Running water, housing needed by First Nations in Canada

Documentary by Jennifer Hough  

In 2014, I travelled to Pikangikum, a remote fly-in community in northern Ontario, Canada. Few in the community have running water or sewage and most are not connected to the grid – though they do have power through a diesel generator.

The houses are seriously overcrowded, sometimes with three or four generations living in them.

The knock-on effect for youth is catastrophic, as outlined in a coroner’s report in 2011.

A community-led forestry initiative is set to provide many jobs in the future. Construction has begun on a federally funded $55 million school, and a police-led youth intervention programme is having great results.

Understanding Aboriginal Identity

Understanding Aboriginal Identity explores the complex issue of self-identification for Aboriginal people. Today, Aboriginal identity remains inextricably linked with past government legislation and the continued stereotyping of Aboriginal people in the media and Canadian history. From a Metis farm in rural Alberta, to the offices of Canada’s leading scholars, Understanding Aboriginal Identity examines the factors that shape who we are.
 

Failing Canada’s First Nations Children

Canadian kids from isolated communities forced to move away from their families – just to go to school.

Indigenous Story Telling - Intro for Kids

Activity 2: Storytelling

Goals

This activity will enhance students' understanding of First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture by introducing them to the importance of storytelling.

Specifically, students will:

  • Listen to and then recall Inuit, Métis, or First Nations stories;
  • Identify, describe and interpret important information in these stories;
  • Create their own stories based on the formats discussed.

Subjects and Strands

This lesson plan can be used by teachers in all provincial and territorial grades 3-6 social studies classes; activities can be modified for age and ability. The main subjects are:

  • First Nations, Métis and Inuit legends, stories and culture.

These activities will also help students develop basic Writing, Interpretation/Analysis skills.

Required Equipment and Materials

  • Stories from different First Nations, Métis and Inuit groups (oral stories are best, either online or in person, but books can be substituted if necessary).
  • Using Your Memory! (PDF 1.3 Mb) hand-out
  • Computers with Adobe Flash, OR printed cards and information sheet (see printable instructions).

Set-up Instructions

  • Have the class play the Memory game either online or using the printed cards provided in the printable version.
  • After students have played the game, hold a class discussion about the methods used to play it (e.g. did they choose cards at random or in sequence?) and the various items displayed on the cards in the game. The Description Sheet has additional information on each item.
  • Begin a new discussion on the role that memory played in traditional storytelling. Note: First Nations, Métis and Inuit did not have written languages before the Contact period - all of their history and beliefs were passed from generation-to-generation through oral stories.

Activity Instructions

  1. Following a class discussion on the importance of storytelling, invite an Elder from a local First Nations, Métis or Inuit community to tell traditional stories to the class. If this is not possible, there are several online resources available. 

    OR

    From your school or local library, take out several books that recall First Nations, Métis or Inuit stories. See Appendix A for suggested books.
  2. After listening to the Elder (or reading the stories out loud to the class), hand out the Using Your Memory! (PDF 1.3 Mb) sheets. Explain that these questions are to see how much students remember from the stories they have just heard - they will not be graded on these questions. The goal of this exercise is for students to write down as much detail about the story as they can remember.
  3. After students have answered the questions, review the details of the story with the help of the class. You may find it helpful to list the following items on the chalkboard as they are mentioned by students:
     
    1. The names of the stories and the culture(s) they came from;
    2. The characters in each story;
    3. The lesson, message, etc. of each story.
    DISCUSS: Did the students remember every detail of the stories while they were answering the questions? What would have happened if they had waited longer to write down the information? How hard would it be to memorize all of the stories grandparents, parents and teachers have to tell them?
  4. Ask students to write their own story and illustrate it. Suggest that they use a story their grandparents of parents have told them in the past. Post the stories on a classroom wall for all to read.

Handouts

Research Challenge

In the Turtle Island game you learned about items that First Nations, Métis and Inuit developed in the past (such as canoes, maple syrup and snowshoes), and that are still being used today.

Choose something first developed by First Nations, Métis or Inuit and answer the following questions:

  1. What did you choose? Describe it and its ORIGINAL purpose.
  2. How has the item you chose changed over time (Is it made of different materials? Is it prepared in a different way? Does it have a new purpose?)
  3. How is the item used today? (Where and when is it used? Who uses it? Why is it used?)
  4. Which book(s) did you use to find this information?  (Title and Author).

Newspaper Challenge

Answer the following questions in paragraph form using the article you selected on a modern Aboriginal issue.

TITLE:

AUTHOR:

  1. What issue does this article report? 
  2. Who is affected by this issue?
  3. Does the article identify the harm or benefit of the issue? What is the main message of the article?
  4. Does the article present one point of view, or several? Can you think of other points of view that were not mentioned?
  5. Who did the reporter/writer interview to get the information in the article?
  6. What do you think about the issue in this article? Did you know about it before you read this article?

Using Your Memory!

Traditionally First Nations, Métis and Inuit stories were told orally (out loud), and passed from person to person - it was very important to remember them because there was no alphabet to write things down.

Let's test your memory: answer the following questions the best you can from what you remember. Answer the same questions for each story.

  1. What was the story called? What culture was it from?
  2. Who were the people and animals in the story?
  3. Why is this story important? (Did it teach a lesson? Did it explain how something was made or born? Did it give helpful advice? Did it teach important spiritual beliefs?)

Appendix A: Resource List

The following books are resources that may be helpful for your students in completing their challenges:

  1. The Kids Book of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada
    By Diane Silvey
  2. Canadian Aboriginal Art and Culture Series
    By Jennifer Nault
  3. Jason's New Dugout Canoe
    by Joe Barber-Starkey
  4. The Inuit Thought of It
    by Alootook Ipellie and David Macdonald
  5. Houses of Snow, Skin and Bones
    By Bonnie Shemie
  6. Carving a Totem Pole
    By Vickie Jensen

Think About This - Indigenous History for Kids

Preparation

Before following this plan, we recommend the following preparatory steps:

  1. Book computer equipment, and ensure the proper plugin - Adobe Flash  - is installed. Test to make sure that Flash functions properly on your school's equipment by playing the games. If it does not, please use the printable accessible versions.
  2. Divide students into groups of two and allow them to play the Turtle Island and Memory games.
  3. If using the printable option, print out the appropriate materials (memory cards, accompanying resources, etc) for each pair of students.

Activity 1: "Think About This" Challenges

Goals

The following three activities have been designed to introduce children to the history, culture and present-day lives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Canada.

Specifically, students will:

  • Familiarize themselves with technologies, cultural practices and current issues of First Nations, Métis and Inuit;
  • Compare older technologies with newer adaptations and recognize that First Nations, Métis and Inuit technologies and culture are not merely "historic", but are still relevant today;
  • Discover symbols or ceremonies that play an important role in First Nations, Métis and/or Inuit culture;
  • Learn about and discuss current issues being addressed by First Nations, Métis and/or Inuit communities in Canada.

Subjects and Strands

This lesson plan can be used by teachers in all provincial and territorial grades 3-6 social studies classes; activities can be modified for age and ability. The main subjects are:

  • First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture and history.
  • Present-day concerns and achievements of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

These activities will also help students develop basic Library research skills and Interpretation/Analysis skills.

Set-up Instructions

Once students have completed the Turtle Island game online, they will have been exposed to 20 items and practices associated with First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures, with brief explanations of the significance of each. To continue this experience, select one (or more) of the following activities and print out the related handouts. You may wish to have a group discussion prior to this step to answer any questions students may have about terminology or objects in the game.

Activity Instructions:

Research Challenge

  1. Ask students to divide into groups of two. 
  2. Hand out the Research Challenge question sheets.
  3. Bring students to your school or local library and instruct them to find information on a technology that was developed by First Nations, Métis or Inuit in the past that is still being used today (it can be an item or practice from the Turtle Island game or something completely different). You may wish to have a discussion in class about potential technologies that students can research prior to visiting the library.
  4. Help students locate books on their topic that are related to First Nations, Métis or Inuit technologies (a list of some recommended resources can be found in Appendix A).
  5. Once they have found some information relevant to their chosen topic, students should answer the questions on the Research Challenge.
  6. After answering the questions, each group should present what they learned to the class.

Poster Challenge

  1. As preparation for this challenge, you may wish to invite an elder or representative from a local First Nations, Métis or Inuit community to discuss their traditional practices with the class. If this is not possible, a class discussion on the importance of tradition and culture will help students complete this activity (see recommended resources in Appendix A).
  2. Ask students to find out more about one of the following topics, and illustrate their findings with a poster:
    • Smudging Ceremonies
    • Sweat Lodge Ceremonies
    • Traditional Hunting and Fishing Practices
    • Medicine Wheel
  3. On their poster, students should represent a) the various components of the chosen item or practice b) the importance of the item or practice to the relevant cultural group by including any important equipment, symbols, or colours that relate to the event.

Newspaper Challenge

  1. This challenge is meant for older students (grades 5-6), and involves some analytical skills. You may wish to partner students in groups of two for this task.
  2. Ask students to look in a newspaper, magazine or online (either at home or during class time) and find an article on a CURRENT issue - positive or negative - facing a First Nations, Métis and/or Inuit community in Canada. You may wish to provide a list of preselected articles to ensure the questions on the Newspaper Challenge sheet can be answered.
  3. Hand out the Newspaper Challenge sheet and ask students to analyse the article by answering the questions on the handout.
  4. Follow-up this exercise with a class discussion on the issues raised, emphasizing the relevant historical, political and cultural roots of each particular issue, and the various points of view presented in the articles chosen.

Ojibway - Additional websites for Teachers

Little River Band of Ottawa - Anishinaabemowin. Listen to the pronunciation of the Medicine Wheel terms in Ojibwe, games, and other cultural resources. http://www.anishinaabemdaa.com/medicinewheel.htm

NASA - Excellent site designed specifically for young children, with sound and movement for demonstrating earth’s orbit http://kids.msfc.nasa.gov/earth/seasons/EarthSeasons.asp

Also part of NASA’s child-centred activities on the solar system http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/StarChild.html

Enchanted Learning - a variety of software for the teaching of various subjects including the solar system and seasons http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/astronomy/solarsystem/

Gander’s Academy - various options for students of different ages to study the solar system http://www.cdli.ca/CITE/solar_sys.htm

Oswego City School District Website - various options for students to study astronomy http://oswego.org/staff/cchamber/resources/solarsystem.cfm

Ms. Mitchell's Virtual School - web links for students and teachers for the study of the seasons http://www.kathimitchell.com/seasons.htm

Royal Alberta Museum - comprehensive explanation of the history of Medicine Wheels on the prairies http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/human/archaeo/faq/medwhls.htm

Virtual Saskatchewan - photos of Medicine Wheels with accompanying explanations http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/endangered_stones.html

First Nations Legacy on the Rouge - A clear drawing of the formation of stones and the sequence of their placement to make a Medicine Wheel on the ground http://www.rivernen.ca/med_1.htm 

Lennox Island Learning Centre - descriptions of the spiritual significance of tobacco, sage, cedar and sweet grass http://collections.ic.gc.ca/malpeque/4plants.html

Whatcom Community College - Four flash movies based on Vivaldi’s concerto, Four Seasons http://www.annchaikin.com/flash/

 

Four Directions Teachings - Ojibway - Senior

Elder Lillian Pitawanakwat

Nation Ojibwe/Potawotami

Lesson Plan Grade Level

Senior (Grades 10-12)

Time Required

3 – 4hours

Key Concepts

  • Seven Grandfather Teachings
  • Value system

Summary

The Seven Grandfathers are traditional teachings given by the Creator to the Ojibwe to teach them what is important so that they know how to live.  The Seven Grandfathers are traditional teachings on Love, Humility, Honesty, Courage, Wisdom, Generosity and Respect.  Each of the Grandfathers is a lesson that is viewed as a gift of knowledge for the learning of values and for living by these values.  Although each teaching represents a wealth of wisdom on its own, collectively they represent what was needed for community survival.  The Ojibwe were taught that the Seven Grandfathers could not be used in isolation.  To practice one without the other would amount to practicing the opposite of that teaching.  Therefore, to not love is to be fearful; to not be humble is to be egotistical; to not be honest is to be dishonest; to not be courageous is to be cowardly

Central to this philosophy, or worldview, is the emphasis on the larger perspective, the effects on others, the family, the community, the region and the universe, as the Ojibwe (and other Aboriginal peoples) believe that all beings are connected, like links in a chain.  A belief in the interdependence of all living things frames Aboriginal value systems.  Animals are no less important than humans, and plants are no less important than animals.  Water and wind, sun and moon and the changing of the seasons are all related to each other and to humans.  We are all part of one great whole.  As this awareness dictates a vision of the world as a whole, traditional Aboriginal thinking concludes that life forms maintain their health and balance through the focus on harmony as opposed to individual wants or needs.  The Seven Grandfathers were designed to achieve harmony.

Learner Objectives

Knowledge/Understanding:

  • To identify the Seven Grandfather Teachings as understood by the Ojibwe
  • To develop understanding as to connection between the Seven Grandfather Teachings and Aboriginal worldview
  • To understand the significance of the term “grandfathers” as it relates to the teachings
  • To distinguish between communalism and individualism as they pertain to the contemporary thinking and their impacts on society

Inquiry/Values:

  • To be able to compare the Seven Grandfathers to their contrasting value opposites
  • To develop understanding of the terms “personal values”, “sacred”, “traditional”, “respect”, and “balance”
  • To appreciate the wisdom of the Seven Grandfathers as a model for balanced living today
  • To distinguish between personal, familial and societal values

Skills/Applications:

  • To navigate the internet with control
  • To demonstrate visually and in writing examples of the Seven Grandfathers in practice

Subject Strand Links

  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Humanities
  • Philosophy

Strategy

  1. Divide the class into equally sized groups.  Give each group a box containing the following:
  • Food
  • Knife replica or a drawing of a knife
  • Blanket
  • Coat
  • Flashlight
  • Radio
  1. Propose the scenario in which the students must choose two objects from the box as a group to take with them to survive in the wilderness without any other objects.  Have them discuss which objects to take and why.  Which ones are not needed, and why? 
  2. Have groups report their decisions to the class with their explanations.  Ask them what they based their decisions on.  What influenced their thinking?  Did they stick to their original ideas or did they change their minds based on what others said?  Offer that they based their values on the perceived importance or worth of the object to their survival.   Have each group identify what was important to them when they chose their objects from the box, e.g., warmth, shelter, protection, nourishment, etc.  Did everyone agree on what to take or was there disagreement? 
  3. Now have each individual make a list of the following values:  cleanliness, responsibility, punctuality, fairness, and courtesy.  Have them rank order the importance of these values to them personally.  Have them turn to a partner and compare notes.  How many shared the same rank ordering?  Each person may have a unique value system.  Discuss as a class why people have different personal values.  Discuss why values change from time to time, e.g., not being concerned about being late for school but making sure to be on time for a date.
  4. Now re-rank the values based on what they think their parents would choose.  How do these values systems differ from theirs?  As a family what values are important?  What values are not important?  What happens when a family does not share the same values?
  5. Explain that the class will learn about societal values now, ones that are accepted by a society, forming the basis of its cultural traditions, structures, practices, and laws.  Societal values help to maintain the kind of society in which people want to live.  At every time in history every community has developed its own value systems.  Some have had major influences from other societies and others have not. What happens when different societies meet?  What happens if their values conflict with each other?  Discuss world conflict.
  1. Introduce Elder Lillian Pitawankwat, an Ojibwe who comes from Manitoulin Island in Ontario.  Does anyone know where that is?  Has anyone ever been there?  She has traditional teachings based on Ojibwe beliefs to share with the class about Ojibwe societal values, called the Seven Grandfathers. 
  2. Visit www.fourdirectionteachings.com together as a class to:
    1. View location of Elder’s community on Turtle Island map. ***
    2. Read the Elder biography.  Who can pronounce her name?
    3. Individually or in pairs have students listen to Lillian’s teachings on “The Seven Grandfather Teachings”
  3. Have students make a chart of the Seven Grandfather Teachings with the positive side of the societal values on one side and their corresponding opposites on the other side:  Love/Fear; Humility/Ego; Honesty/Dishonesty; Courage/Cowardice; Wisdom/Ignorance; Generosity/Greed; Respect/Disrespect.  Working in pairs, have them look up a dictionary definition of each of these terms and write them in their charts.  Discuss why the Ojibwe refer to their values as grandfathers.  What is the symbolism behind this term?
  4. Next have them provide a written hypothetical example of each of the Seven Grandfathers (values) and their opposites.  Share the examples as a class.
  5. Read the summary above about the Seven Grandfathers.  How would the Seven Grandfathers have impacted on the thinking and behaviour of Ojibwe who lived in communal society long ago?  How does this compare to contemporary society’s emphasis on individualism? Provide examples of how society does or does not embrace these values today (Love, Humility, Honesty, Courage, Wisdom, Generosity and Respect). What would the world be like if everyone followed the Seven Grandfathers?
  6. Wrap up lesson with a selection of discussion topics and optional exercises below.

 

Discussion Topics:

  • “Historically, the minds of the American Indian and the Euro-American are very different due to their evolution in two separate parts of the world.  Developing in opposite hemispheres, the American Indian mind and the Euro-American mind are naturally set and steeped in incongruent values that distinguish their separateness….the Indian mind and the Euro-American minds are polar opposites, and that due to cultural developments in different parts of the world, the two races advanced their thinking by developing separate sets of values that remain incongruent in the context of historical Indian-White relations.  Geographic distance assisted in creating the polarity of these two opposites.  The great length of time before their contact with each other had also caused such a separate development of mind sets……As a result of different hemispheric orientation of the thinking mind, and primarily due to cultural influences and fundamental needs, the brain of the American Indian developed with an orientation to “circular thought” and the brain of the Euro-American developed with an orientation to “linear thought.” (Donald Fixico, The American Indian Mind in a Linear World, 2003).  What does Fixico mean by “circular thought” and “linear thought”?  How would such contrasting perspectives influence the way Indian people live versus Euro-Americans?  What differences exist in the values and behaviour of these two cultures? 
  • The traditional Aboriginal worldview is based on a philosophy in which everything in life is connected and influences everyone and everything else. Therefore, just as when you drop a stone into a pond it has a rippling effect, your words and your actions (or inactions) impact on others and the world around you.  Discuss the advanced intellect behind the Aboriginal philosophy which values community over individualism.

 

Optional Exercises:

  • Conduct a research project on how the relationship between First Nations and non-First Nations people in this country developed. Identify the values that motivated the actions of the European settlers.  What were the prevailing attitudes of the Europeans?  How did the attitude of superiority and the desire for power and control motivate the actions of the European settlers? To what extent do First Nations continue to resist this oppression?
  • Interview a grandparent or other elderly person about what life was like when they were young and how people treated each other.  Record the interview with a tape recorder.  Play back the tape and make notes on all the values the elder mentions.  Write a report on the interview to summarize the elder’s main points while also comparing their views to yours.  Is society pretty much as they described it from long ago?  What things are the same?  What things are different?  Why do you think things have changed?  What could we learn from the elder’s life experience?
  • Reflect on your self-concept in a journal.  Write about the values that you share with your friends.  What are the things you have in common that makes you feel comfortable with them?  Now compare this feeling of comfort to being uncomfortable with someone you do not get along with.  Why don’t you get along with this person?  What differences in values do you have?  Why do you think you have different values?
  • Choose a song that appeals to you and that refers to one of the Seven Grandfathers.  Type the lyrics and decorate on a poster with symbols to represent the songwriter’s message.  Present your interpretation of the song to the class.
  • Work in groups to identify someone living or dead who exemplifies one of the Seven Grandfathers.  Conduct research on the life of this person to reflect what he or she said and did in keeping with this value.  How could society learn to be more like this person?  Present to class.
  • Do internet research on your community.  What is the credo of your city or town?  What is the official emblem?  What does it represent? Visit City Hall or other municipal or local government office to meet with your representative (City Councillor, Band Councillor, etc.).  Ask the representative what he/she values.  What does he/she want for the community?  What is he/she doing to help the community?  What can students do to participate? 
  • Start a community service school project with the help of the local government eg. Cleaning litter from a park or beach; visiting elderly in nursing homes; volunteering at an animal shelter or drop-in centre; raising money for a hospital or school; working with the early childhood educators at a daycare.  Set a long term goal and mark the progress for all to see.  Celebrate the contributions made at the end of the year.
  • Design a symbol or figure to represent one of the Seven Grandfathers.  Using either clay, stone, or some other material, construct a sculpture or other three-dimensional form.  Invite parents and community leaders to a showing of the art.
  • Invite a youth who has been recognized as a role model to speak to the school (see links below)

Vocabulary

  • Personal Values
  • Family Values
  • Societal Values
  • Conflict
  • Love
  • Fear
  • Humility
  • Ego
  • Honesty
  • Dishonesty
  • Courage
  • Cowardice
  • Wisdom
  • Ignorance
  • Generosity
  • Greed
  • Respect
  • Disrespect
  • Communalism
  • Individualism
  • Philosophy

Materials Required

Coats, blankets, flashlights, drawings of knives, food, radios

Evaluation

  • Teacher evaluation of writing exercises for spelling, grammar, punctuation, content, style, creativity, and sentence structure.
  • Self evaluation of success with community service projects.  What did I learn from this experience?  Was it worthwhile?  How does my community benefit from what I’ve done?
  • Peer evaluation of presentations and artistic creations.  Were they educational?  In what ways?  How do these representations make you think of these values differently?

Additional Resources

http://www.anishinaabemdaa.com/grandfathers.htm To hear the pronunciation of the Seven Grandfathers in Ojibwe

http://www.naho.ca/rolemodel/english/faq.php National Aboriginal Role Model Program

http://www.metisnation.org/news/04_APR_NMYRM.html National Metis Youth Role Model Program

http://www.naaf.ca/naaa.html#7 National Aboriginal Achievement Awards recipients

Benton-Banai, Edward. The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway. Hayward, WI: Indian Country Communications, 1988. 114 pages. ISBN: 1-893487-00-8. Grade 5 and up.  The classic book about Ojibway traditional teachings, written for children and adults, provides readers with an accurate account of Ojibway culture, history, and worldview based on the oral teachings. Major topics include Creation, the four directions, the pipe, the Midewiwin and Sweat Lodge, the Seven Fires prophesy, and the Seven Grandfathers Teaching, values and beliefs, and the role of Elders. Students in elementary and secondary school will find The Mishomis Book a useful text for Native Studies; college and university courses in Native Studies will also appreciate the traditional teachings contained within this important work

 

Four Directions Teaching - Ojibway - Intermediate

Elder Lillian Pitawanakwat

Nation Ojibwe/Potawotami

Lesson Plan Grade Level

Intermediate (Grades 7-9)

Time Required

3 – 4 hours

Traditional Teachings

  • Four Directions
  • Four Sacred Colours
  • Four Seasons
  • Four Sacred Medicines
  • Four Elements
  • The Centre of the Wheel

Student Summary

A Medicine Wheel is a circle divided into parts (usually four), which relate with and counterbalance one another to form a whole, and is often used to represent Aboriginal wisdom in North America.  Medicine Wheels are not necessarily a tradition belonging to all Aboriginal peoples.  However, many cultures have some variation of the Wheel, and the Traditional Knowledge and views of the various first peoples of North America are more compatible with the circle concept than with linear, European-based forms of thought.

The Medicine Wheel represents and unites various aspects of the world, both seen and unseen, and emphasizes how all parts of the world and all levels of being are related and connected through a life force originating in the creation of the universe.  Some wheels teach about the four cardinal directions, the seasons, times of day, or stages of life; others represent the races of people, animals, natural elements, aspects of being, and so on.  All parts of the wheel are important, and depend on each other in the cycle of life; what affects one affects all, and the world cannot continue with missing parts.  For this reason, the Medicine Wheel teaches that harmony, balance and respect for all parts are needed to sustain life.

The centre of the Medicine Wheel symbolizes the self in balance, and the perspective of traditional philosophy.  The central perspective is a neutral place where it is possible to develop a holistic vision and understanding of creation and the connections between all things.

Medicine Wheels made of stones arranged on the Earth have been found in various places throughout North America, marking places of special significance, such as places of energy, ceremony, meeting, meditation, teaching, and celebration.  Some estimate that there were about 20,000 medicine wheels in North America before European contact occurred.  Some Medicine Wheels on the prairies have been found to be 5,000 years old or more.

Learner Objectives

Knowledge/Understanding: 

  • To relate the Four Sacred Colours of the Medicine Wheel to the Four Cardinal Directions
  • To recognize the cyclical nature of the four seasons in relation to the earth’s orbit
  • To develop awareness of the natural environment through the identification of the Four Cardinal Directions and the Four Seasons
  • To identify the Four Sacred Medicines of the Medicine Wheel
  • To identify the Four Elements of the Medicine Wheel
  • To identify the Ojibwe as an Aboriginal people with traditional beliefs
  • To become familiar with the meanings of the terms “Medicine Wheel”, “sacred”, “traditional”, “perspective”, “orbit”, and “connection”

Inquiry/Values:

  • To appreciate the unique gift of each of four directions
  • To recognize the Medicine Wheel as an ancient Aboriginal symbol
  • To appreciate that the four directions are as consistent and everlasting as the earth’s orbit and that each individual has a central perspective to these forces of nature
  • To relate the concept of spiritual connection as it applies to the Medicine Wheel

Skills/Applications: 

  • To physically identify the Four Cardinal Directions
  • To navigate the internet with control
  • To produce a Medicine Wheel graphically or physically
  • To demonstrate the earth’s orbit around the sun

Subject Strand Links

  • Geography
  • Natural Science
  • Botany
  • Astronomy
  • Art

Strategy

  1. Post a very large sheet labeled “Spring” on the eastern wall of the classroom.  Post a sheet labeled “Summer” on the southern wall of the classroom, a sheet for “Fall” on the western wall of the classroom, and one for “Winter” on the northern wall of the classroom.  As the students arrive for class, ask them to move to the side of the room representing the season that is their favourite.  Generate a discussion based on which season is most popular among the class.  Why is this your favourite season?  What do you like to do at that time?  What do you not like about the other seasons?  Why?
  2. Each group can work as a team to decorate the sign that is on their wall, drawing symbols to identify what the group likes best about the season they chose.  Then have them add the months of the year when it is their season.
  3. Explain that Aboriginal people have traditional teachings to share, given to them thousands of years ago and passed down through the generations.  Traditional knowledge is taught by older people - or Elders - who have worked and studied many years to understand it.  Aboriginal people have always had a close relationship to nature, having depended on it for survival.  It was (and in some places is still) important to know the seasons to know when to hunt, to trap, to grow plants, to make shelters, etc. Different times of the year pose different challenges.  Aboriginal people have very highly developed knowledge about the forces of nature and how we are all connected through nature.  Aboriginal elders teach that the four seasons are very special and very important and not just to them but to everyone because all of us share these same four seasons (at least in Canada).  The seasons do not change.  So Aboriginal people believe the four seasons are sacred, or blessed, because each season has a spirit and gives us special gifts. The seasons are interconnected.  So they believe that we must always respect the four seasons.  What are the gifts of the seasons?  What are the challenges of the seasons?
  4. The Ojibwe use colours to represent the seasons.  Guess which colour the Ojibwe use to represent Spring?  Yellow.  Why yellow?  What things are yellow?  Summer is red.  Why?  Fall is black.  Why?  And why would they use white for winter?  Every year spring follows winter, and summer follows spring, etc.  Four seasons makes the year complete, balanced, a whole year.  Now fill in the respective colours on the signs.  These are called the Four Sacred Colours.
  5. Explain that in addition to the seasons, the Ojibwe people have traditional beliefs about the sacredness of the four directions, as they depended on the sun each day for their survival.  Why?  What are the gifts of the sun?  To keep warm, to have light, to grow food.  So the Ojibwe respect the sun which rises each day in which direction?  It travels across the sky in which direction?  It sets in which direction?  And the cycle repeats the next day.  And the next day.  And the next day after that.  So the Four Directions are considered to be spirits that are sacred to traditional Aboriginal people.  And they respect the four directions every day, not just every once in a while. The directions are interconnected. Where does the sun rise?  Everybody point in that direction.  Ask the spring/yellow group to add “East” to their poster.  Now ask which direction does the sun travel?  Everybody point in that direction.  Ask the summer/red group to add “South” to their poster.  Now ask which direction does the sun set each night?  Everybody point in that direction.  As the fall/black group to add “West” to their poster.  Finally ask which direction does the sun return to start the cycle again?  Everybody point north.  Ask the winter/white group to add “North” to their poster.  Four directions makes the sun’s cycle complete, balanced.
  6. Face east again, as the cycle is complete. Did we change our position?  No, we stayed in the centre, because we are always in the centre.  Even if we move left or right, we are always in the middle of the four directions.  So this is important to remember according to traditional teachings because it reminds us that we are spiritually connected to the four directions.  We cannot escape them.  They are part of us and we are part of them.   That means everything around us is connected to us, and we are connected to everything around us and to each other.  Post the four signs where they were before and have the students tour the room like in an art gallery to look at the other posters up close. 
  7. Returning to the original seasons groups, explain that Lillian Pitawanakwat is an Ojibwe elder who comes from Manitoulin Island in Ontario.  Does anyone know where that is?  Has anyone ever been there?  She has traditional teachings to share with the class about the four directions and the four seasons and the four sacred colours.  She wants to teach the Medicine Wheel to the class from the internet.  What is medicine?  We use medicine to heal us; it is good for us; it keeps us strong and healthy.  This looks like a wheel because it is round and each part is the same size.  Aboriginal people originally placed rocks in a formation on the ground to mark places of special spiritual significance and to use for prayer.  The Medicine Wheel has been a symbol for generations to remember and respect the Four Directions and the good things that the sun and the seasons bring us every day.  The Medicine Wheel represents all that is interconnected.  Read the summary above.
  8. Visit www.fourdirectionteachings.com together as a class to:
    1. Read the Elder’s biography.  Who can pronounce her name?
    2. Read “Medicine Wheel Overview” of traditional teaching (PDF).** reading in transcript version*
  9. Individually or in pairs have students listen to Lillian’s teachings, “The East – Waubunong”, “The South – Zhawanong”, “The West – Epingishmook”, “The North – Kiiwedinong.”
  10. Now ask the class to move to the side of the room representing their favourite colour of the four available.  Why is that their favourite?  Ask the groups to discuss what they learned from the elder.  The elder discussed the four directions, the four seasons and the four colours.  And being in the centre of the wheel.  What other things did she mention?  What other elements do the Ojibwe include in the Medicine Wheel?
  11. Have the yellow group report back to start off:  What did Lillian say about the elements?  What are they?  Which element is represented by the East?  Add a symbol representing water to the yellow poster.  Continue with the red group.  What element is represented by the South?  Add a symbol representing earth to the red poster.  Continue with the black group.  What element is represented by the West?  Add a symbol representing fire to the black poster.  Continue to the white group.  What element is represented by the North?  Add a symbol representing air to the white poster.  Four elements are interconnected and make the planet complete, balanced.  What happens when we do not respect the elements? 
  12. Now have the students move to the side of the room representing their favourite element.  Lillian had one more teaching to share about the Medicine Wheel.  There are four plants that Aboriginal people consider sacred, spiritual, and they burn them in ceremonies following ancient practices.  Start with the water group.  What did Lillian say about their sacred plant?  Add “Tobacco” to the yellow poster.  Continue to the earth group.  Add “Cedar” to the red poster.  Continue to the fire group.  Add “Sage” to the black poster.  Continue to the air group.  Add “Sweet grass” to the white poster.
  13. Wrap up lesson with a guided reading of the summary above and select from discussion topics and optional exercises below.

 

Discussion Topics: 

  • “Some indigenous people don't even have a word for the forest or the environment, but regard the outer world as an extension of themselves. To say, as we do, 'I am going into the forest' would be as absurd to them as to say, 'I am going into my skin', - they are already in it and a part of it. We have lost this ability to relate directly with the nature that surrounds us, have become alienated and are suffering a mass-psychosis because of it. Perhaps Ethnobotany can help to heal the dichotomy between spirit and matter that is afflicting the 'civilized world' and provide a lifeline through which we can again begin to relate to nature and value the gifts of Mother Earth for what they truly are - the roots of our culture and the source of life.” (Kay Morgenstern, 2001, http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotanyportal.htm).  To what extent has modern man lost this ability to relate directly with nature?  What does Morgenstern mean when she suggests that ethnobotany can help to heal the dichotomy between spirit and matter?
  • When the Ojibwe say that each race was given special gifts, what does that mean?  Is this ancient belief meant to be taken literally?** change to 7 stages?*
  • Aboriginal people have always recognized humanity’s dependency on the elements but modern society has a different view of the importance of the natural elements.  What happens when we lose respect for the elements?  What are the effects of polluting our water systems and the air we breathe? 

 

Optional Exercises:

  • Draw a Medicine Wheel which captures all of the teachings above in brief.  Start with a circle, then the four quadrants.  Divide the circle into six rings, one within the other like the ripple effect of a pebble in a pond.  Label each ring accordingly.  How does one ring connect to the next?  Relate in writing the relationships between the rings of the Medicine Wheel ** - pdf?*
  • Choose the part of the Medicine Wheel most interesting (eg. the four seasons, the four directions, the four colours, the four colours of man, four sacred medicines or four elements) and, in a journal, summarize the teaching. What was surprising about this information? Was it confusing?  
  • Bring in potted plants of cedar, tobacco (or a package of pipe tobacco), sage, and sweet grass (or a sweet grass braid) to view in class or visit a garden centre together.  Examine the differences between the plants in size, shape, colour, feel and smell.  Grow these plants in class or plant outside in a special garden marked “Four Sacred Medicines”. 
  • Research the vocabulary words in a dictionary and study the meanings.
  • Create medicine wheel models using leather, paints, yarn, etc. ***
  • Invite an Aboriginal elder to the class to discuss the Medicine Wheel from his/her perspective
  • Listen to Vivaldi’s concerto “Four Seasons”.  Ask students to describe the differences in the sounds in each season in a poem. Type the poems and create a class book, “The Four Seasons”.  Make a copy for each student.
  • Take a walk in a conservation area, park, wetland, etc. Collect samples of earth and water to do an in-class study of microscopic life forms.
  • Do an internet search of literary/poetic quotes pertaining to the elements.  Print them out with the poets’ names and post them on the respective walls of the classroom with art design illustrating the respective elements.
  • Execute a different seasonal exercise each month highlighting natural materials such as food products in season or leaves (see links below).
  • Visit related websites that explain the solar system and the changing of the seasons from a scientific perspective (see links below).

Vocabulary

  • Medicine Wheel
  • Sacred
  • Traditional
  • Perspective
  • Orbit
  • Spiritual
  • Connection

Materials Required

  • Very large sheets of paper, tape, markers or crayons.
  • Other arts and crafts materials.

Evaluation

  1. Self evaluation of participation by students.  Did I share ideas with my groups?  Did I listen to others?  Did I make the effort to understand the elder?  Did I give others a chance to speak?  Did I complete the reading?
  2. Teacher evaluation of poems.  Did the student identify four related Medicine Wheel elements?  Did the poem capture the essence of the teaching?  Was the spelling correct?
  3. Parent evaluation of journal writing.  Did the parent understand the teaching based on the student’s summary?  Was the summary clear?  Which part did the parent find interesting?

Additional Resources

Four Directions Teachings - Ojibway - Junior

Elder Lillian Pitawanakwat

Nation Ojibwe/Potawotami

Lesson Plan Grade Level

Junior (Grades 1-6)

Time Required

3 – 4 hours

Traditional Teachings

  • Four Directions
  • Four Sacred Colours
  • Four Seasons
  • The Centre of the Wheel

Teacher Summary

A Medicine Wheel is a circle divided into parts (usually four), which relate with and counterbalance one another to form a whole, and is often used to represent Aboriginal wisdom in North America.  Medicine Wheels are not necessarily a tradition belonging to all Aboriginal peoples.  However, many cultures have some variation of the Wheel, and the Traditional Knowledge and views of the various first peoples of North America are more compatible with the circle concept than with linear, European-based forms of thought.

The Medicine Wheel represents and unites various aspects of the world, both seen and unseen, and emphasizes how all parts of the world and all levels of being are related and connected through a life force originating in the creation of the universe.  Some wheels teach about the four cardinal directions, the seasons, times of day, or stages of life; others represent the races of people, animals, natural elements, aspects of being, and so on.  All parts of the wheel are important, and depend on each other in the cycle of life; what affects one affects all, and the world cannot continue with missing parts.  For this reason, the Medicine Wheel teaches that harmony, balance and respect for all parts are needed to sustain life.

The centre of the Medicine Wheel symbolizes the self in balance, and the perspective of traditional philosophy.  The central perspective is a neutral place where it is possible to develop a holistic vision and understanding of creation and the connections between all things.

Medicine Wheels made of stones arranged on the Earth have been found in various places throughout North America, marking places of special significance, such as places of energy, ceremony, meeting, meditation, teaching, and celebration.  Some estimate that there were about 20,000 medicine wheels in North America before European contact occurred.  Some Medicine Wheels on the prairies have been found to be 5,000 years old or more.

Learner Objectives

Knowledge/Understanding: 

  • To relate the Four Sacred Colours of the Ojibwe Medicine Wheel to the Four Cardinal Directions
  • To recognize the changing of the seasons
  • To identify and perceive the movement of the sun from east to west
  • To develop awareness of the natural environment through the identification of the Four Cardinal Directions and the Four Seasons
  • To identify the Ojibwe as an Aboriginal people with traditional beliefs
  • To become familiar with the meanings of the terms “Medicine Wheel”, “sacred”, “traditional”, “direction”, “respect” and “survival”

Inquiry/Values:

  • To appreciate the unique gift of each of the four directions
  • To recognize that the four seasons make a whole which repeats in a cycle year after year
  • To recognize the Medicine Wheel as an Aboriginal symbol with an ancient history
  • To appreciate that the four directions are consistent and everlasting and that each individual has a central perspective to these directions

Skills/Applications: 

  • To physically identify the Four Cardinal Directions
  • To physically demonstrate the movement of the sun
  • To navigate the internet with some measure of control

Subject Strand Links

  • Geography
  • Natural Science
  • Astronomy

Strategy

  1. Take students to a place in an open area outside the school (yard or field).  Ask if they know which direction they live in.  Have them point in that direction.  Ask them to look at the sun.  Which way is the sun facing in the morning?  Explain that this is the East.  Where is it in the evening?  Explain this is the West.  Ask who knows what the other directions are called – point them out.  Explain South and North.  Each of us is at the centre of these directions.
  2. Explain that Aboriginal people have traditional teachings to share, given to them thousands of years ago and passed down through the generations.  Tradition is knowledge or ways of doing things that are taught by older people - or Elders - who have worked and studied many years with Elders that came before them to understand the traditions.  Aboriginal elders teach that the four directions are very special and very important, not just to them, but to everyone - because all of us share these same four directions no matter where we are: at home, at school, in doors or outdoors.  The four directions never change.  Aboriginal traditions see the four directions as sacred, because each direction gives us special gifts.  So they teach that we must always respect the four directions and the gifts they bring.  What is respect?
  3. Have the class face East together.  What is the gift of the East?  What comes from the East that we need?  Explain that this is the direction where the sun comes up every day.  Why is the sun important to us?  The sun’s light gives us warmth and makes our plants and foods grow; we need the sun for our physical survival.  What is survival?  What colour is the sun?  Yellow: a colour that the Ojibwe people use to represent the East.  Now turn together to the south, in the direction that the sun moves.  Explain that this is the direction the sun passes each and every day, year after year.  The sun gets hotter in the south, which is represented among the Ojibwe by the colour red.  Now turn to face West together.  Explain that this is where the sun goes down and night comes, represented among the Ojibwe by the colour black.  Now turn to face North together.  Explain that this is where a new day gets ready to be born.  North is represented among the Ojibwe by the colour white.  Explain that Ojibwe elders teach that these directions and colours are sacred, and are remembered in their prayers.
  4. Face East again, and the cycle is complete. Did we change our position?  No, we stayed in the centre, because we are always in the centre.  Even if we move left or right, we are always in the middle of the four directions.  So this is important to remember according to traditional teachings because it reminds us that we are connected to the four directions.  We cannot escape them.  They are part of us and we are part of them.  Return to class.
  5. Show a picture of a Medicine Wheel to the class to generate discussion (see links below). Who knows what this is?  What is this called?  Where does it come from?  Show a modern representation of a Medicine Wheel.  What do the colours represent?  Why is it called a Medicine Wheel?  What is medicine?  We use medicine to heal us; it is good for us; it keeps us strong and healthy.  This looks like a wheel because it is round and each part is the same size.  The Ojibwe and other Aboriginal people have used the Medicine Wheel as a symbol for generations, to remember and respect the Four Directions and the good things that the sun and the seasons bring us every day.  Explain a little bit more about Medicine Wheels from the Teacher Summary above.
  6. Now ask students to identify the Four Directions in the classroom.  Put up a yellow sheet on the eastern wall.  Put up a red sign in the south; a black sign in the west; and a white sign in the north.  Explain these are colours used by the Ojibwe.  Other Aboriginal groups use different colours.
  7. Explain that Lillian Pitawanakwat is an elder and has traditional teachings to share with the students about the Ojibwe Medicine Wheel. 
  8. Visit www.fourdirectionteachings.com together as a class to read the Elder biography to the class.
  9. Individually or in pairs, have students listen to Lillian’s teaching on the East.
  10. On paper, have students draw a large circle.  Draw four quadrants.  Colour the first quadrant on the right in yellow.  Label it “East.” Ask, “What else does Lillian say the East represents?  Spring, when new life begins and flowers begin to grow.”  Label the yellow quadrant in the drawing “spring.”
  11. Individually or in pairs have students listen to Lillian’s teaching on the South.  Colour the second (bottom) quadrant in red.  Label it “South”.  Which season does south represent?  Summer, when flowers have grown and are in full bloom.  Label the quadrant “summer.”
  12.  Individually or in pairs have students listen to Lillian’s teaching on the West.  Colour the third quadrant on the left in black.  Label it “West.”  Which season does west represent?  Fall, when flowers die.  Label the quadrant “fall.”
  13.  Individually or in pairs have students listen to Lillian’s teaching on the North.  Colour the last (upper) quadrant in white.  Label it “North”. Which season does north represent?  Winter, when plants rest and the ground is covered in snow.  Label the north quadrant “winter.”
  14. Wrap up the lesson with a guided reading of the summary above and select from optional exercises below.

 

Optional Exercises:

  • Find Manitoulin Island, the Elder’s community, on a map of Ontario.  Who knows where Manitoulin Island is?  Who has visited there?
  • Identify additional symbols of the seasons to add to the drawings.
  • Research the vocabulary words in a dictionary and study the meanings.
  • Find creative ways to craft Medicine Wheels using hoops, coloured cloth, leather, paints, yarn, etc.
  • Identify the relationship between the Four Directions and the Four Sacred Colours of the Medicine Wheel.
  • Invite an Aboriginal elder to the class to discuss the Medicine Wheel from his/her perspective.
  • Take the class to visit a planetarium to demonstrate how Earth’s orbit around the sun creates the seasons, and how the circle or wheel is evident in many ways, such as the shapes of the Earth and Sun, and the orbits of the Earth and moon.
  • Visit related websites that explain the solar system and the changing of the seasons from a scientific perspective (see links below).

Vocabulary

  • Tradition
  • Sacred
  • Direction
  • Survival
  • Respect
  • Medicine
  • Wheel

Materials Required

  • 4 large coloured sheets of paper for the walls (yellow, red, black, white)
  • Markers, crayons or paint, and paper for four-coloured Medicine Wheel drawing
  • Other arts and crafts materials, if available, for more elaborate Medicine Wheel models (hoops, coloured cloth, paint, yarn, leather, etc.)

Evaluation

  1. Teacher observation of students’ ability to grasp concepts of directions and relationships to seasons and colours
  2. Worksheets for the identification of colours and directions
  3. Tests for correct spelling of vocabulary terms
  4. Participation in discussions and demonstrated understanding of key concepts

Additional Resources

Truth, Self and Identity

Aboriginal Education should not be seen as a single activity, or a token preservation of folkways.

Aboriginal Education is more than Beads to Bannock, Aboriginal education must be woven throughout the curriculum.

Teachers must be sensitive and aware to the loss and grieving that is historically and politically a significant part of the Aboriginal student’s lives.

Teaching resides in the distance travelled between the head and the heart.

Develop political consciousness in the very young students. Combine critical challenge with issue of importance to Aboriginal students and their communities.

A critical investigative attitude deploys skills such as inference, direct observation, or identifying bias and angles of vision.

Critical challenges help non-Aboriginal learners develop a new appreciation for indigenous sources of knowledge and to discern how the truth is portrayed to the media.

The ability to relocate: this involves being able to question one’s own cultural background.

Seeing the act of teaching as a journey toward learning in itself. Becoming aware of the privilege that participation in a dominant literacy confers.

 

Residential Schools: A White Perspective

Mr Christopher Sumpton (Alert Bay Documentary) 

St. Michael's Indian Residential School in Alert Bay, B.C., a relic of the shameful attempt to eradicate the students' "Indianness", explored.

 

 

Native Residential Schools of Canada

Expression of art through a slideshow. The real feelings of Residential Schools. Viewer discretion, this video is disturbing.

Indigenous Peoples in the Canadian Residential Schools: RISE (Clip)

We meet with two residential school survivors as they share the harrowing experiences they endured as children forced to attend the government-run schools while separated from their families.

Stolen Children | Residential School survivors speak out

How Residential Schools affected survivors and their children and grandchildren.

UNREPENTANT: Canada's Residential Schools Documentary

This award winning documentary reveals Canada's darkest secret - the deliberate extermination of indigenous (Native American) peoples and the theft of their land under the guise of religion. This never before told history as seen through the eyes of this former minister (Kevin Annett) who blew the whistle on his own church, after he learned of thousands of murders in its Indian Residential Schools.

We Were Children (preview)

Warning: this film contains disturbing content and is recommended for audiences 16 years of age and older. Parental discretion, and/or watching this film within a group setting, is strongly advised. If you need counselling support, please contact Health Canada.

In this feature film, the profound impact of the Canadian government’s residential school system is conveyed through the eyes of two children who were forced to face hardships beyond their years. As young children, Lyna and Glen were taken from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools, where they suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the effects of which persist in their adult lives. We Were Children gives voice to a national tragedy and demonstrates the incredible resilience of the human spirit.

Basil Ambers - St Michael's Residential School

 

Hereditary Chief Basil Ambers recounts his early experience at St Michael's Residential School located in Albert Bay, BC. 

Global Education Video Resources

The Legacy is an 8 min video that illustrates through archival pictures and song the Residental School era from 1898 to the 1960's.