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Best Practices for Including Aboriginal Peoples in the Curriculum

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

Focus on accuracy, authenticity, critically examine Eurocentrism, and the use of terminology and language by:


1. Ensuring the accuracy of information in your resources for bias and include time periods when referring to maps.

Inviting Aboriginal Elders, artists and storytellers from the Aboriginal community. Include Aboriginal authors and literature as well as videos and novels that represent authentic voices.

2. Looking for opportunities to enrich and broaden your knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal peoples by examining and challenging your own biases and assumptions and to ensure a balanced perspective is presented.

3. Using recommended and credible terminology when referring to Aboriginal peoples and use the term ‘nation’ rather than ‘tribe.’

4. Avoiding unreliable, outdated, stereotypical resources, maps, and references.

5. Avoiding materials that affirm “Imaginary Indian” stereotypes like Indian princess warriors and don’t appropriate Aboriginal culture items, such as eagle feathers, or make inclusions at a level that is tokenism.

6. Not calling attention to the faults and ignore the positive aspects of Aboriginal peoples by omitting or failing to mention relevant aspects that will ensure balance of perspectives.

7. Not using stereotypical images as “Braves” or “Redskins” as team mascots.

8. Not using primitive, stereotypical terminology or images of Aboriginal peoples (DSBN, 2015, pp. 34-36).


1. Do make cross-curricular connections by including Aboriginal experiences in science, art, music, language, as well as history, geography and social studies and teach students to deconstruct bias in learning resources while including circle teachings as part of classroom practice, discussion and instruction.

2. Do acknowledge and validate the contributions of Aboriginal peoples in both the past and within contemporary society, going beyond the inclusion of the toboggan and tipi, and include the wealth of knowledge about the environment, successful endeavors in contemporary times, e.g., architecture, agriculture, government, medicine, art, music and theatre.

3. Do ensure that Aboriginals have a past, present, and future. Acknowledge the strengths in adverse conditions and emphasize the need for self-determination of Aboriginal peoples to be respected.

4. Do acknowledge the diversity within any cultural group and their distinct and unique differences amongst Aboriginal nations, and ensure that the history of Aboriginal peoples reflects change over time and does not simply assign Aboriginal peoples to a place “frozen in time” in the distant past and invite Elders recommended by local friendship centers to speak in your classroom.

5. Do ensure that the study of Aboriginal peoples is rooted in contemporary times and helps students understand how the past led to the present realities.


1. Don’t limit inclusion to social studies and history. Don’t ignore stereotypes in learning resources. Don’t teach isolated units on Aboriginal peoples, First Nation, Metis, and Inuit perspectives, histories, cultures and worldviews.

2. Don’t speak of Aboriginal peoples and their cultures in the “primitive” category and represent them only in the past by selecting only artifact-based approaches to study them.

3. Don’t overuse generalizations and generic references, and avoid presenting Aboriginal peoples as “environmental saviors” or in other stereotypical ways.

4. Don’t use more general terms such as “Aboriginal peoples” or “Native” when the context calls for more specifically naming nations.

5. Don’t assume that all Aboriginal peoples interact with others in the same way.

6. Don’t assign “expert” knowledge of Aboriginal peoples and their cultures to someone just because s/he is an Aboriginal person in your classroom.

7. Don’t have the students create masks, Dream-catchers, or other sacred cultural objects except in context and in the presence of an Elder or Aboriginal teacher, and don’t conduct Aboriginal ceremonies without an Aboriginal Elder.

8. Don’t have students rewrite Aboriginal stories that have been passed down in the oral tradition as “cultural teachings” (DSBN, 2015, pp. 34-36).

A Sacred Journey: A Guide to Understanding and Supporting Aboriginal

Students. (2015). District School Board of Niagara Sacred Journey. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from content/uploads/2015/10/District_School_Board_of_Niagara_Sacred_Journey.pdf

Artwork by Holly McWilliams @

Coach Yanna

#teen-coaching #indigenous-history-month #teaching-practice

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