Cultural understanding and cultural expertise are approaches that have framed cultural teaching practices for many years. Although these approaches are valuable, they do not address historical and current political, social and economic forces that are the context for most teaching and learning experiences involving Aboriginal students.

Past and current practices of colonialism are practices that degrade or diminish the dignity, worth and potentials of Aboriginal peoples. Many Aboriginal peoples, scholars, researchers, and educators are using the concepts of cultural safety and decolonization as a framework to reveal the practices inherent in historical and current colonialism. One scholar described the process of uncovering practices as “unsettling the settler within—a practice that would move us from unconsciousness, racism, denial, and guilt about history to critical inquiry, and social action”. Recognizing the practices of colonialism offers greater hope of positive and progressive experiences for teachers and students. The following are several resources that describe, investigate, and offer ways in which teachers can integrate the concepts of cultural safety and decolonization into the classroom.

Cultural Safety Modules

The purpose of these modules is to provide a background and context to reflect on Aboriginal peoples’ experience of colonialism as they relate to health and health care. Although designed for health care professionals, these modules are valuable to all disciplines.

The creators of these modules recommend that individuals work through the modules in the following order:

Cultural Safety Module 1: Peoples Experience of Colonization

Explores the relationship between colonial history and health.

Cultural Safety Module 2: Peoples Experience of Oppression

Explores power and privilege, marginalization and oppression.

Cultural Safety Module 3: Peoples Experience of Colonization in Relation to Health Care

Explores Aboriginal peoples’ experiences of health, health care and healing.


“As I Am”  2010 NFB short documentary

This documentary is set to a poem written by Mohawk Janet Rogers that challenges stereotypes of aboriginal people.

First Peoples: A Guide for Newcomers aims to fill the need for clear information in simple language about the First Peoples in Vancouver.

This review investigates an essential, but not a simple, question – how does one understand Aboriginal arts which are created in the territory known as Canada?

An information resource on key topics relating to the histories, politics, and cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. This website was developed to support students in their studies, and to provide instructors, researchers and the broader public with a place to begin exploring topics that relate to Aboriginal peoples, cultures, and histories

Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society is an undisciplinary, peer-reviewed, online Open Access journal committed to supporting and advancing decolonization scholarship, practice, and activism within and, more importantly, beyond and against, the academy.

Aboriginal Protocols

Although similar protocols are observed within many Aboriginal communities, each community can differ in their traditions and protocols; therefore it is essential to explore the appropriate approach for each community with which you work.

The following resources provide a guide to understanding tradition and protocol in most Aboriginal communities.

-The Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia: Building Bridges Together Guide 
This is a resource guide developed in 2008 for intercultural work between aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people.

-The Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia: Building Bridges Together Workbook 
This is a workbook for Intercultural work between aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people that accompanies the resource guide.

-First Nations Education Steering Committee

The goal of this site is to improve education for all First Nations Learners in BC. It gives information on special education, youth programs, and parent and community involvement to name a few.


Frameworks for Teaching and Learning

What Educators Need to Know:

-An understanding of the history of the education of Aboriginal peoples explains the present and provides direction for the future.

-Aboriginal prehistory dates back thousands of years—“since time immemorial.”

-The maintenance of oral traditions is critical to Aboriginal peoples.

-Colonization has tried to systemically destroy Aboriginal cultures,languages, and traditions.

-Colonization is often found embedded in texts and pedagogy in the mainstream educational system, sometimes referred to as the “hidden curriculum”, creating a legacy of colonial constructs thatincludes stereotypes and racist attitudes.

-The legacy of the Residential School experience is multi-generational and survivors still suffer traumatic effects.

-The “Sixties Scoop” has compounded the effects of separation of children from families with consequences still felt today.

-Although decolonization is challenging deep-rooted Eurocentric attitudes and practices, the process is not complete.

The handbook is designed to be a brief overview for faculty providing insights into the unique educational, social, political and cultural context that Aboriginal students come from and to support faculty as they begin to indigenize their courses and programs.

Heads up – we need to talk about school. Specifically, we need to talk about Native students and the education system – what’s working, what isn’t working, and what we can change.

The lesson plans offer instructors guidelines by which to introduce students to a variety of topics, including colonialism, stereotypes, social responsibility, national languages, and local activist, artistic, and new media practices. Provided resources include texts (articles, essays, and short stories), images, worksheets, essay and discussion questions, and outlines for group activities. The guides are free to download in PDF format

What I Learned in Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom is a research project that explores difficult discussions of Aboriginal issues that take place in classrooms at the University of British Columbia. Students frequently report troubling and sometimes traumatic discussions of cultural issues in class.  These situations often affect their ability to function in their coursework, and even their ability to return to class.

Oftentimes, discussions of Aboriginal issues in the class
elicit strong emotions, including anger and frustration.
This creates an alienating classroom environment and
can act as a barrier to higher learning. This film and
resource guide work to improve the ways that cross-
cultural discussions occur in the classroom by asking the
questions: How does communication about Aboriginal
issues take place in the classroom? And how can it be

Residential Schools

Where are the Children?
This project was launched at the National Archives of Canada. Dedicated to the service of the nation’s identity, the Archives gathers what has been as an endowment to what will be. This project is an attempt to tell the true and painful story of a national institution committed, not to the preservation of a people, but to their forced assimilation.

Where are the Children? acknowledges that the era of silence is over. The resilience of Aboriginal people is evident in efforts to address the effects of unresolved trauma, thereby conferring upon future generations a renewed legacy of peace, strength, and well-being.

The Fallen Feather: Indian Industrial Residential Schools & Canadian Confederation

93 minute documentary that presents a description and analysis of the creation and development of the residential school system and the difficult, and painful legacy the people of this system left for First Nation’s generations.

Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.
Exhibition catalogue from the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery
(September 6-December 1, 2013).
With writing by Scott Watson, Geoffrey Carr and Chief Robert Joseph; edited by Scott Watson, Keith Wallace and Jana Tyner.

Culture & Property Rights & Protection

Things to know and questions to ask in order to avoid misappropriating Indigenous cultures

Library of Parliament: Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property Rights