First Nations Programs & Partnerships

Culturally Inclusive Education
Educators—teachers, principals, education assistants, counselors, etc—are responsible for creating a safe and supportive learning environment that strengthens cultural and intellectual well-being among students in their community.

The Importance of Community Connections

The importance of building a relationship and involving the parents, families, and communities of your students in their education cannot be emphasized enough. This connection is necessary for the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual success and well-being of First Nations students. Incorporating local knowledge and traditional teachers into your students' education on a regular basis provides both you and your students with an opportunity to learn through hands-on experiences.

Helpful Strategies & Information

The following is intended to be used as a guideline to build a culturally inclusive relationship with students, parents and the community, and to implement the 'best practices" for interacting appropriately in any community setting:

  • Introduce yourself to community members shortly after your arrival. Share information about your family and where you are from.
  • Personal space is cultural; be aware and respectful of this space. People may stand closer to you while in conversation with you or move away to create a space. Be sensitive to the fact that your physical presence may be violating another person's sense of personal space.
  • Many First Nations people speak more slowly and use conversational pauses (cultural pauses) that are longer than those who communicate entirely in English. This pause in the English language is not only a reflection of the pacing of their traditional language and culture, but also relates to the fact that they may not be working and thinking in their mother tongue. Also, First Nations people often take their time to fully consider and respond to a question before answering. It is therefore important to provide adequate time for people to respond when asking questions.
  • North American mainstream culture accepts crosstalk and occasional interruptions in conversation. This can be interpreted as rude and aggressive behaviour by some First Nations peoples. No one has the right to interrupt Elders or 'talk over and above them' when they are speaking.
  • Take time to learn about Yukon First Nations Governments and their traditional knowledge processes by talking to Elders, traditional teachers and resource people. Books, documents and the internet can also be used as a secondary form of research. Most Yukon First Nations have websites and some have traditional knowledge guidelines on the internet as well as works-in-progress.
  • Learn about your community by talking with local First Nations people. The Community Education Liaison Coordinators (CELC) and the Education Support Workers (ESW) can also help you form links between the school and the community. They may provide ideas to help you learn about the traditions and protocols of the community. See the contact list to find out if your school has a CELC or ESW.
  • Participate in activities, not only at the school, but in the community and on the land. This could include fishcamps, berry picking, hand games, First Nation General Assemblies, community meetings or feasts, sport and fundraising events. When you are relaxed within the community, the community will feel comfortable with you.
  • Offer help in the community when it's needed.
  • Support and assist school staff and community members in a variety of local celebrations.
  • Participate in professional development opportunities sponsored by the local First Nation, for example: community orientation, adult language classes, cultural camps and other initiatives. Visit the staff at the local First Nation's Education and Heritage departments to and out what is available in your area.
  • The First Nations Programs and Partnerships Unit (FNPP) coordinates the Cultural Inclusion, Community Orientation and the Elders in the Schools programs which povide funding to Yukon schools/ First Nations for First Nations cultural activities. Discuss with your school cultural committee how to access financial support for cultural activities.
  • Learn some of the Yukon First Nation language spoken in your community. Language tapes are available at the Yukon Native Language Centre (YNLC) at Yukon College. For on-line language lessons check the YNLC website at www.ynlc.ca.
  • Recognize and encourage the knowledge that your students bring with them and assist them to learn more about their own culture.
  • As much as possible, use instructional strategies that are based on your students' cultural and environmental experiences. Include the four domains—mental, physical, spiritual and emotional—when developing lessons.
  • Land is integral to Yukon First Nations tradition. It is the source of food, clothing, shelter and spirituality. Provide a supportive environment for parent participation in all aspects of their children's education, including subsistence activities on the land.
  • Make effective use of local expertise, especially Elders, as co-teachers whenever local cultural knowledge is being addressed in the curriculum. Elders are highly revered and respected people; they are community mentors who provide invaluable support and guidance. In First Nations cultures, Elders play an essential role in educating children. They pass on traditional teachings and values through their stories, and serve as role models to all community members. Their value to the community cannot be overemphasized. "The wisdom of the Elders is central to cultural understanding according to the Aboriginal perspective. 'Elders are the Keepers of the Knowledge."
  • When an Elder, or anybody else, speaks to your students it is important to follow community protocol. Contact your CELCs and ESWs, the First Nations Studies teacher or the First Nations language teacher to get community protocol. In most communities it would be appropriate to respect Elders and knowledgeable people in the following ways:
  • Commmunity Protocol Checklist
  • Ways of Knowing