Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives

Overview of Aboriginal Worldviews & Perspectives

Although there are two distinct aspects to Aboriginal Education (i.e., education of Aboriginal students and education about Aboriginal peoples in BC and Canada), there is remarkable overlap between what is involved in achieving success with respect to each. This is what proponents mean when they say that “the First Peoples Principles of Learning and other key aspects of Aboriginal Education are applicable for all learners within the school system.”

Two themes are central to the notion of Aboriginal education for all learners:

  • Strengths-based, learner-centred practice
    This begins with educators knowing their students as individuals and configuring instruction to connect with their interests and build on their strengths to engender confidence and enjoyment in learning. For more on this, see “A Positive, Learner-Centred Approach” in the section of this document on Attributes of Responsive Schooling.
  • Overcoming racism
    Racism needs to be acknowledged and addressed proactively. This can be done through:
    – explicit instruction/discussion
    – messaging within the school environment
    – teacher modelling
    – correction of factually faulty generalizations about history and peoples
    – situation-specific challenging of thoughtless comments that reinforce negative stereotypes
    – corrective intervention to address racist put-downs and other hurtful behaviours.


The following Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives are outlined in the AWP: Moving Forward guidebook

Connectedness and Relationship

  • Look for ways to relate learning to students’ selves, to their families and communities,
    and to the other aspects of Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives described in this

Awareness of History

  • Ensure that any focus on the history of Canada and Canadians or on Canadian social
    studies include reference to the experience, situation, and actions/perspectives of
    Aboriginal peoples, in all periods studied (including and up to the present).
  • Avoid reliance on colonial-era secondary sources (i.e., 20th century and earlier texts and
    resources) for accounts or explanations of topics, events, trends involving Aboriginal
    peoples. Where possible, use contemporary sources created by or with the involvement of
    Aboriginal contributors.
  • When referencing Aboriginal content, give learners a chance to work with locally developed
    resources (including local knowledge keepers) wherever possible.
  • Use accurate, specific historical facts and explanations to counter racist and stereotypical
    generalizations about Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
  • When correcting inaccurate half-truths and generalizations, focus the correction on the
    ideas, not on the students who may have been misled into believing and expressing them.

Local Focus

  • Look for opportunities to incorporate place-based learning into your practice (a focus on
    local Aboriginal history, experience, stories, imagery, ecology).
  • When referencing Aboriginal content, give learners a chance to work with locally developed
    resources (including local knowledge keepers) wherever possible.
  • Look to the school’s Aboriginal support worker(s) and/or trusted local contacts for guidance
    and help accessing good local content.

Engagement with the Land, Nature, the Outdoors

  • Look for opportunities to get students interested and engaged with the natural world
    immediately available (place-based education in the area near your school). Illustrations
    using locally observable examples and phenomena, physical education activities,
    homework assignments, and student projects are examples of opportunities to promote
    this type of engagement.
  • Plan and organize to take instruction and learning outdoors where possible, organizing
    instructional planning to facilitate this.
  • Explore team leadership and the use of resources such as skilled Aboriginal community
    members and third-party outdoor education specialists to facilitate and help deal with the
    challenges associated with leaving the confines of the school (e.g., the need for equipment,
    expertise in outdoor environments, risk management, transportation).

Emphasis on Identity

  • Embrace learner-centred teaching practice.
  • Encourage student self-awareness grounded in knowledge of family origins, cultural
    background, place of origin, allegiance and affiliation, citizenship, and other identity
    “markers.” Student self-expression via writing, speaking, and representation is an
    opportunity to address and revisit this theme at various stages during their K-12 schooling.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate the cultural identities of all students represented in your learning

Community Involvement: Process and Protocols

  • Make it a priority to connect with the local Aboriginal community.
  • Look to the school’s Aboriginal support worker(s) and/or trusted local contacts for guidance
    and help doing this.
  • With your Aboriginal students, take deliberate steps to help the family feel involved and
    respected. Value the family and the family will value the education system. Home visits can
    yield huge dividends.
  • Recognize and embrace the important role that you as educator can play in addressing the
    need for reconciliation and overcoming the legacy of colonialist/assimilationist schooling.
  • Expect criticism from time to time. Having your own network of knowledgeable and
    supportive community and professional contacts will give you somewhere to turn for advice.

The Power of Story

  • Learn some of the traditional stories told within the local Aboriginal community. “en use
    them as a touchstone for your students when applicable “teachable moments” arise.
  • Give students opportunities to apply and demonstrate the skills associated with oral
    storytelling: memorize, internalize, and present (re-tell exactly). At higher grade levels,
    students benefit from opportunities to tell their own experiential stories and listen and
    respond to those of peers.
  • Metaphor, analogy, example, allusion, humour, surprise, formulaic phrasing, etc. are
    storytelling devices that can be applied when explaining almost any non-fiction concept.
  • Make an effort to use devices of this sort in all subject areas and to draw upon stories of the
    local Aboriginal community.

Traditional Teaching

  • Recognize the traditional teachings of First Nations students. In particular, Aboriginal
    students who are disengaged may benefit from learning traditional teachings.
  • The involvement of Elders, either in school or via mentorship-type arrangements will likely
    be needed to pursue traditional teaching. Look to the school’s Aboriginal support worker(s),
    Aboriginal district principal, and/or trusted local contacts for guidance and help with this.

Language and Culture

  • Expect use of the language to be part of any educational experiences with an Aboriginal
    aspect that involves outdoor trips or field studies in the local Aboriginal community.
  • Demonstrate respectful support for efforts within the local Aboriginal community to
    revitalize language and culture by incorporating into your practice simple words and phrases for greetings, interactions,
    place references, etc. visibly acknowledging the local First Nation’s culture through the use of images, artifacts
    such as a talking stick, or circle sharing sessions
  • Be alert and sympathetic to ways the school can be involved in language instruction
    programs (i.e., for the local Aboriginal language).
  • Base your actions and expectations on recognition of where the local community sits with respect
    to the current state of their language and culture revitalization/preservation efforts. Look to the
    school’s Aboriginal support worker(s) and/or trusted local contacts for guidance on this.
  • Embrace the need for inclusion of esteemed Aboriginal language speakers as essential and
    respected participants in language teaching and learning.

Experiential Learning

  • Look for ways to incorporate hands-on learning experiences for students into your practice.
  • Embrace learner-centred practice and interact with students to ascertain their strengths and
    preferences when it comes to learning experiences.
  • Emphasize possible practical applications (e.g., “real-world”) when introducing abstract or
    theoretical concepts.

The Role of the Teacher

In any community, whether Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, the teacher has an important role
in guiding student learning, skill acquisition, and achievement. In the context of Canada’s
new commitment to truth and reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples, however, the teacher
has an important additional role in contributing to truth, reconciliation, and healing. Where
schools are situated within or near Aboriginal communities, teachers have an important role
to play in contributing to the social wellbeing and cultural vitality of the community. As well,
teachers have an important role to play by educating all of society about the place of First
Peoples within the Canadian mosaic and the importance of redressing the historical damage
done to Aboriginal communities.