Chapter 4 – Re-Emergence of Indigenous Knowledge and Culture


Medicine Wheel Direction – West (Black) – Respect and Reason

Teachings that lie in Epingiishmag (the western) direction are about respect and reason (Nabigon, 2006). According to Nabigon (2006), the word ‘respect’ is made up of two words from the English language –‘re’ meaning again and ‘spect’ meaning to look at. When we meet people for the first time, we develop a first impression of them but we do not develop ‘respect’ for them until we get to see them for a second time. To gain respect for someone, we need to get to know them at a deeper level. The re-emergence of Indigenous knowledge and culture is reflected in changes in policy reaching as far back as the 1970s when Indigenous leaders began to assert ‘Indian Control of Indian Education’ (AFN, 2010). In 2010, Indigenous leaders, recognizing that not much has changed with respect to challenges facing Indigenous communities with respect to education, reaffirmed and updated the 1970s policy to First Nations Control of First Nations Education (AFN, 2010). More recently, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (2015), made recommendations dealing with the elimination of education and employment gaps of Aboriginal peoples and the discrepancies in educational funding. These policy changes are aiding Indigenous peoples to claim space in education, health, corrections, and political systems.

Another teaching situated in the western direction is about reason. Reason refers to the ability to think, comprehend and understand. In terms of growth and development, the Medicine Wheel teachings in the western direction represent the adult stage of life. It is in this direction that individuals begin to think about planning their lives. Some people will become parents and make the decision to have children. Parents now have the added responsibility of caring, nurturing and educating their children. In applying the teachings of Epingiishmag to the educational system the focus shifts to how Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous ways are being integrated into that system. This chapter examines developments in the education system such as the development of the Indigenous Studies Program at the University of Sudbury, the School of Indigenous Relations, the Maamwizing Indigenous Research Institute and the appointment of Canada’s first Canada Research Chair specializing in Indigenous Health at Laurentian University, and how these developments are contributing to the growth of Indigenous scholars.

The last section of this chapter highlights the work being conducted by the Union of Ontario Indians in the development of the Anishinabek Nation Child Well-Being Law (ANCWBL). The introduction of this new law is an example of how Anishinabek people are reclaiming jurisdiction over the well-being of their own children, families and communities. Anishinabek people are developing a child well-being system based on traditional teachings, culture and healing practices, Indigenous governance systems, and Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Highlighting these examples draws attention to the resurgence of traditional health and social systems. These examples aid in creating greater understanding of the importance of cultural teaching, healing practices and ways of knowing and being for Indigenous peoples. By highlighting these examples, it is hoped that non-Indigenous people can build a deeper respect for these practices, thereby creating the space for reconciliation to occur.

Learning Outcomes

When you have worked through the material in this chapter, you will be able to do the following:

  • Share your growing knowledge of Indigenous issues.

  • Describe how Indigenous scholars are contributing to meaningful change in Indigenous education.

  • Describe how Indigenous organizations are incorporating traditional teachings, culture and healing practices, Indigenous governance systems, and Indigenous ways of knowing and being into service delivery.

  • Understand the relationship of Indigenous teachings to the change process

  • Incorporate your knowledge into your practice/teaching/studies.

Geographical Setting and sources of information

The image below is a snapshot of  two of the locations mentioned in this chapter. Laurentian University and the University of Sudbury, home to Greater Sudbury’s growing population of current and future Indigenous scholars.

Click on the image of the map below for a more detailed geographic context.

Laurentian University and the University of Sudbury


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