This section will introduce the importance of relationships within an Indigenous context as well as emphasize the importance of establishing and maintaining relationships with Indigenous people.


 “Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts.”-Justice Minister Murray Sinclair 1 

Making Connections

Making connections and committing space and time for respectful and genuine relationships with Indigenous Elders, leaders, Knowledge Keepers, families, and communities is essential when working towards reconciliation. Through authentic and ongoing relationships, we ensure that Indigenous students have respectful and relevant educational experience and non-Indigenous students have opportunities to learn about and with Indigenous People. Relationship is at the center of meaningful leading, teaching, and learning. “Learning is a collective activity, not individual, it is built on relationships. It is about the relationship with self, with history, with language, with learning, with family, with community” 2

Making Time

When making the time to connect with First Nation, Métis and Inuit it is important to learn about and respect cultural protocols. Communities have distinct protocols that can be understood through conversations with those in which a relationship is being established. Greater knowledge of protocols follows as relationships are strengthened. A relationship involves working, learning, and growing together. However, relationships are not exclusive to people.

The concept of relationality applies to and values the interconnection between people and the natural world in which we coexist. 

Relationality connects with how we relate to each other and the world around us. The relationship between people, plants, animals, birds, and all elements of nature are interconnected and valued. First Nations, Inuit and Métis have teachings to describe relationality that have been passed on and practiced. 

Relationships within First Nations, Inuit, and Métis contexts have been impacted by aggressive assimilation policies, colonization tactics, and paternalistic attitudes towards Indigenous worldviews that were transmitted through relationships with the land, language, and each other. Family relationships and the ability to communicate were torn apart through tactics such as Residential Schools and other policies and laws forced upon Indigenous Peoples. Policies such as the Indian Act, forced relocation, the Pass System,  and the reserve system severed our inherent relationship with the land and each other. Trust was broken in many ways; for example, one-sided interpretations of Treaties and fraudulent land acquisition tactics such as the Métis scrip system benefitted colonizers and took rights and land from Indigenous People. Rebuilding, repairing, and relearning are necessary aspects of relationship building with Indigenous Peoples, and it is important to create opportunities to regain and maintain trust when building relationships with Indigenous Peoples. 

Deepening Relationships

An aspect of deepening relationships with Indigenous Peoples and advance reconciliation includes becoming more deeply aware and acknowledging the experiences that have shaped today’s social contexts. Building foundational knowledge by working and learning with Indigenous Peoples will create understanding and entry points to walk together on the path of reconciliation. The more one learns the more empowered one will be to affect positive change.

This guide is an entry point for learning on some key points of foundational knowledge.  Digital resources are one method of developing foundational knowledge. However, that digital learning must be done as a precursor to building respectful, reciprocal relationships with Indigenous Peoples, which are key to authentic learning and making meaningful strides to advance reconciliation.

To get a sense of the various terms used in relation to Indigenous Peoples, refer to the IDENTITY SECTION within this guide.


  • As a system leader, how do/can you lead the development of effective relationships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit parents, guardians, Elders and Knowledge Keepers, local leaders, and community members in support of reconciliation?

  • As a system leader how do/will you engage and collaborate (build relationships) with neighboring First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders, organizations and communities to ensure First Nations, Métis and Inuit education for all of your students, staff, and community?


  • How does understanding the concept of relationality contribute to developing relationships with Indigenous People?


Related Resources

Wahkohtowin means “everything is related.” It is one of the basic principles of Cree Natural Law passed through language, song, prayer, and storytelling. The elders explain that by following the teachings of Wahkohtowin individuals, communities and societies are healthier.

To build respectful relationships, acknowledging the land is an important part of reconciliation. It honours the authentic history of North America, its original people and tells the story of the creation of this country that has historically been missing.

Narcisse Blood speaks to the connection of language and worldview from a Blackfoot perspective. The concept of interconnection and relationality are touched upon.

The entire inspiring video explains the traditional role of Aboriginal grandparents, the historical significance of family members being severed from one another, and what a grandparent can do to maintain connection to their grandchild. 3:58-5:30 speaks specifically to kinships and relationships.

A comprehensive overview of the four regions where Inuit and Inuvialuit reside, history and map

The spiral is a symbol that helps us understand our interconnected relationship to all beings in the world – animate, inanimate and spiritual. The interconnected nature of the spiral demonstrates how all living beings are in relationship with each other, and have boundaries that define those relationships.

ASBA Indigenous Advisory Circle Elders discuss the sharing of Indigenous culture and the importance of asking questions.

ASBA Indigenous Advisory Circle Elders discuss the various protocols when working with Elders.

This document gives insight into “What is the protocol to follow when inviting an elder, knowledge keeper or cultural advisor to participate in your meetings or events?”

The infographic poster gives succinct visual and key points into “How to get started and who can help within the realm of Truth and Reconciliation in an Education environment.”

Indigenous Canada is a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada. This online course is s MUST-DO which is presented from an Indigenous perspective as it explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations.

This blog was created as a resource for people unfamiliar with specific Indingenous topics

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 book seeks to clarify postcolonial Indigenous thought beginning at the new millennium. It represents the voices of the first generation of global Indigenous scholars and converges those voices, their analyses, and their dreams of a decolonized world.

Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology.

This report outlines how the Calgary Foundation used an outcome harvest process to measure the impact of their actions. This process would lend itself to a school/district planning, implementation and impact study.

Handy practical tips to incorporate into that next meeting with Indigenous
Peoples. For permission to reproduce, please contact Julie Domvile


1Truth and Reconciliation Commision of Canada. Retrieved from
2Makokis, Leona J., Marilyn V. Shirt, Sherri L. Chisan, Anne Y. Mageau, and Dianna M. Steinhauer. mâmawi-nehiyaw iyinikahiwewin. (Blue Quills First Nations College, 2010.) Retrieved from