Indigenous Education

An Introduction to the Centre

What is Indigenous education? This is a core question that was asked of community members across the country during NCCIE interviews, at regional workshops and the first national gathering.

A distinctly Indigenous approach to working with Indigenous knowledges and peoples is to seek direction and insights directly from communities, rather than imposing a definition upon them.

This is some of what they have told NCCIE when reflecting upon their perspectives on education for their peoples:

  • Even though struggles to secure sustainable and equitable funding continue and gaps persist, the creativity of Indigenous peoples in Canada has yielded a profound diversity of distinctively Indigenous educational programs and experiences.
  • Reflecting the many languages and diverse cultures of the First Peoples of Canada and the world, Indigenous education has many names.
  • The phrase “Indigenous education” does not resonate with everyone. Many people understand it in terms of a People’s “cultural knowledge” or one’s “culture” or “life ways.”
  • Indigenous education – as it exists from coast to coast to coast across Canada – is distinct and original to the lands from which expansive and dynamic bodies of knowledge have developed over millennia.
  • Indigenous education is holistic in nature and recognizes life-long learning as central to human development in all aspects of living.
  • Indigenous education occurs on the land and in classrooms for learners of all ages and all backgrounds.
  • In Canada, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit education exist to strengthen Indigenous peoples and their futures.
  • In this era of reconciliation, opportunities are increasing for all peoples – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – to learn about ways of seeing and being in the world that are different from a conventional worldview they were and are still being taught in school.

To celebrate and showcase the multitude of Indigenous educational experiences that exist around the country, NCCIE serves as an accessible, shared, informational resource for all peoples of Canada.

Listen to Dr. Mark S. Dockstator, Past President of First Nations University of Canada and the Centre’s Founder, talk about Indigenous education and NCCIE’s approach.

NCCIE.CA: Privileging Imagery – Amplifying Voices

As a reflection of the primacy of oral traditions, the NCCIE.CA allows Indigenous peoples to tell their stories and share their experiences in their own words.

Watch and listen to video and audio recordings to hear the voices and see the faces of those directly involved in Indigenous education where it is happening – on-the-land, in classrooms, at community centres and other organizations.

The perspectives shared in the videos are the insights of the individuals interviewed and not necessarily those of the Centre.

NCCIE.CA and Non-Indigenous Voices

While most stories on this website are Indigenous in both voice and origin, we recognize non-Indigenous knowledge holders who demonstrate their care for Indigenous ways of knowing in respectful ways. With this in mind, you are likely to hear a few stories on this website from some non-Indigenous voices.

Indigenous Education and Holism

Communities emphasize the holistic nature of Indigenous education:

  • that it is for learners of all ages and all backgrounds;
  • that it is experienced everywhere – on-the-land, in classrooms, through community centres and other organizations;
  • that it is as old as the land, integrating language, culture, and traditional knowledge; and
  • that it shares knowledge for all aspects of living, including (to name just a few):
    • history
    • reconciliation
    • First Nation, Inuit, and Métis languages
    • Indigenous environmental science
    • medicines
    • First Nation, Inuit, Métis cultures, cultural practices, and knowledges
    • life skills and parenting
    • healing and wellness strategies
    • land-based skills
    • and more

This illustration is from a background paper, Indigenizing Education in Canada, written by Dr. Jo-ann Archibald Q’um Q’um Xiiem and Dr. Jan Hare for the November 2-4, 2016 RCAP Forum, Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future: A dialogue and conference marking the 20th anniversary of the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (visit: https://www.queensu.ca/sps/rcap20).