Relationship and Learning with Indigenous Peoples in Alberta
oki, tansi, hóʔą, ãba waθtéč, ahneen, taanishi, hello, bonjour
About this Resource
The CASS “Guide to Relationships and Learning with the Indigenous Peoples of Alberta “ was developed to support our members, as system leaders, to deepen their understanding of foundational knowledge of the Indigenous Peoples in Alberta. This Guide was developed through an Indigenous lens by including the voices and teachings of Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Their voices are captured on video and edited to introduce and bring understanding to multiple areas of learning that capture and cover the essential teachings identified by the First Nations, Métis an Inuit Peoples of Alberta.
The framework is designed around the common ground of meeting the Leadership Quality Standard and the Superintendent Quality Standard, honoring Indigenous voices and providing opportunities for basic foundational learning with opportunities to delve deeper into the contextual topics and specific areas of interest and growth for individual Superintendents and whole education communities. Short testimonies from superintendents on leading Indigenous education in their school district are also included. This Guide will be one resource component of the CASS comprehensive learning plan alongside our conferences, zone learning sessions, online resources, cultural and traditional ceremony participation, and land and place-based learning. The Guide will contribute to the CASS outcome “Superintendent leadership supports quality school leadership and teaching to create optimal learning for all students in Alberta”
Relationships are central to learning and reconciliation, therefore, should be the starting point as you journey through this guide. To begin, click on the relationship portion in the graphic below. Watch the video, read the summary, explore further resources, reflect and then put your knowledge to action. Once you have completed the relationships portion of this guide, click the leaves on the graphic to access the other themes.
Independent: Choose a focus topic, read the questions, watch the video, read the introduction and then choose 2 or 3 resources to delve into further. Reflect back on the questions after exploring resources further. Repeat the process until all topics have been further explored.
Group: Establish a learning group. Each person in the group considers the reflection questions while reading the introduction, viewing the video and then selects 2-3 resources to delve into. Each member of the learning group then shares reflections and an overview of the resources they selected. Each group member responds to others’ insights while generating action points on how to further incorporate and support reconciliation, relationship building and foundational knowledge into their district’s practice.
Identity and Terminology
In this section, you will learn about the intricacy of identity and terminology as it relates to Indigenous peoples of Canada.
How can understanding the complexities in relation to terminology and identity association of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people contribute to relationship building and reconciliation?
How can leaders support students and educators in breaking down negative stereotypes and labels that are put on Indigenous peoples so to advance reconciliation and opportunities for positive relationship building? Why is this important?
How does legislated “identity” effect, Indigenous people?
In Canada, Indigenous people are defined by two systems, one based on kinship and culture and the other in law and legislation enforced by the government. First Nations, Métis and Inuit terms and identity can be complex. “Indigenous identity is so bound up in culture, language, territory, family, community, and history that the denial of any one of these factors can have traumatic effects on an individual’s identity and sense of self. 1
The need for terms defined by the government exists to control land, resources and rights and, “at the same time, to reduce the government’s financial obligations to Indigenous peoples, and their methods were far from benign. From scalping laws to forced sterilizations, to residential schools and the Indian Act’s registration provisions (Indian Act 1985), the methods chosen to achieve those policy objectives have focused more on eliminating Indians than assimilating them.
In roughly five hundred years, policies that define and control Indigenous people have managed to nearly wipe us out physically, culturally, and legally. 2For example, many Indigenous women legally became non-”Indians” according to the government when they married non-”Indians” even though their kinship and culture was rooted in being Indigenous yet if a non-Indingeous woman married an “Indian” man that woman became an “Indian” under the eyes of the newly formed Canadian law.
These policies have shifted due to push back over the years yet complexities remain. To this day there are conflicts in regards to whom governments will legally recognize as a status, non-status Indian, and Métis people. Many believe that to be Métis simply means to have mixed Indigenous and European blood yet this is not necessarily the case. Within Métis communities, there are altering definitions of what it means to be Métis (To learn more refer to the resources listed below).
“All Indigenous peoples have been affected by federal policies requiring strict dividing lines based on European conceptions of race. The ability to restrict the number of status Indians so as to ensure their extinction over time has also evolved outside the scope of the legislation, through internal policies created by INAC. Although the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) found the Inuit to be “Indians” for the purposes of section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 (Re Eskimo, 1939), Canada amended the Indian Act to specifically exclude them from registration (Indian Act, 1951). Similarly, Métis people who took scrip are also excluded from Indian registration (Alberta [Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development] v. Cunningham 2011, para. 7).”3
“Canada, rather than Aboriginal communities themselves, has through the Indian Act historically legislated who is an Indian. We are constantly developing our identity, from birth to the end of our lives. We build it based on our relationships with relatives, friends, community, geography, language and other social factors. When a child feels a sense of belonging to family, community, and peers he or she is better able to deal with adversity. Prior to contact, First Nations had their own histories and methods of determining our identity. We had matriarchal, patriarchal, clan and kinship systems. Before Europeans came to North America, First Nations communities or nations were sovereign nations, that is, we were self-governing.” 4
Terms that label Indigenous people (ie. status,non-status, halfbreed, squaw, and Indian) have been projected upon us and have shifted throughout Canadian history. These terms have contributed to our sense or loss of identity “In First Nations studies and related disciplines, the investigation of forces that create, shape and regulate identity, and thus influence perceptions of a particular group, is a central concern. Identity negotiations produce categories that can exclude as much as include particular groups of people. These categories create blanket assumptions and stereotypes accepted as natural by outsiders, and may also be internalized by members of the group in question. Identity – and how it is created, maintained and regulated—is a complex topic critical to understanding relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups as well as relationships between Aboriginal individuals and communities.”5
Terms to distinguish Indigenous peoples across this land may have shifted over time yet nations have always had their own language and words to describe themselves and other nations. To emphasize this refer to Audrey Weasley Traveller within the Walking Together Digital Resource as she describes terms she uses to identify herself. http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/aswt/aboriginal_and_treaty_rights/#respecting-wisdom-traveller.
Although the term Indigenous is a common collective term there are many nations within Alberta; Niitsitapi (Blackfoot Nation); Ahpikuni (Peigan); Southern Ahpikuni (Montana Blackfeet); Ahkainah (Bloods); Siksika (Blackfoot); Iyiniwok or Ininiwok, meaning “the people,” or Nehiyawok, “speakers of the Cree language” (Cree); Dene, Denesuline; Itsa Ĩyãħé “The Pure People” (Stoney Nakoda); Anishnabe (Saulteaux, Ojibway); Inuit, Inuk; Apeetogosan, Otipemisiwak (Métis).
Navigating through terms in relation to “what do I refer to them/you as” is only one small step in understanding and valuing “who a person is”. When meaningful relationships are built with a nation, community or person one will begin to acknowledge, understand and value how to respectfully refer to or describe the nation, community or individual.
To further this dialogue, it is also important to acknowledge that many families have been disconnected from their original Indigenous family names thus inherent sense of self due to policies such as “Project Surname” and the “Inuit Tag System” which ensured the erasure of names that were given in our languages at birth and passed on through generations. Names held stories, lineage, and strengths that helped nurture a strong-rooted sense of identity. “Names are the cornerstones of cultures. They identify individuals, represent life, express and embody power. When power is unequal and people are colonized at one level or another, naming is manipulated from the outside. In the Canadian North, the most blatant example of this manipulation is the long history of interference by visitors with the ways to Inuit named themselves and their land.” 6 In Residential Schools children were often referred to as numbers, names were forcibly assigned, and original family given names eradicated.
To gain further insight into the various terms and identity conversations happening in relation to Indigenous people refer to the resources listed below.
Crystal Clark and Shannon Loutitt
There are many terms that are used to describe First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Canada. This document provides some guidance and clarity in relation to terminology.
This map features various distinct nations, Treaty areas, Métis Settlements and zones within Alberta.
Information resource on key topics relating to the history, politics, and cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. This link features an academic overview of identity, Terminology, Identity & the Classroom and Identity & Terminology.
This website features authentic ancestral Ĩyãħé Nakoda language and insights into culture and identity of Ĩyãħé Nakoda.
A print and web version of this resource includes contemporary and historical photography, maps and written descriptions on a variety of topics written by Indigenous peoples. This page speaks to Métis Identity.
The primary objective of early Indian policy was to ensure the eventual disappearance of Indians – a goal which has not changed in hundreds of years…
A print and web version of this resource includes contemporary and historical photography, maps and written descriptions on a variety of topics written by Indigenous peoples.
This pdf is a slideshow summary of a presentation by Leroy Littlebear on the concept of land being the source of identity.
This portion of the digital professional development site that feature foundational knowledge content from elders across the province speaks to identify and terminology.
This video features Traditional ceremonies as a place where you can learn about who you are and where you come from.
Understanding Aboriginal Identity explores the complex issue of self-identification for Aboriginal people.
Inuk journalist Ossie Michelin has a friendly how-to guide on how to use terms when referring to Indigenous peoples.
This video speaks to tradtional concepts of family and community.
ASBA Indigenous Advisory Circle members provide an overview and some insight into Inuit culture.
ASBA Indigenous Advisory Circle Members talk about an overview and some insight into Metis culture.
ASBA Indigenous Advisory Circle Elders talk about the importance of the family in Indigenous culture; how it facilitates the passing on of values, traditions and ceremony.
n advocate for Indigenous worldviews, the author discusses the fundamental issues the terminology of relationships; culture and identity; myth-busting; state violence; and land, learning, law and treaties along with wider social beliefs about these issues.
This book is a concise history of government-sponsored interference with Inuit identity.
Anderson discusses what “Métis” means… From its roots deep in the colonial past, the idea of Métis as mixed has slowly pervaded the Canadian consciousness until it settled in the realm of common sense. In the process, “Métis” has become a racial category rather than the identity of an Indigenous people with a shared sense of history and culture.
Through the discussions of traditional life, importance of language as a vehicle of culture and identity is stressed in this book.
The Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America.
Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.
Marilyn Dumont’s Metis heritage offers her challenges that few of us welcome. Here she turns them to opportunities: in a voice that is fierce, direct, and true, she explores and transcends the multiple boundaries imposed by society of the self.
Tagaq moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a world and a heroine readers will never forget.
- 1 Genocide, Indian Policy, and Legislated Elimination of ... - Publishing. By Pam Palmeter, 2014. P. 28 https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/aps/index.php/aps/article/view/22225/pdf_22
- 2 Genocide, Indian Policy, and Legislated Elimination of ... - Publishing. By Pam Palmeter, 2014. P. 28 https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/aps/index.php/aps/article/view/22225/pdf_22
- 3 Genocide, Indian Policy, and Legislated Elimination of ... - Publishing. By Pam Palmeter, 2014.P.38 https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/aps/index.php/aps/article/view/22225/pdf_22
- 4 Reclaiming Our Identity Band Membership, Citizenship and the Inherent Right National Centre for First Nations Governance. http://www.saddlelakecreenation.ca/assets/reclaimingouridentity_paper.pdf
- 5 https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/identity/
- 6 Alia, V. Names, Numbers, and Northern Policy: Inuit, Project Surname, and the Politics of Identity. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 1994.