May 07

Wiidookaadying Gikinoomaagewin: Gindaaswin Kendaaswin Conference highlights importance of relationships when engaging Indigenous knowledge

Dr. Ruth Beatty addresses delegates during the opening of the conference
Danielle Blair leads one of the many sessions focusing on Indigenous traditions
A delegate mathematically plans the pattern ahead of looming a bracelet
A delegate uses Pythagorean theorem to find the maximum capacity of a rectangular prism

This past weekend, Lakehead University hosted the Wiidookaadying Gikinoomaagewin: Gindaaswin Kendaaswin – Relationships and Reciprocity: Indigenous Education and Mathematics Conference at its Orillia campus.

For three days, classroom educators, educational leaders, professors and ministry officials participated in hands-on workshops and facilitated conversations to work towards fostering mutually respectful relationships by integrating Indigenous discourse and practices into the process of knowledge discovery and dissemination. Participants were encouraged to think about how they might deepen or form reciprocal relationships with Indigenous Elders, artists, and educators by focusing on math education.

Organized by Lakehead University’s Ruth Beatty (Associate Professor, Faculty of Education) and a dedicated team of community members and educators from across the province, the conference highlighted several examples of engaging Indigenous knowledge through research carried out with Indigenous community partners.

The projects featured in the conference’s workshops demonstrated how Indigenous knowledge systems can further enhance our conception of reconciliation through education. Workshop leaders shared the experiences and lessons learned in a multi-year study that was founded on working with community, which resulted in culturally responsive approaches to instruction, and learning about conducting classroom-based Indigenous education research.

The conference also featured two keynote addresses. Lisa Lunney Borden, Associate Professor of mathematics education at St. Francis Xavier University, shared what she has learned as a classroom teacher and researcher of equitable education. Lisa inspired the auditorium full of educators by explaining how she is decolonizing mathematics education through culturally-based practices and experiences that are rooted in Aboriginal languages and knowledge systems.

Colinda Clyne, First Nation Métis Inuit Curriculum Lead for the Upper Grand District School Board, and Pam Agawa, Vice-Principal at Keswick High School and former First Nation Métis Inuit Curriculum Coordinator for the York Region Board of Education, spoke about the importance of building strong, trusting relationships between educational professionals and Indigenous communities. They also spoke of the challenges educators may face when working in current educational systems. Together, they are connecting Elders and knowledge keepers with educators and students, and implementing strategies to improve Indigenous student well-being and academic success.

The Robertson Program appreciates the invitation to be a part of this inclusive learning experience. As we continue to find new ways to make math accessible to all children, we value the opportunity to learn from those engaging in work to improve mathematics education and work towards reconciliation with Indigenous communities in Canada. We thank all of the conference organizers, especially Ruth Beatty, our ongoing collaborator and supporter of our work.


Hairbone Pipe Bracelets
Christina Ruddy, Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation

Jody Alexander, Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation
Danielle Blair, Provincial Mathematics Lead with the Ontario Ministry of Education
Participants explored the cultural significance of hairbone pipe bracelets, along with early mathematical concepts that included proportional and multiplicative reasoning, patterning, symmetry, and algebraic thinking.
Circular Beaded Medallions
Naomi Smith, First Nation Artisan and Educator

Colinda Clyne, Curriculum Lead for First Nations, Métis and Inuit education, Upper Grand District School Board
Mike Fitzmaurice, Teacher, Eganville District Public School
Participants learned from artist Naomi Smith how to design a medallion and the appropriate bead techniques to bring their design to life.  The group investigated the complex mathematics inherent in creating circular beaded medallions.
Bead Looming and Patterning
Leslie-Anne Muma, Treasurer, Grand River Métis Council

Jennifer Parkinson, President, Grand River Métis Council
Bonnie Sears, Instructional Coach, Upper Grand District School Board
Participants learned the principles of Métis design interpreted in Anishinaabe loomwork and how it supports the development of mathematical concepts, such as measurement, proportional reasoning, and patterning.
Looming and Anishinaabemowin
Robin Debassige, Teacher, Lakeview School, M’Chigeeng First Nation

Thecla Neganegijig, Curriculum Designer, Lakeview School, M’Chigeeng First Nation
Heather Lett, Teacher, Renfrew County District School BoardDuring this workshop, the group examined connections between Anishinaabemowin and mathematical concepts. Using looming, we explored two-dimensional transformations.
Birch Bark Basket Making
Anika Guthrie, Indigenous Education Resource Teacher, Lakehead District School Board

Elliott Cromarty, Indigenous Education Resource Teacher, Lakehead District School Board
Kris Sandberg, Teacher at McKellar Park Central SchoolParticipants learned how to make a wiigwas makak, the processes for harvesting and preparing materials, and some important cultural teachings. Mathematics inherent in this traditional technology and design includes surface area, volume, capacity, measurement, and proportional reasoning.
Métis Finger Weaving
Nathalie Bertin, Métis Artist with maternal roots in the Nipissing region of French, Métis and Algonquin ancestry

Ruth Beatty, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Lakehead University
The newest area of mathematical exploration for the researchers behind this conference, partipants learned from artist Nathalie Bertin about the significance of the Métis sash. Together, the group uncovered the potential of finger weaving to teach patterns and spatial reasoning.
Cultural Mindfulness
George Couchie, Nipissing First Nation, cultural mindfulness facilitator, Former Ontario Provincial Police Officer
George Couchie led learners in a learning circle where participants explored Indigenous ways of knowing, culture, histories and perspective. Participants were encouraged to share knowledge and understanding in order to work together towards reconciliation.


Wiidookaadying Gikinoomaagewin: Gindaaswin Kendaaswin Organizing Team
Ruth Beatty, Lakehead University

Christina Ruddy, The Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation
Colinda Clyne, Upper Grand District School Board
Jody Alexander, Ottawa Carleton District School Board
Anika Guthrie, Lakehead District School Board
Robin Debassige, M’Chigeeng First Nation
Thecla Neganegijig, M’Chigeeng First Nation
Pamala Agawa, York Region District School Board
Nathalie Bertin, Métis Artist
Bonnie Sears, Upper Grand District School Board
Danielle Blair, Ways of Knowing Education Consulting
Michael Fitzmaurice, Renfrew County District School Board
Heather Lett, Renfrew County District School Board
Linda Grant, Lakehead University
Paul Minichiello, Lakehead University
Sarah Lorincz, Lakehead University

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