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Issue #51
February, 2014

Celebrating Strengths: Aboriginal Students and their Stories of Success

Source: A research study commissioned by the Board of Trustees of Seven Oaks School Division, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Focus: Educators

Summary: The Seven Oaks School Division extended, to all staff, an invitation to participate in a research project exploring Aboriginal perspectives in education (March, 2006). From this, a group of 18 teachers, school administrators, superintendents and student support staff from the Seven Oaks School Division formed a study/research committee. The committee was comprised almost equally of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members.
For the first two years the work of the committee consisted primarily of reviewing research literature that focused on Aboriginal education as well as the research and educational experiences of Aboriginal peoples. This, of course, included readings about the residential school experiences and the long term impact colonization has had upon the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.

The committee members studied and engaged in dialogue around issues related to ethical research methodologies that are respectful of Aboriginal cultures and that contribute positively to the Aboriginal community. It was concluded that it was important to have Aboriginal epistemologies along with community voice and cultural advisors to guide this research.

The research purpose was defined: To identify from the perspectives of former Seven Oaks School Division Aboriginal students, factors which have contributed positively to their school experience. The report resulted from this initiative.

Our Place in the Circle – A Review of Métis Content in Ontario Faculties of Education

Source: Dr. Susan D. Dion, Faculty of Education, York University, Ontario

Summary: This research report titled Our Place in the Circle: A Review of Métis Content in Ontario Faculties of Education, is informed by the voices of Métis youth, artists and educators, Métis, First Nations and Inuit scholars and students, and a host of others teaching and learning in Faculties/Schools of Education across the province of Ontario. Drawing on data gathered between December 2011 and March 2012, I document, evaluate, and provide an analysis of what is being taught and what is being learned about Métis history, language, and culture in Ontario Faculties of Education.

The report is based on the research findings of The Métis Education Study, a project requested by the Métis Nation of Ontario, Education and Training Branch. The purpose of this research is to understand the current climate so as to positively impact knowledge and awareness of the ongoing presence of Métis in Ontario, their history, language and culture.

This research confirms what many Aboriginal educators and students already knew: Métis Education is not being adequately addressed in initial teacher education programs in Ontario. Teacher candidates are graduating from these programs having had little or no engagement with Métis content. Consequently, recently certified teachers do not feel confident or competent to teach Métis content. Yet many of the recent graduates from these programs who participated in the project feel that it is somewhat to fairly important to integrate Métis content in their teaching and are looking for resources and guidance on how to use Métis resources in their classrooms.

While there is an initial awareness of the need for Aboriginal Education within Ontario Faculties/Schools of Education, this awareness is not necessarily impacting practice. Course directors report that they often do not include Métis content in their courses due to their own lack of knowledge and understanding. The most pressing challenge confronting those working in the field is the dominant belief that Métis Education is only relevant to teachers who intend to teach in communities where there is a significant Métis student population.

Some Ontario Faculties/Schools of Education are finding creative ways to include Métis Education in their programs. In one program all students are required to read a novel written by an Aboriginal author prior to the start of the program, other faculties arrange for a speaker series that focuses on Aboriginal Education and Métis educators are included in the series. These are encouraging steps; however a much more comprehensive approach to the inclusion of Métis Education is required.

UNICEF: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Source: Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Text prepared by Dr. Cindy Blackstock
Focus: Students ages 13-18

Summary: In this publication you will learn about an important international document called the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP or Declaration)

The Declaration explains how the rights of indigenous peoples – including indigenous young people – are to be protected by governments around the world. It applies to indigenous peoples as individuals and as a group.

Indigenous young people were actively involved in the development of UNDRIP and they are working hard to make sure governments implement it. This text provides a summary of some of the important language, themes and articles of the document so that young people can continue to play an important role in ensuring the Declaration is fully implemented around the world. At the end of the publication you will find a list of words (‘Word Bank’) and what they mean. The list will help you understand words that may be new to you.

National Museum of the American Indian

Summary: A diverse and multifaceted cultural and educational enterprise, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is an active and visible component of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum complex. The NMAI cares for one of the world’s most expansive collections of Native artifacts, including objects, photographs, archives, and media covering the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.

The National Museum of the American Indian operates three facilities. The museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., offers exhibition galleries and spaces for performances, lectures and symposia, research, and education. The George Gustav Heye Center in New York City houses exhibitions, research, educational activities, and performing arts programs. The Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland, houses the museum’s collections as well as the conservation, repatriation, and digital imaging programs, and research facilities. The NMAI’s off-site outreach efforts often referred to as the “fourth museum,” include websites, traveling exhibitions, and community programs.

Since the passage of its enabling legislation in 1989 (amended in 1996), the NMAI has been steadfastly committed to bringing Native voices to what the museum writes and presents, whether on-site at one of the three NMAI venues, through the museum’s publications, or via the Internet. The NMAI is also dedicated to acting as a resource for the hemisphere’s Native communities and to serving the greater public as an honest and thoughtful conduit to Native cultures—present and past—in all their richness, depth, and diversity.

What I learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom

Source: University of British Columbia (UBC)
Focus: Senior and university students

Summary: What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom is a research project that explores difficult discussions of Aboriginal issues that take place in classrooms at the University of British Columbia. Students frequently report troubling and sometimes traumatic discussions of cultural issues in class.  These situations often affect their ability to function in their coursework, and even their ability to return to class.

The project looks at how the challenges around talking about race work as an educational barrier at the classroom level. This is something that has not been sufficiently addressed in educational institutions, and yet, is something that desperately needs to be discussed.

Classrooms, especially classrooms at major institutions like UBC, are becoming increasingly diverse and require attention in order to have effective cross-cultural discussions. This project works to improve the conversations around politically and culturally sensitive issues in a classroom by asking: how does cultural communication happen in a classroom, and how can it be improved?

Developed in the First Nations Studies Program at UBC, this project examines the experiences of students, instructors, and administrators at the university to make these problems visible, better understand how difficulties arise, and to find ways to have more professional and productive classroom discussions.

Aboriginal Legends

Source: University of Alberta
Focus: Grades 2-5

Summary: This lesson examines legends and stories of Canadian Aboriginals. Students are given an opportunity to listen to and read legends and will come to understand that these legends helped the Aboriginals explain not only everyday life, but also their beliefs and the unexplainable (e.g. creation). Through their stories and legends we find that Aboriginal values, attitudes and cultural identities are shared. Students will be given an opportunity to examine stories and legends and to recognize that aspects of cultural identity may be tied to these legends.

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