Canadian approaches to Indigenous education

This year’s World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education took place in Canada. Here QTU delegate and Gandu Jarjum member Letitia Choppy looks at how that country deals with culturally appropriate approaches to Indigenous education.

The responsibility of an Indigenous educator is reinforcing our culture and keeping it strong, as well as being a leader and advocating for other Indigenous teachers, students and communities.

Indian Teacher Education Program

The vision of Canada’s Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP), which provides the highest quality First Nation teacher education as mandated in the 1972 Indian Control of Indian Education, is similar to that of our Remote Teacher Education Program (RATEP). Based at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan, it is celebrating more than 40 years of success in Indigenous education

ITEP, which was established in 1972-73, is a four-year elementary and secondary program leading to a Bachelor of Education degree and a professional “A” certificate and is funded entirely through the University of Saskatchewan.

The success of ITEP is reflected in the number and quality of its graduates over the past 40+ years. These have taken on leadership roles in teaching, administration, and Indigenous and Non-Indigenous governance. The alumni have also been instrumental in providing culturally appropriate educational opportunities for their children, fulfilling the dream of “Indian Control of Indian Education”.

ITEP’s mission is to build a community of teachers who expect excellence, understand and value culture, languages, identity and traditions of the students who enrol.

Guided by the principles of Indian Control of Education, the aim is to continue to build relationships, understand First Nations’ worldview and values and make education relevant to the philosophy and needs of First Nations people.

Health and wellbeing of mind, body and spirit

Health of the body and wellbeing of a person in general is an important and vital component in being an education warrior and leader.

There is a move for Native American Indians to work with Indian horses as part of a healing program offered to teachers and students who have had trauma or blockages in their life that stopped them from feeling and connecting with their culture. The Indian horses are used with people who have medical and trauma problems and stop learning. These animals have helped many people and are seen as a healing tool and education for people seeking their help.

Getting involved with activities that nurture the care and maintenance of mind, body and spirit has proven effective, productive and empowering in freeing people from the pressures of daily activities, and protecting their mental health, when it is done properly and is ongoing.

Many teachers do not do it because of the fear of what it could bring or because they are not comfortable with this level of restoration and learning. It is important to grow healthy relationships in whichever community you have been appointed to as an educator. It is important to model a healthy mind, body and spirit for the connection in learning to commence.

Letitia Choppy                                                                                                                      Gandu Jarjum

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 8, 3 November 2017, p26