6.5 Indigenous Pedagogy

The Kwantlen First Nation at the end of their salmon ceremony
The Kwantlen First Nation at the end of their salmon ceremony where elders and community members, in ceremonial clothing, return the bones from the first fish harvest to the river. Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kwantlen_First_Nation_Salmon_Ceremony.jpg

When discussing pedagogy in a Canadian context, the ideas of indigenous pedagogy offer a different perspective into teaching and learning. Indigenous pedagogy is based around an oral tradition of story telling, such as the Anishinabe Story of the creation of Turtle Island (North America) as a parable for the teaching of knowledge creation.

The oral tradition of First Nations teaching offer a connectedness between the different paradigms of indigenous pedagogy. For example the learning maps connect to the historic aboriginal stories and link to the community as a path or guide towards knowledge. Ojibwa tribes offer teaching through a frame of seven grandfather teachings, those teachings include:

  1. Humility – Dbaadendiziwin
  2. Bravery – Askwa’ode’ewin
  3. Honesty – Gwekwaadziwin
  4. Wisdom – Nbwaakaawin
  5. Truth – Debwewin
  6. Respect – Mnaadendimowin
  7. Love – Saagidwin

Current issues within the First Nations landscape have been brought to the surface such as low proportion of college and university indigenous graduates correlating to the low number of First Nations high school graduates[18]. Bridging the gap between different forms of knowledge is to find common ground with First Nations knowledge, and Eurocentric traditions of knowledge.

The Government of Ontario have been making strides to removing barriers and incorporating indigenous knowledge through legislation of the Ontario First Nation, Metis, and Inuit (OFNMI) Education Policy Framework. This policy proposes that OFNMI students to have the knowledge and skills to be successful in elementary and secondary education to increase graduation rates and better preparedness for postsecondary study[19]. While meeting metric goals, the OFNMI policy introduces a level of public confidence, through recognizing historical implications, and embracing First Nation communities, their teachings, and their way of life through self-identification.

Bridging the Gap and Finding Common Ground

One way to bridge the gap between Aboriginal and mainstream pedagogies is to find a common ground. Many similarities can be drawn from traditional aboriginal pedagogy to common, mainstream pedagogy.


Aboriginal Pedagogy Mainstream Pedagogy
  • Learning through narrative.
  • Planning and visualizing processes.
  • Working with non-verbal communication.
  • Self-reflective, hands-on methods.
  • Learning through images, symbols, and metaphors.
  • Learning through place-responsive, environmental practice.
  • Using indirect, innovative, and interdisciplinary approaches.
  • Modeling scaffolding by working from whole to parts.
  • Connecting learning to local values, needs and knowledge.
  • Narrative methodology in qualitative research.
  • Planning and vision in leadership and management cannon.
  • Using different learning techniques for different learners.
  • Deweyan Pragmatism and Experiential Learning.
  • Visual and Kinesthetic learners.
  • Authentic education, and place-based learning.
  • Scaffolding learning towards learning mastery.
  • Sustainable pedagogy with a global framework.

The acceptance and use of indigenous pedagogy is found throughout public curriculum’s and postsecondary knowledge streams. We can see the different aspects of learning we use within organizations relate to more central, humanistic, and dialectic approach towards achieving goals and achieving an over-arching vision.

Activity: Old Cherokee Story.

  • Read the following story of a Cherokee Elder teaching his grandson about life.
  • Answer the question at the end of this section.
“A fight is going on inside of me”. The elder said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and its between two wolves. One is evil, he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.”

“The other is good, he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“The same fight is going on inside you and inside everyone too.”

The grandson then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied…

“The one you feed”


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Leadership and Management in Learning Organizations Copyright © by Clayton Smith; Carson Babich; and Mark Lubrick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book