In October 2018, more than 150 educators gathered in Treaty #3 Territory (Fort Frances, Ontario) for the Gaa-izhi-izhitwaawaad anishinaabeg: Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Conference, a collaboration among Seven Generations Education Institute, Rainy River District School Board, the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study’s Robertson Program and Natural Curiosity. The three-day conference coincided with Dagwaaginimaawindoosijigewin (Fall Harvest), giving educators, policy makers and academics an opportunity to make meaningful connections, experience the collaborative work taking place in Treaty #3, and build relationships with the shared goal of improving teaching within a framework of reconciliation and reciprocal learning.
Our conference began at Seven Generations Education Institute’s Nanicost Complex where emcee Carissa Copenace welcomed all the guests to Treaty #3 Territory.
The conference began in a Good Way with the feasting of Treaty#3 and Feasting the Drum ceremony. Robert Horton gave a powerful talk on treaties, highlighting the great chiefs who had the foresight to include education as an important promise. Robert stressed the importance of understanding that Treaties, as the foundation upon which Canada was built, must be honoured in moving forward to redress injustices. Elder Doris Caribou offered words in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) as she feasted the drum and Treaty #3. Seven Gens CEO Brent Tookenay spoke of the importance of moving forward together on a path of reconciliation, acknowledging the diverse group gathered at the feasting ceremony.
Guests then travelled to Mine Centre Public School (Rainy River District School Board) where we were greeted with a delicious lunch. Thank you to Barbe Dennis, Heather Campbell and Bob Kowal for organizing this event and meal and the buses.
We toured the school’s outdoor classroom – or “Camp,” as the students call it. Tour guides from Kindergarten to Grade 2 led guests through the forest and open areas of their outdoor space, pointing out features of interest which highlighted their knowledge, as well as their personal favourite spots. Special thanks to Kindergarten Teacher Marge Hale, Early Childhood Educator Sarah Empey and Educational Support Professional Glenda Potson (Seine River First Nation) for organizing the tour and making our guests feel so welcome. Principal Barbe Dennis also led a school tour followed by a Q&A. The halls and classrooms of this beautiful school were abuzz with energy and learning. Barbe spoke about how the school embraces the many cultures found within its community. Haley Higdon and Rosa Na built on the group’s experience in the outdoor camp by offering a wonderful introduction to the new edition of Natural Curiosity.
Participants could not stop talking about their visit. They were especially impressed and inspired by the striking confidence and knowledge displayed by these young children as they toured the adults through their camp. It was also a treat to see the thoughtfully assembled and culturally responsive curriculum displays in the library. Visiting Mine Centre School was a remarkable learning experience for each and every guest – seeing the wonderful work with students and families that established culturally responsive teaching and learning as a clear priority. Chi miigwech!
Next, we headed to Nigigoonsiminikaanging First Nation where community member/RRDSB Ojibwe Language Coordinator Jason Jones led a tour that included the brand new community centre, the beautiful pow wow grounds and the gymnasium where we were treated to a delicious fish fry. What an amazing experience to be invited into this beautiful, vibrant community. Chi miigwech to Jason and everyone from Nigigoonsiminikaning First Nation!
Our second day again began at the nearby Nanicost Complex where delegates took part in Dagwaaginimaawindoosijigewin (Fall Harvest), an annual Seven Generations Education Institute event that brings elementary students from the surrounding area to participate in activities that have long sustained the Anishinaabeg, land and wildlife of the Treaty #3 area. What an honour to be in the presence of Elders and knowledge keepers as they shared their expertise and modelled exemplary teaching in many areas.
Have a look at the photos below to see our delegates learning how to harvest wild rice, properly fillet fish and build a structure to smoke it, learning about the significance and purpose of the drum, hearing traditional stories, learning about traditional medicines, and hearing from a Residential School survivor. Each station is facilitated by elders and knowledge keepers from the surrounding First Nations, as well as Métis Senators along with representatives from the local Métis office. Chi miigwech to everyone at Seven Generations for organizing another successful Fall Harvest and for welcoming all of our delegates into this unforgettable learning experience.
In the afternoon, four workshops were held at La Place Rendezvous Hotel and Conference Centre. Our delegates had the choice between four dynamic workshops:
|Studying Water: Exploring issues of social justice through math, science and mapping, presented by OISE’s Robertson Program Founding Director Bev Caswell and Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board Native Language teacher Liz Osawamick||Culture across Crossroads, presented by Crossroads Public School Vice-Principal Sharla MacKinnon and Native Language and Cultural teacher Sandra Smith||Natural Curiosity: The Importance of Indigenous Perspectives in Children’s Environmental Inquiry, presented by Natural Curiosity Director Haley Higdon and Program Coordinator Rosa Na||Anishinaabemowin and Exploring 2-Dimensional Transformations in Looming, presented by Lakehead University’s Ruth Beatty and Lakeview School Grade 2/3 Teacher Robin Debassige|
In the evening, the conference hosted a public lecture at the Townshend Theatre in Fort Frances High School. Our inspiring keynote speaker for the evening was Kevin Lamoureux, former Education Lead of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
|Natural Curiosity Director Haley Higdon presents Keynote Speaker Kevin Lamoureaux with a copy of Natural Curiosity’s second edition following his talk on reconciliation||Morning Keynote Speaker Lisa Lunney Borden receives a standing ovation from delegates following her talk on culturally responsive mathematical learning||Our language panel, led by Seven Generations’ own Carissa Copenace, take to the stage to share their personal stories and beliefs on language revitalization in Canada|
Day Three of the conference began with a rousing keynote address delivered by Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden, the John Jerome Paul Chair for Equity in Math Education at St. FX University in Nova Scotia. Lisa gave an overview of her collaborative work in culturally responsive math education programs in Cape Breton-area Mi’kmaw communities. For Lisa, relationship building with communities is at the heart of good practice and key to any successful educational endeavour. She shared a word that she learned from Elders in the local Mi’kmaw community: “mawikinutimatimk”, which, loosely translated, means “coming together to learn” and implies that “everyone comes to the table with gifts and talents to share – everyone has something that they can learn. It conjures an image of a community of learners working in a circle where all members are equally important and necessary”.
Lisa also shared some great math teaching ideas that resulted from this work. Her talk brought the audience to their feet – thank you, Lisa, for joining us in Treaty #3 and for inspiring us all to work together to create a better educational system for our students and the communities we serve.
Check back soon for a video of Lisa’s presentation.
Day 3 also featured a language revitalization panel with educators who shared insights on best practices and the importance of Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe Language) education. We sincerely thank the participants for sharing their personal stories and knowledge on language revitalization: Carissa Copenace (Seven Generations), Brigitte Neganigwane (Seven Generations), Stuart Kabatay (Seven Generations), Sherry Mattson (KPRDSB), Liz Osawamick (KPRDSB), Marjolaine LaPointe (KPRDSB), Jason Jones (RRDSB) and Shannon King (RRDSB).
Watch our language revitalization panel at the bottom of this blog post.
Our day also included the following workshops:
|How an elementary school responded to the TRC’s Calls to Action
Presented by JICS Kindergarten Teacher Carol Stephenson, JICS Grade 1 Teacher Zoe Donoahue, JICS Vice-Principal Chriss Bogert, JICS Librarian Krista Spence Robertson Program Founding Director Bev Caswell, Robertson Program Interim Director Julie Comay and Robertson Program Research Consultant Joan Moss
|Wampum belts and looming
Presented RRDSB STEM Coordinator Brad Gushulak, RRDSB Indigenous Education Coordinator/Donald Young School Vice-Principal Pam King, and RRDSB Indigenous Education Coordinator Christa Gibson
|Introduction to Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language)
Presented by RRDSB Ojibwe language teacher Jason Jones
|Indigenous Knowledge and Mathematics – Learning from the Land
Presented by Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board Indigenous Education Consultant Jodie Williams and Bill Morrison, Credit River Métis community member (former councillor, vice-president/chair, and senator)
|Mathematical hands: Indigenizing a pre-service elementary mathematics course
Presented by Trent University School of Education and Professional Learning Senior Lecturer Claire Mooney and Trent University Indigenous Bachelor of Education coordinator Bobby Henry
|School and Community Collaboration: Creating safe spaces to promote student leadership and learning
Presented by Northwest Catholic District School Board Indigenous Education Lead Michelle Tymkin and Northwest Catholic District School Board Student Success Lead Brad Oster
Finally, our conference concluded with a wonderful talk by Maurice Switzer, author of We are all Treaty People. Maurice talked about deeply rooted systems of knowledge and ways of seeing that are held by Indigenous peoples. He brought replicas of the Treaty of Niagara Wampum Belts to share with the crowd, pointing out that the more-than-150-year-old belts have constitutional significance for Canada and represent a formal agreement in working together and sharing resources. Maurice spoke of the importance of working together and understanding treaties to make reconciliation possible. Chi miigwech to Maurice for being part of our conference for the second year in a row – your insights are a gift to us all.
Delegates attended from the following organizations and communities:
|Atikokan Native Friendship Centre
Bimose Tribal Council (Migisi School)
Confederation College, Thunder Bay
Conseil scolaire catholique de district des Grandes Rivières
Credit River Métis Community
Ottawa Catholic District School Board
Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
Earth Day Canada
EcoSuperior Environmental Programs
Halton District School Board
Ignite the Spirit of Education Foundation Inc
Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board
Keewatin-Patricia District School Board
Lakehead Public School Board
Lakehead University, Thunder Bay
Lakeview School, Sudbury
Learning Bird, Montreal
Métis Nation of Ontario
Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation
National Dong Hwa University of Taiwan
Natural Curiosity, JICS/OISE
Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation
Northwest Catholic District School Board
|Norval Outdoor School – Upper Canada College
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (University of Toronto)
Mikinaak Onigaming School (Onigaming First Nation)
Pegamigaabo School (Big Grassy First Nation)
Rainy River District School Board
School board Conseil Scolaire Catholique de District des Grandes Rivières
Seine River First Nation
Seven Generations Education Institute
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Studio 123 Early Learning Centre, Kenora, Ontario
Superior Greenstone District School Board
Superior North Catholic District School Board
Teach for Canada
The Northwest Catholic District School Board
The Robertson Program (JICS/OISE/University of Toronto)
Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
Toronto District School Board
University of Toronto
Upper Canada College
Upper Grand District School Board
Windigo Island School, Windigo Island First Nation
York Region District School Board
Special thanks to the organizers of the Gaa-izhi-izhitwaawaad anishinaabeg: Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Conference:
Heather Campbell (Director of Education, Rainy River District School Board)
Bob Kowal (Indigenous Education Leader, Rainy River District School Board, Seven Generations Education Institute)
Brent Tookenay (Chief Executive Officer, Seven Generations Education Institute)
Shelly Jones (First Nation Student Success Program Teacher, Seven Generations Education Institute)
Aimee Beazley (First Nation Student Success Program Teacher, Seven Generations Education Institute)
Bev Caswell, Ph.D. (Founding Director, Robertson Program, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE, University of Toronto)
Julie Comay, Ph.D. (Interim Director, Robertson Program, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE, University of Toronto)
Zachary Pedersen (Program Coordinator, Robertson Program, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE, University of Toronto)
Larisa Lam (Program Coordinator, Robertson Program, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE, University of Toronto)
Haley Higdon (Director, Natural Curiosity, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE, University of Toronto)
Rosa Na (Program Coordinator, Natural Curiosity, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE, University of Toronto)