In June, Canada celebrates National Indigenous History Month to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The entire month allows us the opportunity to learn further about Indigenous Peoples.
When examining the concept of Indigenous Perspectives within the education system, it is important not to look at just the future but also to look to our past. For, as Indigenous Peoples, our connection to the land makes us who we are and connects us to one another and the circle of life in which we all participate.
Mother Earth, culture, family, and community are all woven together. The expression of this interconnectedness, passed down from generation to generation, is through our customs, values, language, arts, dance, traditions, and ceremonies.
The Elders have taught us that the Medicine Wheel is the basis of all our teachings. The Medicine Wheel is a system of cultural values, a worldview held by many Indigenous peoples as a way of living. There are four domains on the Medicine Wheel representing all races that walk on Mother Earth: White (Caucasian), Red (Indigenous), Yellow (Asian), Black (African-Americans). As well, the Medicine Wheel also represents all four aspects of self: physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional.
Other components within the Medicine Wheel includes the four key periods in the life cycle spanning from birth/infancy, to youth, to adulthood and finishing with elderhood/death. In addition, there are many other teachings woven into the Medicine Wheel—the four directions, the four seasons, the four primary elements of fire, water, wind (air) and earth.
How does all this connect to education? The Medicine Wheel provides a holistic framework to support all students within the education system, regardless of skin colour or race. Therefore, teaching Indigenous perspectives within this system allows us to break down any negative stereotypes. For all students represented within the Medicine Wheel learn the history of the First Peoples of Canada.
Furthermore, when the focus is on the learning of all our students, we strive towards Mino-Pimatisiwin (healthy balanced lifestyles). These strategies can assist us as educators to role model, guide and mentor students, and to teach both curriculum and culture, thus allowing our students to create their own healthy balanced lifestyles (Mino-Pimatisiwin) to become effective global citizens. Working together, our communities can create an educational climate that fits well within the concept of inclusion, allowing every individual to feel accepted, valued and safe.
Writing from a critical perspective, many Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars express the importance of having culture as the basis of learning, recognizing the need to address learning wholistically. Traditionally, Indigenous communities, parents, and extended family members worked together to achieve educational goals for their children, once again focusing on the child as a whole.
In 2015, under the leadership of Justice Murray Sinclair, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released the Calls to Action report. Within this document, there were 94 Calls to Action identified and the educational system has a critical role to address many of these calls to action within our school environments. Therefore, in moving forward in Mountain View School Division, it is important there is a strategic plan/framework in place to ensure all students, parents, educators, communities, and stakeholders have an identified role to participate in creating success for all.
Currently in Mountain View School Division, the staff is working on an Indigenous Education Framework to guide us in our work teaching Indigenous perspectives to all students within the school division. Dedicated educators throughout the division, in consultation with Indigenous organizations, assisted in the development of this framework.
“By working together, we strengthen our capacity to provide the foundation for a richer future for all of us.” (Manitoba Education, Training and Youth, 2006, p.5)
Carole Shankaruk is the Indigenous Education Facilitator for Mountain View School Division. She is of Metis descent and the great great-great-great granddaughter of the Metis leader, Cuthbert Grant.
Akiwenzie-Damm, Kateri(2005) “First Peoples Literature in Canada.” Hidden in Plain Sight: Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples to Canadian Identity and Culture. Pg. 169-76.
Manitoba Education (2006) “Helping your Child Succeed in School: A Guide for Parents of Aboriginal Students.” Pg. 5.Mass Journal - Fall 2010 Aboriginal Education pg. 18