Aboriginal Education

Participants in this gathering will be engaged in activities that demonstrate the philosophical premises of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit approaches to education. It invites participants to reflect on the history of formal education in Canada and its influence on the experience of Aboriginal teachers, learners, and communities. The gathering will close with a discussion of success stories and ways forward.

To view any of the resources listed below, click on the highlighted title.


The following articles and website informed the activities of the Aboriginal Education gathering.

"The truth telling and reconciliation process as part of an overall holistic and comprehensive response to the Indian Residential School legacy is a sincere indication and acknowledgement of the injustices and harms experienced by Aboriginal people and the need for continued healing. This is a profound commitment to establishing new relationships embedded in mutual recognition and respect that will forge a brighter future. The truth of our common experiences will help set our spirits free and pave the way to reconciliation."


  • St. Denis, V. (2010). A study of Aboriginal teachers professional knowledge and experience in Canadian Schools. Canadian Teachers' Federation: Ottawa, ON.

    A report initiated by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, exploring the professional knowledge and experiences of Aboriginal teachers. The rationale was to address the urgent need to improve and promote Aboriginal education in public schools with a focus on four areas: Aboriginal teachers’ professional knowledge and experience, philosophy of teaching, integrating Aboriginal content and perspectives into the curriculum, and racism in education and allies of Aboriginal education.

  • Centre for the Study of Living Standards. (2010). Investing in Aboriginal Education in Canada: An economic perspective. Author: Ottawa, ON. 

    This report is a summary of research done by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS) on the economic impacts of improving levels of Aboriginal education.  A brief review of available evidence indicates that increasing educational attainment for Aboriginal Canadians holds importance for the future of the economy, closing the education gap, and decreasing government spending and revenues. The benefits of Aboriginal education include higher earnings; social returns in the form of economic growth; improved individual health; intergenerational effects in child development, health, and education; non-market external benefits including reduced criminal activity and social benefits associated with taxation; and better labour market outcomes.

Supplemental Articles

  • Caledon Institute of Social Policy. (2006). Aboriginal peoples and post-secondary education in Canada. Author: Ottawa, ON. 

    A diagnostic report that provides an accurate picture of the state of educational outcomes for Aboriginal people as it stands now and suggests what should be the focus for the future. The report presents the basic demographics of the Aboriginal identity population and a picture of PSE levels for Aboriginal Canadians compared to those of the general population. The author discusses the capacity that would be required in the post-secondary system for Aboriginal people to achieve parity with the overall population and what would be required in respect to educational attainment. It concludes with a number of recommendations arising from the findings in each section. The report emphasizes that improved educational outcomes result in better social conditions for Aboriginal peoples and furnish a source of much-needed skilled workers to fuel future economic prosperity. 

  • Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. (2004). Aboriginal peoples and post-secondary education: What educators have learned. Author: Montreal, QC. 

    A qualitative study examining Aboriginal post-secondary education through the eyes of stakeholders working in the field, describing practices and initiatives believed to help increase enrolment and completion rates for Aboriginal post-secondary students.  These include the Post-Secondary Student Support Program; access programs that offer transition, support and guidance; community delivery; Aboriginal control of education; partnerships between Aboriginal communities and mainstream educational institutions; and student support that addresses Aboriginal needs.  The paper discusses formidable barriers for Aboriginal participation in post-secondary, which include socio-economic factors; subtle barriers such as discrimination, low self-concept, and institutional insensitivity to Aboriginal cultures; inadequate high school preparation; a struggle to balance education with family responsibilities, and a history of forced assimilation through educational institutions.

  • Gabriel Dumont Institute. (2011). Bridging the Aboriginal education gap in Saskatchewan. Author: Saskatoon, SK. 

    A report that demonstrates the financial rate of return for education is greater for Aboriginal peoples.  The document outlines what it would take to bridge the Aboriginal education gap as well as the individual monetary and non-monetary, and social benefits of doing so.  The author presents the compelling case that improving Aboriginal education attainment will result in a made-in-Saskatchewan boom that will have greater performance, as Saskatchewan is wasting $16.2 billion in lifetime earnings as a consequence of the Aboriginal education gap.

  • Kirkness, V. J. & Barnhardt, R. (1991). First Nations and higher education: The four R's—respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility. Journal of American Indian Education30(3), 1-15. 

    Kirkness and Barnhardt address the issue of the underrepresentation of American Indian, First Nations, and Native people amongst college and university graduates in Canada and the United States (US).  The authors assert that institutions have typically placed the onus for adjustment on the student, while the student emphasizes how the institution needs to respect them for who they are, consider the relevance of their view of the world, offer reciprocity in their relationships with others, and help students exercise responsibility over their own lives.  The paper examines the different perspectives and ways in which initiatives within and outside of existing institutions are transforming the landscape of higher education for First Nations and American Indian people in both Canada and the US.  By and large, Canadian and US universities do not yet provide a hospitable environment that attracts and holds First Nations students at a satisfactory rate.

  • Saskatchewan Education. (1998). Diverting the Mainstream: Aboriginal Teachers Reflect on their Experiences in the Saskatchewan Provincial School System. Author: Regina, SK. 

    The report is based on the results of interviews undertaken by five female researchers using a naturalistic methodology, conducted with 28 Aboriginal men and women who have taught in Saskatchewan provincial schools.  Interviews generated rich narratives of participants’ learning and working realities in cross-cultural environments.  The report emphasized issues and concerns of intercultural communication, school climate, perceived roles of Aboriginal teachers, curriculum development and implementation, recruiting and placement practices, and the importance of an implementation plan.

  • Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. (2009). Inspiring success: Building towards student achievement (First Nations and Métis Policy Framework). Author: Regina, SK. 

    The report refers to the First Nations and Métis Education Policy Framework, which intends to build capacity and achieve transformational change within the provincial education system with the goal of supporting significant improvement in student achievement for all learners.  The report explains the issues and opportunities in the provincial context, which include a historical, a moral, and economic imperative, as well as a demographic shift. The report also outlines the Foundational Understandings for First Nations and Métis Education, which include First Nations and Métis ways of knowing, Indigenous knowledge, the Conceptual Framework of the White Birch Tree combined with the Medicine Wheel, four goals and vision of the policy framework, and strategies for achieving framework goals. 

  • Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. (2010). Provincial panel on student achievement: Executive summary. Author: Regina, SK.  

    A government report established by a panel comprised of Minister of Education officials, school board members, K-12 teachers, educational administrators, university academics, First Nations and Métis authorities, and other educational leaders, with the aim to provide recommendations for improving student achievement in Saskatchewan. The Panel’s mandate enabled it to recommend new initiatives and eliminate programs that are redundant and ineffective.  The recommendations that resulted in the collaboration were to ensure the implementation of a provincial culture of learning encompassing six foundational components: First Nations and Métis education, community engagement, early learning and child care, sustainable learning organizations, effective practices, and equity for all students.