there are no quick fixes and that even the most promising practices depend on the people and the situation in which they are operating, this guidebook cannot offer solutions. It can, however, offer guidance as we examine what research says, look at promising practices and ask ourselves a number of key questions that will support our efforts to engage First Nations and Métis peoples in support of their children’s education, their schools and their board of education.

Lessons from the Land: A Cultural Journey Through the Northwest Territories

Source: Industry Canada
Focus: Secondary students

Summary: Lessons from the Land is a collection of online cultural explorations based upon the traditional travel routes of the Northwest Territories’ Aboriginal peoples. This online exhibit will explore the relationship between people and the land and will highlight sites of cultural and historical significance throughout the territory. The first trail, the Idaa Trail, is now online. More trails will be added in the near future.

The idea for this project began several years ago. After completing years of research on the Idaa Trail (a traditional route of the Dogrib), an archaeologist from the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre thought about turning his work into a CD-ROM with which students could take a virtual journey up the trail. This concept of a single virtual journey soon blossomed into something much bigger. Staff at the Heritage Centre decided to create an online exhibit that would feature traditional trails and journeys from around the Northwest Territories.

The Line – Respect Each Other (Anti -Bullying)

Source: Australian Government
Focus: Ages 8-14

Summary:Respect Each Other is a series of plays, lesson plans and comics that are part of an Australia-wide campaign to show young people the right way to build respectful relationships and prevent bullying. These resources are easily adapted to the Canadian situation.

The Line – Respect Each Other provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 8-14, their parents, relatives and other community members with resources aimed at promoting healthy and respectful relationships.

Serpent Tales plays – Follow the stories of Tom, Jack, Stanley and the Mean Girls. See how they deal with issues such as bullying, texting and hitting, and learn about respecting others.

Lesson plans – Teachers can use these lesson plans in conjunction with the plays to encourage students aged 8-14 to think about what is healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviour.

Comics – Read the stories of Tom, Jack, Stanley and the Mean Girls in a comic format.

Aboriginal Philanthropy in Canada: A Foundation for Understanding

Source: The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (CPAPC) partnered with United Way of Winnipeg to commission AMR Planning and Consulting (AMR) to produce this research paper.

Summary: The concept for a research and discussion paper emerged from discussions between participants of the “All My Relations” gathering that took place in Winnipeg in 2008. Recognizing that there is still a lack of knowledge on new opportunities and ways of thinking related to Aboriginal-focused philanthropy, particularly in Canada, we felt that the time was right to look more closely at some of the issues.

The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (CPAPC) partnered with United Way of Winnipeg to commission AMR Planning and Consulting (AMR) to produce a research paper on Aboriginal Philanthropy in Canada. Our goal was to produce a research-based discussion paper that would provide an overview of data, stories, perceptions, grant-making models and new opportunities and ways of thinking related to Aboriginal-focused philanthropy.

This paper is intended as a means to share information and enhance our collective knowledge on Indigenous philanthropy in Canada. Additionally, it provides context for strengthening relationships between foundations and Canada’s First Peoples.

According to this research, the time is ripe to develop Aboriginal philanthropy in Canada – to foster the involvement of philanthropic organizations in Aboriginal communities and to develop Aboriginal support for and involvement in philanthropic organizations. Both these goals require learning and change for both parties – Aboriginal Peoples and philanthropic organizations.

This report sets out the opportunities and challenges for Aboriginal philanthropy in Canada and makes recommendations for how it might be done well. The community of Moose Deer Point provides a case study and a number of lessons for the future. Our Indigenous communities are not charity cases, nor is philanthropy a new concept, though the word itself may not be familiar. Philanthropy, in the sense of caring for our fellow human beings, is a deeply held principle of Aboriginal peoples. We have always shared with each other, within our communities and between communities.

The traditional ways of philanthropic giving may not work for Aboriginal communities for a host of reasons that are outlined in this report. We are not looking for a one-way relationship, from a wealthy benefactor to a deserving cause. We are looking for a collaborative, multilateral relationship where all parties are committed to learning and growing. In return, we offer a deep engagement in growing, thriving communities that goes far beyond a grant application or a project report.

At the same time, every social indicator tells us that Aboriginal communities are deeply in need of development. Not only that, we are in need of collaboration and innovation, of new ways of doing things. We invite the philanthropic foundations of Canada to embark on an exciting journey with us and help us build our communities, from the basic infrastructure of roads, clean water and housing to the essentials of a thriving community – economic, social and cultural development.

Walking Together: First Nations, Métis and Inuit Perspectives in Curriculum

Source: Jane Friesen & Brian Krauth , Simon Fraser University, August 2009

Summary: According to these researchers, Aboriginal Canadians have an above-average incidence of almost every marker of social and economic deprivation, including poverty (Mendelson 2006), poor health outcomes, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide (Health Canada 2009). Some analysts (e.g. Richards and Vining 2004) argue that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty among off-reserve Aboriginal Canadians lies in improving educational outcomes among Aboriginal children and youth. This view is supported by evidence from other populations that education is associated with better health behaviours and outcomes (Kenkel 1991), substantially lower rates of incarceration (Lochner and Moretti 2004), higher earnings (Card 1999), reduced teen childbearing, criminal propensity, child abuse and neglect, and improved educational attainment and health outcomes of children (Greenwood 1997), increased voter and civic participation (Dee 2003), and reduced reliance on public transfers (Wolfe and Haveman 2001).

Their goal in this paper is to contribute to establishing an evidence base that can inform the development of policies related to Aboriginal education in Canada. They have used a newly available administrative data set provided by the British Columbia (B.C.) Ministry of Education to document the achievement gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in B.C. as measured by standardized test scores in grades 4 and 7, and to investigate the relationship between this gap and student characteristics, particularly differences in rates of assessed disabilities. They next measure the extent to which Aboriginal students are segregated from non-Aboriginal students at school. B.C.’s school funding rules provide districts with roughly similar resource levels, so this source of variation in school quality is not as salient as in the U.S. context. However, if peer effects are important, differential sorting of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students may lead to systematic differences in the quality of the learning environments of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. They provide econometric estimates of the effects of peer group composition on Aboriginal students’ achievement as measured by B.C.’s Foundation Skills Assessment tests, and focus in particular on the share of peers who are Aboriginal or who are classified as disabled.

Their results show that the grade 7 test score gap is large in both reading and numeracy. Most of the gap has developed by grade 4, but the gap continues to grow between grades 4 and 7. Differences in rates of identified disability do not explain much of the test score gap. There appears to exist a substantial degree of segregation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, suggesting that school environments can in principle play an important role in the achievement gap.

The average Aboriginal student has a substantially higher proportion of Aboriginal peers and a somewhat higher proportion of peers with disabilities. Aboriginal students perform better when they attend school with a greater proportion of peers who are themselves Aboriginal, and experience limited if any disadvantage from attending school with a greater proportion of peers with disabilities.

Children as citizens of First Nations: Linking Indigenous health to early childhood development

Source: Margo Greenwood, ABD. University of Northern British Columbia. Paediatric Child Health. 2005 November; 10(9): 553–555.

Summary: If Aboriginal children are to become well and healthy adults who meaningfully contribute to their communities and broader society (in other words, if Aboriginal children are to become healthy citizens of their Nations and the world), it is imperative that they are well versed in the fundamental values of their histories and cultures.

According to the author, one cannot examine the health and well-being of Aboriginal children without understanding and acknowledging their unique social, political and historical context. In Canada, Aboriginal children are born into a colonial legacy: low socioeconomic status, intergenerational trauma associated with residential schooling, high rates of substance abuse, increased incidents of interaction with the criminal justice system, and extensive loss of language and culture are but a few of the indicators suggesting the immediate need for health promotion in Indigenous communities. Aboriginal children’s growth and development, particularly growth and development that fosters and promotes cultural strength, congruency and citizenship, is at the forefront of addressing these health disparities. A sense of cultural continuity in Indigenous peoples and communities builds resiliency and results in demonstrated reductions of negative health outcomes, including youth suicide.

Given the overwhelming need to improve Indigenous health in Canada, and given both the evidentiary foundation of improving their health through holistic health promotion strategies and the link between early childhood development and overall societal health, it is only logical to situate considerations of Indigenous health within discussions regarding the care and education of young Aboriginal children.

Canadian Studies Project 2: Storytelling – The Art of Knowledge

Source: Museum of Civilization
Focus: Grades 7-12

Summary: The philosophical foundation of an Aboriginal worldview is readily found in the oral literary tradition of the Storyteller. This set of lessons is designed to introduce students to the concept of how First Nations people transmitted cultural expectations through the use of storytelling. The lessons will emphasize the First Nations oral tradition and how legends, myths and stories were used to pass down the traditions, the knowledge, the attitudes, values and beliefs. The students will develop an understanding of how the storytelling method was used to explain, to teach and to entertain. The students will explore the cultural ties and differences within Aboriginal nations.

The method used to produce these lessons is based on the design down model of curriculum design as adapted from Understanding By Design: Professional Workbook, Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins 2004.

In addition attention will be paid to the development of literacy skills as outlined in the Ontario Ministry of Education document, Think Literacy (a cross curricular document for grades 7-12).

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