Indigenous Education

Incorporating Aboriginal Perspectives: A Theme-Based Curricular Approach

Manitoba and Winnipeg have been identified as having the greatest concentration of Aboriginal people in Canada. Awareness and recognition of the rapidly expanding Aboriginal population in provincial schools in 1995 prompted Manitoba Education to request that all schools in Manitoba incorporate Aboriginal Perspectives into all curricula. To support the incorporation of Aboriginal Perspectives, the Aboriginal Education Directorate, through the Aboriginal Education and Training Framework has established goals that are based on the premise that school environments inclusive of Aboriginal knowledge and perspectives will improve student success and completion rates, increase employability skills and reduce transiency.

On an ongoing basis, Manitoba Education receive requests for support in the area of incorporating Aboriginal Perspectives. This workshop package which utilizes the format of Incorporating Aboriginal Perspectives: A Theme- Based Curricular Approach is one response to the requests for assistance. The workshop is designed to assist teachers as they build Aboriginal Perspectives into curricula. It offers practical examples on how this can be done. Two unique components, cultural concepts and family and community involvement are built into the sample template. Educators are encouraged to build on these two components as they address the learning needs of Aboriginal students.

Recognition must be given to the many positive approaches already being utilized in the area of Aboriginal education in Manitoba. Some divisions/districts have developed and implemented Aboriginal curricula at the grass roots level and continue to do so, while others have begun work on teaching Aboriginal studies.

To assist Manitoba educators in incorporating Aboriginal Perspectives, Native Studies documents have been developed and published, such as

  • Native Studies Early Years (K- 4) A Teacher's Resource Book
  • Native Studies Middle Years (Grades 5 - 8) A Teacher's Resource Book Framework, and
  • Native Studies Senior Years (S1 - S4) A Teacher's Resource Book Framework

Most recently Integrating Aboriginal Perspectives into Curricula: A Resource for Curriculum Developers, Teachers and Administrators has been distributed to schools to assist in the process. This workshop, Incorporating Aboriginal Perspectives: A Theme-Based Curricular Approach offers selected instructional strategies for specific grade and content areas.

In this workshop Aboriginal Cultural Concepts related to First Nation, Metis and Inuit cultures can be defined as the customs, achievements and behavior of a people. Aboriginal Perspectives and the cultural concepts, which surround those perspectives reflect a distinct world view. This is because Aboriginal people see the world based on unique knowledge, words and understandings. When planning to include Aboriginal cultural concepts educators need to work closely with their communities to fully understand and address the concepts specific to their communities.

When school learning is put in an Aboriginal cultural context, Aboriginal children can derive meaning from their knowledge base like any other student who is presented with familiar information. Aboriginal children must be given the opportunity to draw on their prior knowledge and incorporate it into contemporary learning. Including Aboriginal cultural concepts allows all students the opportunity to recognize that Aboriginal knowledge has value and contributes to contemporary school learning.

"Trying to educate children without parent family and community involvement is like trying to rake leaves on a windy day". Parent and family involvement in the teaching and learning experiences of children is without a doubt the most critical component affecting student motivation, success and achievement. Through the course of education, schools in Manitoba have included the stories of explorers, the great movements of European history, and the struggles of missionaries. But in the teaching and the writing of novels, the construction of textbooks and instructional programs attention was not focused on the contributions of Aboriginal people (Weatherford 1988). The contributions of Aboriginal people are rarely found in history books or the scrolls of the past. The Oral Tradition embedded in Aboriginal cultures and passed down from generation to generation is where the knowledge and contributions of Aboriginal people can be found. The teaching done by Aboriginal Elders, the fiddle music of the Metis, and the lnuksuit of the Inuit people are all examples of Aboriginal knowledge waiting to be accessed and utilized.