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Learn the Basics:
Indigenous Perspectives

This basic takes about 1 hour to explore.

The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada believes
that Indigenous knowledge is essential to the
understanding of issues facing a community.
Indigenous knowledge provides a holistic and
historical perspective unique to a community and is
always an integral part of any community mapping

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Important Terms
Important Terms



This refers to a process of deconstructing colonial ideologies and privilege associated with Western thoughts and approaches. It is dismantling structures that perpetuate the status quo and valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches.

Decolonization is the process of examining beliefs about Indigenous Peoples and culture by learning about yourself in relationship to the communities where you live and the people you interact with, and considering what we need to do to change these misconceptions.


“Reconciliation is not an aboriginal problem – it involves all of us.” - Chief Justice Murray Sinclair

This refers to addressing past wrongs committed against Indigenous Peoples, making amends, and improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

It takes work and commitment to repair a damaged relationship by apologizing, rebuilding trust, hearing each other’s stories, getting to know each other’s humanity, and taking concrete action to show that the relationship will change. For Indigenous Peoples,
reconciliation means revisiting experiences of trauma and becoming open to forgiveness. For settlers, this requires gaining in-depth understanding of one’s own relationship to Indigenous Peoples and the impacts of colonization. This includes recognizing
privilege and challenging dominant Western views and approaches.


Reconciliation is primarily a settler’s responsibility and decolonization must be led by Indigenous Peoples, although they cannot be acting alone. The emotional work of reconciliation is different from that of indigenization and decolonization which focus less on making amends and more on reconciling different


“[This] is the fundamental problem of cultural encounters. Shifting our perspectives to recognize that the Indigenous-West encounter is about thought may also remind us that frameworks or paradigms are required to reconcile the solitudes.” – Willie Ermine (2007).

For more information

Read Pete, Schneider, & O’Reilly’s (2013) article Decolonizing Our Practice, Indigenizing Our Teaching.

This is the process of naturalizing Indigenous knowledge systems and making them evident to transform spaces, places and hearts. These systems are embedded in relationships to land, culture, and

Indigenization does not mean changing something Western into something Indigenous. Indigenization can be understood as weaving or braiding together two distinct knowledge systems so that learners can come to understand and appreciate both. It is a
deliberate merging of these two ways of knowing.

Indigenous Community Engagement Practices
Indigenous Community Engagement Practices

When including authentic Indigenous Knowledge in your project, please remember to do the following:

  1. When approaching an Elder or Knowledge Keeper, bring traditional tobacco in a tie or a bundle. This is a traditional practice and is an important part of building relationships. Offering tobacco is understood as a contract or promise between yourself, the person you are meeting with, and the Creator. You can also mail tobacco if you are doing something virtually. The Elder will return the tobacco if they are unable to accept your request.

  2. Sitting with, and listening to, Elders and community members is important if you intend to support Indigenous People in your event, work, or community. It is also a good practice if you want information about a specific community.

  3. When sitting with an Elder, always ask permission before recording a conversation, whether it is digital or written. Cultural history, stories and contracts are often oral and passed down only through oral communication, so permission is key.

  4. Cultivating trust with the community and its members is important. Being genuine, open minded and present will help you develop these relationships. Consistency and transparency is important as it does not happen over night.

  5. Always ask the community what they think is most needed. Never assume that you know the community better than its members do.

  6. Traditionally, Indigenous people believe there is equal balance/importance between people, animals and earth. All have a spirit and all are valued equally. Listen to teachings and stories the community shares about their land to learn more about the roles things in their environment play in their lives.

  7. Understand that Indigenous Knowledge is not stuck in the past, but remains current and relevant. Find a place of mutual understanding and respect.

  8. Most importantly, remember that each Indigenous community is different. The best course of action is to ask how to work together. No two communities have exactly the same language, traditions, protocols, or practices. The people you meet are willing and open to sharing, provided you are open to hearing the answers.

For more information

Online Resources
Use these resources to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into the activities in this guide:

Aboriginal Affairs – First Nations Interactive Map

Department of Canadian Heritage – Four Directions Teachings

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