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Issue #53
April, 2014

Language and Literacy Development Encyclopedia: Bilingual Education in Aboriginal Communities: Towards a Vibrant Aboriginal Identity

Source: Donald M. Taylor, Ph.D., Esther Usborne, M.A. (Department of Psychology, McGill University) and Roxane de la Sablonnière, Ph.D. (Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal)

Focus: Language Teachers and Researchers

Summary: Every Aboriginal family wants the best for their children. In parents’ minds this means raising children who can navigate two cultures effectively. First, parents want their children to have a strong Aboriginal identity, including, where possible, the Aboriginal language. Second, parents hope their children will become fluent in a mainstream language, be it English or French or both, so that their children can, should they so choose, participate fully in mainstream Canadian society. Bilingualism is indeed a daunting task. The efficacy of bilingual education in the early years of schooling for Aboriginal children is pivotal for supporting their cultural vitality and maximizing their opportunities.

Fritz Scholder: Indian/Not Indian

Source: National Museum of the American Indian
Focus: Senior Visual Arts Students

Summary: In the 1960s and ’70s, the notion of American Indian art was turned on its head by artists who fought against prejudice and popular clichés. At the forefront of this revolution was Fritz Scholder (Luiseño, 1937-2005). This 10 minute video introduction to the eponymous exhibition “Fritz Scholder: Indian/Not Indian” was awarded the 2009 Gold Muse award by the American Alliance of Museums for best video production of the year. Featuring 135 paintings, works on paper, and sculptures drawn from major public and private collections, including the color-saturated canvases for which the artist is famous, “Indian/Not Indian” opened concurrently at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and at NMAI’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York. The Washington exhibition surveyed Scholder’s forty-plus years as a working artist, with particular emphasis on his groundbreaking and controversial Indian paintings from the 1960s and 1970s. The New York exhibition focused on the artist’s works from the 1980s and 1990s, when he stopped using overt Indian imagery and explored mythical beings, the afterlife, and the unknown.

The Abenaki – People of the Dawn (Free viewing page for MAEI subscribers)

Source:  MacLeod9 Productions; Director G. Scott MacLeod
Focus: Grades 7 (Aboriginal studies, social studies, history)

Summary: The fourth film from award-winning visual artist G. Scott MacLeod, The Abenaki is a 16-minute animation that tells the dramatic story of Joe Obomsawin and the Abenaki First Nation. The film is written and narrated by internationally renowned storyteller Mike Burns.

The filmmaker has also provided educational support materials for classroom use.

Download PDFs
Download Learning Guide, The Abenaki
Download Production Notes, The Abenaki 

If you would like to support the filmmaker, please click here to make a secure donation of any amount for the use of this film and these educational materials. 

In Our Own Words: Bringing Authentic First Nation Content to the Classroom K-3

Source: First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) with assistance from the British Columbia Ministry of Education and support from the Education Partnerships Program of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. 

Focus: K-3

Summary: This resource has been developed in response to desire on the part of teachers for more guidance and information on how to incorporate First Peoples materials into their instruction and assessment practices. Educators and communities have long recognized a need for increased information and support in the use of culturally appropriate and meaningful First Peoples content, materials, and teaching methods. This desire for support reflects an awareness and recognition that:

  • there is value for all students when First Peoples content and worldviews are incorporated in classroom learning experiences in a meaningful and authentic way 
  • there is a need to continue developing educational approaches that better meet the needs of Aboriginal students 
  • it is increasingly possible to personalize and customize learning experiences in response to class makeup and individual students’ learning needs (e.g., due to rapid improvements in information technologies) 
  • First Peoples literature, creative works, role models, and other learning resources are more widely available now than in the past, and this availability is continuing to improve 
  • many First Peoples communities, both on-reserve and off, are committed to making education a priority 
  • First Peoples communities themselves contain the most accurate and authentic source of teaching about First Peoples — their traditions, environments, ecologies, directions, priorities, etc. 

This guide has been developed to provide an array of ideas and suggestions that can be applied in whole or in part to incorporate First Peoples content into a K-3 classroom

Parenting in the early years: effectiveness of parenting support programs for Indigenous families – Australia

Source: Australian Government, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Institute of Family Studies. Resource sheet no. 16 produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse by Robyn Mildon and Melinda Polimeni. August 2012

Summary: Programs that focus on supporting parenting in the early years aim to influence the behaviours of children, parents or families in order to reduce the risk or ameliorate the effect of less than optimal social and physical environments. 

This paper focuses on two types of parenting support programs:

  • parenting programs – short-term interventions aimed at helping parents improve their relationship with their child
  • home visiting programs – which include various programs, supports and services delivered to the family by a person visiting the home.

There is a body of evidence that demonstrates that parenting programs are key to promoting the wellbeing of children and preventing the development of later problems. There is some evidence that parenting programs may improve some outcomes associated with child abuse and neglect, such as poor parent-child interactions. Although parenting support programs are often used as secondary or tertiary interventions in high-risk families, they may be more effective as universal primary prevention programs. 

Families play a critical role in their children’s development and learning. A large body of research provides strong evidence that parents and the home environment are the most influential forces in shaping children’s early learning. The responsiveness of parents to their children, and the manner in which parents talk with and teach their children are important determinants of children’s later wellbeing and development (Landry et al. 2001; Osofsky & Thompson 2000).

For Indigenous communities, support for parents in their parenting role has a different context from non-Indigenous communities. The responsibility for child rearing and teaching children has traditionally been through an extended family, kin and community and is seen as very much still tied to this cultural norm, even when families and children face isolation from their own Indigenous communities (SNAICC 2004).

In this resource sheet, we examine what we know about programs for Australian Indigenous families that effectively support parenting in the early years. This is not a systematic review of all programs; instead, we present briefly on the evidence for parenting programs generally and then focus specifically on the evidence for such parenting programs in helping Indigenous families.

Healing the Generations Residential School Curriculum

Source: Nishnawbi Aski Nation 

Focus: Grades 9-12

Summary: Long before Europeans came to North America, Aboriginal people had a highly developed system of education. Aboriginal Elders and parents passed on not only survival skills to their children, but their history, artistic ability, music, language, moral and religious values.

It is important to be aware of the beginnings of residential schools. Although residential schools were not officially set up until 1893, the roots of the residential school system actually reach back to the colonial governments before confederation. The idea that Indian boarding schools be set up and run jointly by the government of Canada and the churches was being discussed as early as the 1840’s. 

“A formal church/government partnership was put into place to jointly manage an education system for Aboriginal children in Canada. The partnership between government/church lasted from 1892-1969. The schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church, Church of England (Anglican), United Church (Methodist), Presbyterian Church and Mennonites. They operated in every province but New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island.”


This site provides complete lesson plans inclusive of activities, worksheets, readings, handouts, tests, quizzes, assignments, rubrics, and so forth.

Curriculum Objectives

  1. To increase awareness of the residential school system as a major part of the European colonizing effort against Aboriginal peoples, resulting in significant intergenerational impacts.
  2. To increase awareness and understanding of what Nishnawbe Aski Nation members experienced while attending the 13 residential schools in the region.
  3. To promote awareness in reclaiming language, culture and skills lost as a result of residential schools.
  4.  To promote individual healing in the context of rebuilding links with families, communities and Elders.

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