Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Native Education

Just Do It: Anishinaabe Culture-Based Education

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Native Education

Just Do It: Anishinaabe Culture-Based Education

Article excerpt

In an attempt to meet the educational needs of Anishinaabe children and youth, innovative education must be created to specifically reflect Anishinaabe culture and Anishinaabe community realities. The Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin Cultural Healing and Learning Program was one of the very few off-reserve, culture-based educational spaces created for Anishinaabe children and youth in Canada.

This paper presents the project of visioning, designing, implementing, and evaluating the Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin Cultural Healing and Learning Program, located in Burleigh Falls, Ontario. An Anishinaabe medicine wheel construct is used throughout the study. A medicine wheel framework is employed in the design and implementation of the program. Additionally, the medicine wheel is used as a theoretical framework and methodology in the evaluation of the program. Methods used in the program evaluation consisted of sharing circles with students, parents, and Elders, followed by review circles to review the summaries and findings of the sharing circle discussions. Additionally, Elder observations and discussions occurred, along with individual interviews with parents, students, and teachers. The analysis of the data was organized around themes of programming; leadership and resources; school climate; healing and identity; and parents and community.

The creation of the Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin Cultural Healing and Learning Program represents a transformational educational site built for the self-determination of Anishinaabe people, in alignment with the Indian Control of Indian Education policy document of 1972. The program exists as a model for other off-reserve Anishinaabe communities to create culturally-based educational spaces for their children by "just doing it".


Boozhoo. Zongdekwe n'dizhinikaas. Makwa n'doodem. Kitigan Zibi n'doonjibaa. Anishinaabe-kwe n'deow. Greetings. My English name is Nicole Bell and I am Anishinaabe of the Bear Clan from Kitigan Zibi First Nation. I am dedicated to the healing that needs to be done in Anishinaabe communities and I have dedicated my life to that task, through protecting and raising up our children to be strong Anishinaabeg in spirit, mind, body, and heart, through the process of culture-based education.

The key to the future of any society lies in the transmission of its culture and worldview to succeeding generations. The socialization of children, through education, shapes all aspects of identity, instilling knowledge of the group's language, history, traditions, behavior, and spiritual beliefs. It is for this reason that Aboriginal people have placed such a high priority on ... the education of their children. (Barman, Hebert, & McCaskill, 1986, p. 1)

While Anishinaabe people may know that public schooling does not meet the cultural needs of their children, it is quite another thing to actually do something about it. It is so easy to get "stuck" in complaining, fear, feelings of inadequacies, and justifications, to the point that one feels it is someone else's responsibility to act. As a result, nothing gets done. I have been in this place. When I shared with Elder Vera Martin my dilemma as a parent with a child that no longer wanted to attend public school and was faced with the challenge of educating him at home while working and being a full-time student, Vera replied, "Nicole, you have been thinking and dreaming about creating a school long enough; it is time to 'just do it'". This paper addresses my attempts at "just doing it."

I created an Anishinaabe culture-based educational and healing space for Indigenous children and youth from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The goal of the program was for students to achieve an education academically comparable to the public education system, while learning about Anishinaabe culture and, therefore, developing a strong sense of identity and pride in self. The program is addressed in the past tense as it is no longer operational due to funding. …

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