The Importance of Educating Indigenous Culture

Raising awareness of human rights issues has been crucial to making progress on educating future generations. In order to move forward, we must reflect and educate on the past.  Learning about Indigenous Peoples, places, experiences, and history is an important step forward for each Canadian to take on the path to reconciliation.   

“Change starts with us, and in order to teach the truth we must learn the truth.”

What is the purpose of June 21st, or National Indigenous Peoples Day?  

June 21st is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the cultural richness and contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. For many centuries, the first inhabitants of Canada would celebrate the arrival of the gorgeous summer weather and the excitement of the new solstice, which is why it is celebrated on the first day of summer. It is celebrated as a sacred and spiritual day and a great opportunity to acknowledge the powerful contributions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.  

Who are the Indigenous People of Canada? 

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, there are three categories of Indigenous people in Canada; Inuit, Métis, and First Nations. The Inuit people primarily inhabit the arctic northern regions of Canada. Métis people are of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry and live mainly in the Prairies and Ontario. First Nations people were the original inhabitants of the land now known as Canada, often occupying territories south of the arctic. As of 2016, 4.9% of the Canadian population identifies as Indigenous.  

“As Canadians and educators, it is important to acknowledge and educate ourselves and others about the history and culture of the Indigenous people. “

Tools for Teaching  

Inuit Stories Series. The Inuit Stories Series are five children’s books featuring beautifully illustrated legends from Canada’s northern communities. Four books (Fishing with Grandma, The Legend of the Fog, The People of the Sea and Siuluk: The Last Tuniq) were written by Indigenous authors and one (Painted Skies) written by a field botanist who lived in Iqaluit. This is a great way to introduce children to stories from Canada’s northern Inuit communities. 

five books about Inuit culture

Wheel of Life Rug. The Wheel of Life Rug depicts a traditional Indigenous Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel emphasizes a holistic approach to maintaining balance and equilibrium in life. It is an equal circular shape, which represents constant movement, change, and growth. The Medicine Wheel is a symbol of connection as it represents reason, emotion, belief, knowledge, and how they all come together to create a harmonious and peaceful balance. Each of the colours represents different things, from earth elements to directions to groups of people. It signifies interconnectivity and different interaction of physical, mental, and spiritual realities. 

a traditional Indigenous medicine wheel

The Sharing Circle. The Sharing Circle is a book about a young boy named Matthew who cherishes his First Nations culture. It includes seven children’s stories about First Nations’ spiritual practices and culture. It is a great introduction to the symbolism and legends of First Nations’ heritage, and it was written by Mi’kmaw children’s author Theresa Meuse and beautifully illustrated by Mi’kmaw illustrator Arthur Stevens. 

The Sharing Circle book, stories about First Nations Culture with an image of a dream catcher and other Indigenous items

Teepee Craft Kit. A Teepee was a common way of housing that First Nations used for shelter and warmth. They were cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and some were even big enough to hold 30-40 people comfortably. They were created with buffalo hide fastened around very long, large wooden poles that were up to 15 feet in height. Sometimes, these homes were arranged in a circle so that young children could play in the center with their mothers still able to watch nearby. The Teepee Craft Kit can help educate children about the history and culture of Teepees while enjoying an exciting craft project. It comes complete with everything you need to make 24 tepees. 

A Teepee craft featuring beads paper, crayons and more

As Canadians and educators, it is important to acknowledge and educate ourselves and others about the history and culture of the Indigenous people. We have a responsibility to be good allies to the Indigenous community and to help spread a word of acceptance, awareness, respect, and reconciliation. It is crucial to encourage the next generation to be accepting and encouraging members of the community. Change starts with us, and in order to teach the truth we must learn the truth. 

Here are some additional helpful resources for educating children on Indigenous topics: 

Encouraging Aboriginal Cultural Identity at Home and in Child Care 

We Learn Together: A resource guide for bringing Canadian Indigenous Culture into the classroom 

How We’re Teaching Indigenous History to Our Kids 

National Indigenous Peoples Day: Talking to our Children

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