Indigenous Education Pedagogy Reading

Curriculum Connections

While we currently do not have a specific Indigenous curriculum in the Elementary Panel on Ontario, there are several ways you can teach the curriculum through an Indigenous lens. Here is a plan, connected to several strands of the Ontario curriculum from a variety of classes.

In looking at the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Connections document, it appears that there are several possible connections. Reading through it, it becomes apparent that a lot of these connections are tenuous at best, or small examples buried in specific expectations, surrounded by other examples. There were comparatively few ideas in the younger grades (older grades have many more History and Geography connections) so I thought it would be an interesting challenge to plan for a younger group of primary students (Grade 1-3). 

The way I would envision this working would be as a large Inquiry Project, spanning several weeks. This would work better closer to the end of the year after students had had an opportunity to work on some smaller-scale projects to develop the skills needed for something like this. The focal point could be the science curriculum, looking at systems. 

“2. Developing Investigation and Communication Skills 

2.2 investigate and compare the basic needs of humans and other living things, including the need for air, water, food, warmth, and space, using a variety of methods and resources (e.g., prior knowledge, personal experience, discussion, books, videos/DVDs, CD-ROMs) Sample guiding questions: … Why do some Aboriginal people consider rocks to be living things? 

Understanding Earth and Space Systems 

1. Relating Science and Technology to Society and the Environment 1.2 assess ways in which daily and seasonal changes have an impact on society and the environment (e.g., … The Anishinaabe people tell their stories only in the winter when there is snow on the ground.)”

This could serve as an introduction to the topic. In researching and collecting the information about this, the discussions could branch out and involve a discussion of the roles of elders in indigenous societies, connecting to the Social Studies curriculum.

A. Heritage and Identity: Our Changing Roles and Responsibilities 

A3. Understanding Context: Roles, Relationships, and Respect 

A3.2 identify some of the significant people, places, and things in their life, including their life in the community (e.g., … Elder, …), and describe their purpose or the role they have Sample questions: … “What role does an Elder play in your community?” 

A3.4 identify some elements of respectful behaviour that they can practise in their everyday life (e.g., sharing, cooperating, being courteous, not damaging the natural or built environment) and/or that other people practise (e.g., … when meeting an Elder, one offers tobacco, a sacred medicine, for symbolic purposes) 

B. People and Environments: The Local Community 

B1. Application: Interrelationships within the Community 

B1.2 identify some services and service-related occupations in their community (e.g., … services provided by the … band office, …), and describe how they meet people’s needs, including their own needs 

B2. Inquiry: Interrelationships and Their Impact 

B2.2 gather and organize information on the interrelationship between people and the natural and built features of their community, and on the effects of this interrelationship, using sources that they have located themselves or that have been provided to them (e.g., use a tally sheet to monitor the use of garbage cans and recycling containers around the school; use a digital camera to record the amount of garbage on the ground in the park; organize satellite images that show changes in natural or built features in their community; interview a person who works in the park) Sample questions: … “How can we use satellite images of the First Nation reserve to help us create maps and locate familiar features that we use?” …

The mapmaking section could relate back specifically to the look at systems in the Science Curriculum. You could incorporate math, specifically data management by using a tally sheet to monitor the use of garbage cans around the school (this could also connect back to the systems section of science.) As well, the focus on not damaging the natural environment could connect to systems as well. The larger piece, involving respect for elders is a great opportunity to have guests come in, virtually or otherwise, to talk with the class. Members of the community at large, with a focus on Indigenous knowledge keepers, wherever appropriate and available would be an excellent way to learn about and practice all of these ideas. One such example would Tribal Vision Dance – a group that comes in and presents workshops and performances on traditional dance styles. This would connect nicely to the Dance curriculum. 

A. Dance 

A3. Exploring Forms and Cultural Contexts 

A3.1 describe, with teacher guidance, a variety of dances from different communities around the world that they have seen in the media, at live performances and social gatherings, or in the classroom (e.g., … powwow dance styles …) 

While there are no specific Language expectations included, there are several stories that would be excellent to work with, and would also connect to the drama curriculum.

B. Drama 

B3. Exploring Forms and Cultural Contexts 

B3.2 demonstrate an awareness of a variety of roles, themes, and subjects in dramas and stories from different communities around the world (e.g., … trickster themes in Nanabush stories from Native folklore …)

In Visual Arts, students could design posters (also connecting to Media Curriculum) detailing what they have learned about. Any successes in the project could be highlighted in red.

D. Visual Arts 

D2. Reflecting, Responding, and Analysing 

D2.3 demonstrate an awareness of signs and symbols encountered in their daily lives and in works of art (e.g., … red is associated with … success in Cherokee culture …)

Finally, in Health and Physical Education they could apply the following curriculum by playing some Indigenous games (such as those found here: ) They could also discuss Elders being a resource for help – tying back to the Social Studies Curriculum on respect.

A. Active Living 

A1. Active Participation A1.2 demonstrate an understanding of factors that contribute to their personal enjoyment of being active (e.g.,… having the opportunity to take part in activities that relate to their cultural background) as they participate in a wide variety of individual and small-group activities [PS] 

C. Healthy Living 

C1. Understanding Health Concepts Personal Safety and Injury Prevention 

C1.2 demonstrate an understanding of essential knowledge and practices for ensuring their personal safety (e.g., … seeking help from an … Elder …) [PS]

Although these Curriculum connections are specific to the Grade 1 program, these activities can be easily adapted to have connections with the Curriculums moving up the Grades. It would simply be a matter of working with colleagues to plan out some of the bigger events (for example, guest speakers, presentations) and have a few opportunities during PLCs to monitor progress with each other, share resources, and ensure everything was working well. Specialist teachers (such as Phys Ed or Music/Drama) could be brought in to share their experience and help with the development of their subject-specific knowledge. 

Indigenous Education

Teaching Indigenous History

I think there can often be the concern in educational circles that we can make several mistakes when trying to teach about other cultures. We can paint them in different ways – the old terrible trope of the “noble savage” for example, or infantilizing cultures, stripping them down to the most basic forms, essentializing them to nothing more than avatars of their history, culture, and societies. On the other extreme, we can make their stories seem to be nothing more than mistier after misery, again making the people nothing more than the miseries that were inflicted upon them. And while I certainly don’t want to do anything to suggest that these miseries should be minimized and buried, they also don’t tell the full and complete story.  The truth is much more nuanced, as only centuries of history from a diverse population spanning the entirety of North America (and beyond, but I what to have at least some narrowness of focus for the purpose of this writing), and is filled with positives and negatives, tales of strife and sorrow, as well as resilience, happiness, joy, and of course, the simplicity of simply just being. The lives experience of Indigenous people encapsulate all of this, and more. So, how can I, as a middle-aged white guy living in the relative splendor and luxury of Toronto, successfully teach this? And should I even attempt to?

The answer to this is of course, yes. I should attempt to teach this. It’s important! And necessary to teach the younger generation. But how to do this? Well, we have had some discussion already of the importance of authentic texts – stories and histories written and produced by Indigenous sources. And certainly, the importance of having guests, knowledge-keepers from the Indigenous community who can come in and have a more focused and accurate perspective will be helpful. I think the most important thing is to have an open and honest dialogue with students – explain that you are not an expert, but you are working on taking the learning journey, and taking it together with students can be helpful. Be open and honest about the fact that you are not indigenous (unless of course, you are) and do not attempt to co-opt or assimilate any traditions or practices into your teachings, such as attempting to copy or imitate a traditional ceremony or anything with serious spiritual or cultural significance. In these ways, we can try our best to teach Indigenous history and culture, without appropriating it. 

Indigenous Education Pedagogy Reading

Fostering Partnerships

One thing I would consider to ensure that key members of the Indigenous community are engaged with the reading program is to ensure that their voice is being heard within the reading program. Starting by including authentic texts, but to ensure there is actual engagement with the community I would approach them for recommendations of texts to use – what would they consider to be authentic and timely texts that would be good to use in my program? What authors would speak to the community in particular – how would I be able to have a focus on stories and texts that are actually relevant? I would ask for community input.

The reading program would be part of an overall literacy program – so I think it would be important to include representation of oral traditions in the program – even if they are not directly connected to reading, it would definitely be appropriate to have people coming in to orally tell stories connected to the community – elders, knowledge keepers, etc… This would be engaging for the school community as well as the community as a whole.

Having a variety of opportunities for the community to come in to participate in the reading program would be great as well – volunteers during the day, and special reading activities in the evening for people who are unable to attend daytime activities could foster engagement with the reading program.

Indigenous Education Pedagogy Reading Resources

Some Resources

Annotated Bibliography

Byrne, N. (2021, January 11). Cultural Appropriation of Indigenous Cultures in North America – U Multicultural. U Multicultural. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from

This is a brief but informative article that defines and gives particular examples of cultural appropriation. It attempts to provide some historical context, as well as the difference between appropriation and appreciation.

Cultural teachings. University of Calgary. (2021, September 16). Retrieved February 25, 2022, from

This is a series of videos from the University of Calgary’s Office of Indigenous Engagement. It includes stories from elders on the subjects of the traditional roles of Women, healing, and general cultural wisdom. 

Educators. (n.d.). Indspire. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from

Indspire is an Indigenous education charity that is working to have every Indigenous student graduate within a generation. Their site has many resources on supporting Indigenous education, and educational programs for all students to learn more about Indigenous culture, history and ways of knowing.

McCue, H. (2016, February 24). The learning circle: Classroom activities on First Nations in Canada – ages 8 to 11. Government of Canada; Crown-Indigenous Relations and
Northern Affairs Canada. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from

This is a document created by the Canadian government but written by Indigenous author and lawyer Harvey McCue,  with a wide variety of activities to help bring First Nations traditions into the classroom. This is one of a series that includes activities for both younger and older students.

Meuse, T., & Stevens, A. (2003). The Sharing Circle: Stories about first nations culture. Nimbus Pub.

This is a series of seven stories by First Nations author and educator Theresa Meuse with each story (The Eagle Feather, The Dream Catcher, The Sacred Herbs, The Talking Circle, The Medicine Wheel, The Drum, and The Medicine Pouch) focusing on a particular First Nations cultural practice.

Moose Hide Campaign. Education. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from

The Moose Hide Campaign is using education to end violence against women. They have several resources for educators on their website.

Ortiz, S. (1997). People shall continue. Children’s Book Press.

This book, written in the rhythms of a traditional oral narrative by Indigenous author Simon Ortiz, attempts to tell the entire history of Indigenous people in an easy to understand way for children to understand. 

Paths to Reconciliation. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from

National Geographic has put together an interactive map showing some locations Of Residential Schools in Canada.

Taylor, C. J. (2009). Spirits, fairies, and merpeople: Native stories of other worlds. Tundra Books

This is a collection of Indigenous stories from across North America, collected and written by Mohawk author C.J. Taylor .

Tenasco, S., & Bird, C. L. (2021). Nibi’s Water Song. Lee & Low Books Inc.
A wonderful picture book about an Indigenous girl who attempts to find clean water to drink and the ramifications that has.

Indigenous Education Pedagogy Reading Resources

Recognizing Bias in Resources

I have chosen to take a look at the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), which is a standardized test that we use three times per year with our students in our school. It is incredibly common, as I have found that many school boards use it to get an understanding of the reading levels of their students. The kit is made up of twenty short reading booklets, the easiest being very simple, repetitive sentences (things that are red) and moving up levels until they are short stories and biographies. Students read the selected passage out loud as the educator tracks their accuracy, and then answer questions about the reading to check for comprehension. I decided to go through every book in the kit looking for bias. The results were more complicated than I expected.

Out of the 20 books in the kit, exactly had any sort of Indigenous representation. So that is 10%. Out of those two books, both of them were just repurposed folk tales (Thin as a Stick, Turtle’s Big Race) with anthropomorphized animals as the main characters. So there was in effect, no true representation. The only way to know that these were in fact based upon Indigenous stories is that the subtitle for both books was “A Native American Folk Tale”.  There is no indication as to where the stories are from, both geographically and culturally. I searched for information about both tales, and I could only discover that “Turtle’s Big Race” is based upon a Seneca folk tale. I could find nothing in my searches that correlated to any story “Thin as a Stick” could be based on. Again, there was no mention of any culture these stories were from, just that they were “Native American”. The stories were also fairly standard retellings with a simple and clear moral, with no mention of any traditional wisdom the stories could be handing down. 

I looked for information regarding the authors based on the final point from on finding authentic resources.


M.1) Is the background of the author and illustrator devoid of qualities that enable them to write about Native peoples in an accurate, respectful manner? Is there an ethnocentric bias that leads to distortions or omissions?

 Select Only Books for which the author’s and illustrator’s background qualifies them to write about Native peoples. Their perspectives should strengthen the work.

The author of Thin as a Stick is Richard Lee Vaughan. I could not find out any specific information about his background, except that he grew up in the South Pacific and has written several books on Indigenous themes. There was essentially nothing about Lisa Trumbauer, who was the author of Turtle’s Big Race, except that she was born in the Bronx. 

So, out of twenty books that are used three times a year with all students across the school (and several schools), there is essentially no real authentic representation. This in itself is indicative of a bias, in that it is essentially the erasure of an entire group of people. 

Indigenous Education Pedagogy

Two Great Apps

Nothing is better than getting outside and experiencing nature in person – the connection to the environment can be such an amazing experience even without any true pedagogical purpose. But sometimes it is not possible to get outside, this is where apps can come in. Technology is not fundamentally in opposition to Indigenous practices, but it is important to ensure equitable access to technology, and not use these instead of seeking out knowledge-keepers. They are useful if you have no other options.

Sprig Library (iPad only) – Sprig library is an early reading app that has interactive storybooks in English and several Indigenous languages. The stories are levelled and focus on Indigenous-themed stories and traditions. It was developed in a partnership between Sprig Learning and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey. IT also includes audio versions of the stories in multiple languages. I consider this to be the best feature of the app, as it reminisced me of the oral storytelling tradition. Students and children who might otherwise be cut off or separated from their culture can hear traditional stories in their own languages. That to me is magical. 

Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada – This app was produced by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Metis Nation, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and Inspire. This includes both modern and historical maps of Canada, with interactive stories, and information about areas. For example, here are some screenshots from my location. It is a very well laid out, informative and exhaustive resource.

Indigenous Education Pedagogy

Two Great Indigenous Resources

The two Indigenous resources I have selected are The Southern Alberta Professional Development Consortium’s list of resources and the First Nations Education Steering Committee’s website. Both have excellent resources and are almost overwhelming to try to sort through. Fortunately, the Southern Alberta Professional Development Consortium’s website has an amazing graphical keyword cloud, so you can easily find information specifically about FNMI and Indigenous topics. Within these areas, it contains dozens upon dozens of resources. It should be noted that some things appear to be specific to the Alberta area (for example, there are workshops and opportunities to borrow floor-sized maps locally) but the vast majority is information on how to embed Indigenous lessons into the classroom. There is a video series called “Weaving Ways, Indigenous Ways of Knowing in the Classroom” that looks to be very valuable and informative. There are also Books lists, video book talks, a Google Slide deck for teachers looking to incorporate more Indigenous literature, and Learning Guides.  These are literally just a couple of the resources available. 

The First Nations Education Steering Committee’s website also has a great number of resources. There is a huge and expansive list of Indigenous books (divided up from K-9 and 10-12) as well as several teacher resource guides for reconciliation. There is even a resource for First Nations math, which often seems to be overlooked. While not as large a collection as the SAPDC’s, the resources here are a little classroom friendly – more plans and guides of things that you can almost immediately do in the classroom, versus the more theoretical pedagogical focus of the SAPDC. It should also be noted that there is a focus on British Columbian First Nations communities.

The two resources are amazingly expansive, and taken together could help to inform your practice for years to come, From off-the-shelf lesson plans to videos and virtual workshops to help you reframe your pedagogical focus, these resources have something for everyone. These also had the greatest focus on the elementary curriculum, so several of the resources are specific to my practice. I look forward to using some of these resources and activities. 

Indigenous Education Pedagogy

Two Row Wampum

In considering the use of The Two Row wampum belt in my teaching practice, I have tried to consider an issue that has been problematic for many schools in the TDSB after returning from the shutdowns caused by the Covid pandemic. Students have returned to school, forgetting how to play with each other. Problematic behaviour during recess (fights, arguments, bullying, etc.) is on the rise across the board. There are few, if any, new resources available to help schools, staff, and students work through these concerns. Adding in the necessity for students to remain in their cohorts of approximately 20-40 students, all consigned to their area of the field, seeing the same faces day in and day out in class, at recess, during lunch, it does not appear that this behaviour will be improving anytime soon. This is where the idea of the Two Row Wampum comes in.

“The Two Row Wampum envisions a relationship between the two treaty partners of peace, friendship, and mutual respect. The parallel rows of purple wampum represent the journeys of two peoples, neither interfering with each other’s voyage or trying to steer the other’s vessel.” This quote from the reading caught my attention immediately. I think that introducing the idea of students working through the lens of not just a simple, not a verbal “I’ll try to leave you alone” arrangement, but an actual treaty based upon the Two Row Wampum Belt could prove beneficial.

Educators can use this approach in virtually every grade. Teachers and facilitators can start with a grade-specific historical overview of the agreement and what it meant. This could be tied into several strands of the Social Studies curriculum or connected to Language. Students could understand how the treaty was supposed to work and realize the result of what happened when the treaty was no longer honoured. They could then develop language for their own treaty of friendship and mutual respect. This could be a school-wide project involving the entire student body, educators, and the greater community if possible. Students could create posters (Art and Media) to explain the meaning of the agreement and how students can respect it at schools. These would also serve as a visual reminder for students as they exit their classes for recess.

Doing an activity like this will allow students to see how history can affect us here in the present and help them see the past’s ramifications on us today. It can also give them a greater understanding of the specifics of Indigenous culture and history and how it affected generations of Indigenous people.

Indigenous Education Lois Riel Metis

Louis Riel

A short video introducing the life and legacy of Louis Riel, perhaps the most controversial figure in Canadian Political history. A man who stood up for the rights of his people.

Indigenous Education Pedagogy

Inuit Worldview and the Ontario Curriculum

There are several strategies educators can use to help Inuit students take the best from the past and the best from the present to create a future for themselves based on a solid sense of who they are. Thinking especially of the younger students, I think that the play-based structure of the current kindergarten program could be a useful starting point. This would respect and honour several areas of Inuit culture and reflect it in the classroom. The relative amount of structured freedom would engage the student’s curiosity. Lessons could be built around real-world examples, to help them subtly build necessary skills and work towards having specific responsibilities. Having several kinesthetic-based activities can help them develop competence and dexterity so that they can be given more responsibilities and help contribute to the community as they get older. Of course, having the community, especially elders, involved would be key – they could help pass down traditions, and language while helping to give them extra attention. They could also help to incorporate lessons of respect and having pride for their traditions All of this could be taught with a great deal of humor and fun – having the students experience learning responsibilities to the community while engaging their curiosity in a fun and productive atmosphere would be a great way for them to develop a great sense of who they are and help them create a future for themselves.