Including Indigenous Perspectives While Learning at Home
Schools around the country are closing to allow families and staff to practice social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19. However, many parents and teachers are still searching for ways to create educational opportunities for their children and students. It can be difficult to come up with enough ideas to fill childrens’ time when there are limited opportunities for teachers and students to interact. Many parents are also juggling working from home with caring for their children.
It can be even more difficult for parents to integrate Indigenous ways of knowing and understanding the world into the few educational experiences that they are able to provide for their children. Some Indigenous educators are stepping up to help. They will be live streaming short lessons on the Think Indigenous – Online Indigenous Education K-8 Facebook page.
At Learning Bird, we wanted to do our part as well to offer ideas not only of how you can support parents in teaching their children at home, but also of how to help parents include Indigenous perspectives and content while doing so.
We have come up with a list of storybooks and novels that were all written by Indigenous authors. These are books that students can read themselves, or that parents can read to their children. You can direct parents to access these books through their local library’s online lending catalogue or through any local and regional online booksellers. No matter which grade you teach, you will find a book on this list that your students will enjoy and learn from.
In this book written by music artist, broadcaster, and politician, Wab Kinew and illustrated by Joe Morse, Wab gives examples of Indigenous heroes from both history and modern times. Some of these heroes are very well-known, while students and parents may be learning about others for the first time. This offers a wonderful opportunity to learn more about these heroes with slightly older children. Once students learn about these heroes, what else will they be able to find out about them?
Tundra Books has also prepared a Discussion Guide for this book that you can provide to your students’ parents to help guide them through talking about this book with their children.
The Thundermaker: Kaqtukowa’tekete’w by Alan Syliboy
In this storybook by Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy, Little Thunder learns about responsibility, tradition, and culture through teachings and stories. In this book, we see Little Thunder being taught both by his mother and his father. Suggest to parents that they talk about the importance of stories and learning new things with their children.
After students have read Little Thunder’s story, they can explore other books that Alan has written, or take a look at his artwork on his website.
What’s the Most Beautiful Thing you Know About Horses? By Richard Van Camp
This book written by Richard Van Camp and illustrated by George Littlechild takes students through a learning experience. When the main character wants to know about horses – he asks! He asks everyone he knows the question: What’s the most beautiful thing you know about horses? Not only will students get to see how different people hold different opinions and perspectives, but they will also learn what can come from questioning.
After parents read this book with their children, let parents know to encourage their children to ask questions. Remind parents that if they don’t know the answers, they can go on a learning adventure together to find the answers along with their children.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson
In this book by musician Robbie Robertson, hear the story of Hiawatha retold for younger audiences. Hiawatha was a warrior who convinced Iroquois nations to stop fighting and to unite. Through this message of peace he co-founded the Iroquois Confederacy. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about historical figures and events and the stories around them. After reading this book, suggest to parents and students that they explore more about the history of the Iroquois Confederacy – did you know the U.S. Constitution was inspired by the governance system developed by the Confederacy?
You can also suggest to parents that their children watch this book trailer by Abrams Books before reading the book to help generate interest and then ask them to make predictions.
The Chief: Mistahimaskwa by David A Robertson
In this graphic novel by David A Robertson, a young girl is transported into her book about Mistahimaskwa, the Cree Chief who played an important role during the 1885 Resistance in the Saskatchewan area. Sarah and readers will learn about this Cree hero at the same time, learning about traditions and life during the 19th Century for Indigenous Bands in the Prairies.
If this piqued students’ interest, you can suggest that students read some of the other books in this series: Tales from Big Spirit.
Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith
In this book, students will go on a journey towards reconciliation by reading the stories of residential school Survivors. Students will also hear about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and how their findings and Calls to Action are being put in place. Aimed at slightly older students, who are able to interact with this material in a deeper way, this book helps students to understand more about the impacts of the Residential School System.
This book will create a wonderful opportunity for parents to take this journey with their children, since there may be many new things to learn in this book for parents as well.
He Who Dreams by Melanie Florence
He Who Dreams, by Melanie Florence, is about a high-school student who struggles with his Indigenous identity and his desire to be a powwow dancer. Throughout the book, he finds ways to stand up for himself and participates in the activities that he loves.
This book is a great way to show realistic modern-day Indigenous experiences and realities while offering a way to talk about following your dreams, even if others make fun of you for it.
Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
Son of a Trickster is the first book in a trilogy by Eden Robinson. It follows a high school student who has problems at home, with his friends, and at school. It follows his journey to find the changes that he needs to make in his life, as well as his realization that his mother has been keeping a secret from him. This book is part of Canada Reads 2020.
If you’re looking for ways to support parents addressing the topics in this book with their children, suggest that they look at the materials published by CBC that accompany this book.
This Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm et. al.
This graphic novel anthology from Inidgenous authors retells moments in Canadian History with an Indigenous perspective and imagines what Indigeneity will be like in the future. The stories range from discussing Louis Riel, the Oka Crisis, to the Sixties Scoop.
Each story will result in different discussions parents can have with their children about history, the environment, and the ways that stories are told.
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Moon of the Crusted Snow, by writer and journalist Waubgeshig Rice is a slim post-apocalyptic novel that focuses on a small reserve in Northern Ontario and how they cope with losing contact with the rest of the country. The slow pace allows students to explore the characters in the novel and how they deal with the events happening around them.
If you would like to offer parents a way to support students in delving deeper into the themes found in this book, you can suggest they explore either this Book Club Guide by ECW Press or at these Educational Resources by York University.
If none of these books are to your students’ liking, you can explore the catalogues put together by the Association of Book Publishers of British Colombia. They have catalogues of Indigenous books for schools for each year from 2007 onward. Each catalogue lists the appropriate grade range as well as cross-curricular connections for each book entry.
Which books have you been recommending to your students? Who are some of your favourite Indigenous authors? Have you been coming up with other ways to continue including Indigenous perspectives as your students learn from home? Email us and let us know your strategies.