First Nation, Metis, and Inuit Education

Resources for Including First Nation, Metis and Inuit perspectives

In many instances cultural and ceremonial traditions, such as songs, dances and stories, are considered to be the cultural property of particular families or nations. Sometimes cultural groups will assert control over cultural materials and practices in order to safeguard against their misappropriation or misuse. As such there are protocols about who has the right to perform or participate in many cultural exercises. In most cases it is necessary to consult with families, elders, chiefs or other elected leaders to get permission to use First Nations, Metis or Inuit cultural materials or to perform cultural customs. However, ceremonial traditions can be appreciated and discussed by appreciative and sensitive audiences.

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First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education in Avon Maitland District School Board

First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework
The guiding document in the work that we engage in on behalf of FNMI students, is the First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework. As the Ministry of Education notes, “The strategy includes initiatives that support learning and achievement for Aboriginal students. It also helps raise awareness about First Nation, Métis and Inuit cultures, histories and perspectives in all Ontario classrooms” ( This two-pronged approach is the basis of the work being done in AMDSB. The framework, released in 2007, specifies goals and strategies that will help fulfill the Ontario government’s commitment to improve education outcomes among Aboriginal students.

Please click here to view the policy framework in its entirety: .

The goals, strategies, and performance measures are as follows:

Goals Strategies Performance Measures
1. High Level of Student Achievement

1.1: Build capacity for effective teaching, assessment, and evaluation practices.

1.2: Promote system effectiveness, transparency, and responsiveness

  1. Significant increase in the percentage of First Nation, Métis and Inuit students meeting provincial standards on province-wide assessments in reading, writing, and mathematics.
  2.  Significant increase in the number of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit teaching and non-teaching staff in school boards across Ontario.
2.Reduce Gaps in Student Achievement

2.1: Enhance support to improve literacy and numeracy skills.


2.2: Provide additional support in a variety of areas to reduce gaps in student outcomes.

  1. Significant increase in the graduation rate of First Nation, Métis and Inuit students
  2. Significant improvement in First Nation, Métis and Inuit student achievement
  3. Significant improvement in First Nation, Métis and Inuit students’ self esteem
  4. Increased collaboration between First Nation education authorities and school boards to ensure that First Nation students in First Nation communities receive the preparation they need to succeed when they make the transition to provincially funded schools
  5. Increased satisfaction among educators in provincially funded schools with respect to targeted professional development and resources designed to help them serve First Nation, Métis and Inuit students more effectively
3.High Levels of Public Confidence

3.1: Build educational leadership capacity and coordination.


3.2: Build capacity to support identity building, including the appreciation of Aboriginal perspectives, values and cultures by all students, school board staff, and elected trustees.


3.3: Foster supportive and engaged families and communities.

  1. Increased participation of First Nation, Métis and Inuit parents in the education of their children.
  2. Increased opportunities for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and issue resolution among Aboriginal communities, First Nation governments and education authorities, schools, school boards, and the Ministry of Education
  3. 10. Integration of educational opportunities to significantly improve the knowledge of all students and educators in Ontario about the rich cultures and histories of First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples

Voluntary, Confidential Self-Identification of First Nation, Metis, and Inuit Students
A key first step in implementing the First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework is to develop reliable data to measure progress in the goal areas. To this end, the Ministry of Education has encouraged school boards to develop policies for voluntary, confidential self-identification for First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students.
For the 2014-2015 school year, AMDSB has 138 students who have self-identified with First Nation, Métis, or Inuit background. This number represents approximately 32% of the census estimate of the number of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students attending our schools.
Information gathered through the self-identification process is protected by law. The data gathered is used to:
• Respond to the cultural and learning needs of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students;
• To provide quality programs, services and resources to create learning opportunities for all students, and First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students in particular;
• To build a curriculum that honours First Nation, Métis, and Inuit cultures, histories, and perspectives; and
• To facilitate greater participation of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit parents, students and communities.
For further information on Avon Maitland’s Voluntary, Confidential Self-Identification policy, please click here: (link to pdf)

Classroom Practices to Consider
While it is impossible to generalize about the preferred learning modes of any group of students, some research has been done that helps identify strategies that are culturally responsive to First Nation, Métis, and Inuit backgrounds. The basic premise of these suggestions is that any or all of the students in any given classroom may benefit when these ideas are taken into consideration.
Humility and Harmony
Many Aboriginal communities value humility and harmony. Therefore, some First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students may underachieve to avoid appearing superior and violating cultural norms. They may not want to be ranked as inferior or superior because of their family’s emphasis on unity and oneness. Classroom strategies that avoid ranking or segregating students should be considered.
Field Dependence
Research indicates that First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students may be field dependent, which means they prefer to work together rather than independently. In general, field dependent students are also highly visual, highly intuitive, and perceive themselves as a part of the environment. They look to educators for guidance. In contrast, field independent students are more likely to be detached, goal-oriented, and competitive.
Learning Through Observation
Learning in traditional First Nation, Métis, and Inuit cultures is often based on observation rather than trial-and-error or problem- solving learning models. This is a “watch-then-do” learning style that is based on observation, modelling, and visualization.
Valuing Listening
In many First Nation, Métis, and Inuit cultures, talking for the sake of talking is discouraged. The cultural difference in the degree of verbosity may create a situation where the First Nation, Métis, or Inuit student does not have a chance to talk at all. It may also cause others to see the student as shy, withdrawn, or disengaged. When asked too many questions or pressed for a conversation, a student may withdraw. Listening skills are emphasized because storytelling and oral recitations were important means of recounting history and teaching lessons.
Answering Questions
Research shows that First Nation students tend to reflect more than non-First Nation students. Reflective students take more time than other students as they gather their thinking before offering an answer. In traditional First Nation homes there may be a strong emphasis on performing an activity correctly. As a result, some students may not attempt to answer an unfamiliar question for fear of answering incorrectly.
Learning From Part to Whole
For some First Nation students it is important that they fully understand something and have thought of all aspects of it before they will act on that information. This learning process may have four components: 1) observe, 2) thinking, 3) understand or feel, and, 4) act (Bectell, 1986). The comparable process for non-Aboriginal students may be 1) act, 2) observe/think/clarify, and 3) understand (Bectell, 1985). Non-Aboriginal students may learn from failures, where failures may set back the learning process for First Nation students.
This lends itself to the philosophical idea that the whole is more important than the parts, even though it is made up of the parts. In line with this, everything becomes a part of everything, with fewer discrete categories or segregation of ideas or people. This may lend itself to a more holistic observational technique, whereas non-Aboriginal students’ process of categorization may lead to a more linear approach. Therefore, a First Nation student may see little or no differentiation between religion and daily life, may practice holistic medicine, or have little trouble with anthropomorphism of inanimate objects. In contrast, a non-Aboriginal student may be more inclined to see medicine as separate from nutrition, for example.
Adapted from “Teaching Native American Students: What Every Teacher Should Know” by Hani Morgan.

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