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 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.