Seven Sacred Teachings

Key Understandings

The Seven Sacred Teachings, also known as the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, is a set of teachings on human conduct towards others. They are what was traditionally and still is to this day needed in order for communities to survive.

Classrooms today represent a microcosm of our rich and diverse society. Alberta schools are dynamic environments that emphasize high standards, and respect and safety, yet these elements cannot be taken for granted. This guide is intended to facilitate conversation and provide strategies on how to best support all students with a continuous focus on positive character attributes that can help build classrooms where students are ready to learn and teachers are able to teach.

While we recognize that not all First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures and histories recognize The Seven Sacred Teachings or the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers our intention is to be as inclusive as possible.

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The Seven Sacred Teachings

To cherish knowledge is to know WISDOM;

To know LOVE is to know peace;

To honor all of the Creation is to have RESPECT;

BRAVERY is to face the foe with integrity;

HONESTY also means “righteousness”, be honest first with yourself – in word and action;

HUMILITY is to know yourself as a sacred part of the Creation,

TRUTH is to know all of these things.

Using the Seven Sacred Teachings in Classrooms and Schools

Each of the Seven Sacred Teachings honours the virtues necessary for a full and healthy life. Each of the Teachings is embodied by an animal to underscore the point that all actions and decisions made by man are manifest on a physical plain. The animal world taught man how to live close to the earth; the connection that has been established between the animal world and the world of man instills a respect for all life in those who follow the traditional way.

How do we transmit an appreciation for these values in a meaningful way to students? Explore five different ways to incorporate the Seven Teachings below.

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Connecting to character and citizenship education
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Ideas for partnering between grade levels
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Ideas for developing school-wide themes
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Focusing on desired student behaviours
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Ideas for teaching

Connecting to character and citizenship education 

  • Link the Seven Sacred Teachings to “big ideas” of character and citizenship education, such as character, community, cooperation, courage, fairness, friendship, honour, respect, interdependence, justice, loyalty, commitment, responsibility, sharing and love.
  • Provide a space in the school or classroom that highlights “Everyday Teachings” and celebrates everyday actions and stories that students experience or observe in the school and community.
  • Encourage students to transfer the Seven Sacred Teachings to their learning experiences across different subject areas.
  • Create opportunities to interact and be good citizens: cooperative learning, peer leadership, supportive clubs, student council, social justice projects, service learning and ceremonies.

Ideas for partnering between grade levels

  • Assign specific Teachings to different grade levels in your school. Encourage students in grade levels to share stories, experiences, questions and inquiries around their value and with each other. For example, Grade 1 students may focus on kindness all year and Grade 6 students may focus on a more sophisticated value such as leadership.
  • Build a literature collection with varied reading levels that exemplifies each of the Teachings. Have students in specific grade levels select and share examples of the values illustrated in a piece of literature as well as what this value would “look like” in different types of situations.
  • Invite students in one grade level to interview students in another grade level. Encourage students develop interview questions about experiences that relate to the Seven Sacred Teachings.
  • Have students partner up with students from another level to co-create an illustrated story about a particular value from the Seven Sacred Teachings.

Ideas for developing school-wide themes 

  • Develop a schedule of monthly themes for a single school year, or sets of core values that are highlighted over a three- or four-year cycle.
  • Break down a core value into four related values that can be introduced weekly to support and build on an overall monthly theme. For example, an overarching monthly theme on kindness might incorporate a weekly focus on related values such as helpfulness, patience, thankfulness and tolerance.
  • Develop an annual theme, centered on the Seven Sacred Teachings, such as the Year of the Beaver or the Year of Courage. Reinforce all values inherent in the Seven Sacred Teachings, but focus on the value of the year.

Focusing on desired student behaviours 

  • Identify the behaviours and choices that might be associated with each of the Seven Teachings.
  • Find examples of behaviours and actions that support the Seven Sacred Teachings in stories about the school or the community.
  • Share and celebrate positive behaviours and actions and provide opportunities for students to look at the rippling effects that positive behaviours can have on self and others.
  • Deepen understanding of the Seven Sacred Teachings by exploring specific behaviours that demonstrate and support the relevant core value. For example, enhance students’ understanding of respect by discussing and practicing behaviours, such as using respectful language, demonstrating kindness, supporting others, inviting others to contribute and showing appreciation.
  • Hold class meetings to share and explore ways that values and associated behaviours can be exemplified in the classroom and the school. Use the class meetings to tackle dilemmas or challenges that can be resolved with positive behaviours, modeled on the Seven Sacred Teachings.
  • Invite students to maintain a journal; a space for reflection on their personal values, behaviours and actions. Provide reflection questions that focus on the link between core values and students’ behaviours or actions.
  • Reward or recognize students who exemplify desired behaviours.

Ideas for teaching  

  • Focus on, discuss and explore the meanings and experiences reflected in each of the Seven Sacred Teachings.
  • Plan to integrate the Seven Sacred Teachings into a variety of teaching and learning activities.
  • Encourage students to reflect on personal meanings and connections inherent within each of the Seven Teachings.
  • Encourage students to transfer the Seven Sacred Teachings to their learning experiences across different subject areas.

Resources

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Books

First Nations Legends & Stories According to ESL Level and Character Traits as Determined by Teacher in Collaboration with Students

Rabbit and Bear Paws, Sacred Seven: Courage, Honesty, Humility, Respect, Truth, Wisdom. Series of 7 books written by Chad Solomon, co-author Tanya Leary and free one-page lesson plans for each title in the series

Seven Gifts for Cedar, written by Cherie Dimaline

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Teacher Resources

Seven Grandfather Teachings: Character Development Niizhwaaswi Kchitwaa Kinomaadiwinan Teacher’s Guide, written by Mary Cubellow and Pauline Weber for Grades 3 to 8 (McIntyre Media Inc.)

Niizhwaaswi Mishomis Kinoomaagewinawaan (Seven Grandfather Teachings), a one-page reading describing the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers

Seven Gifts for Cedar Teacher’s Guide written by Miranda Miller

Community Character: Rules and Responsibilities, recommended by Alberta teachers for use in the K-2 Social Studies program

In Walking Together: First Nations, Métis and Inuit Perspectives in Curriculum, a professional development resource, you will find multiple content areas that provide explicit information on natural law (Alberta Education)

All My Relations can be found in the Walking Together resource in the topic area of Well-being. This PDF is an excerpt from the Aboriginal Studies 10 textbook. (Alberta Education)

DDSB Aboriginal Welcome Wheel Lesson Plan Series: Personalizing the Seven Grandfathers, a teaching resource for Grade 9 and up, includes instructions for a Talking Circle and a Blank Wheel for noting down ideas about the Seven Teachings

 Teachings of the Seven Sacred/Seven Grandfathers Teacher’s Manual

Teachings of the Seven Sacred/Seven Grandfathers Student Manual

(Ontario Native Literacy Coalition)

Native Reflections provides a place to buy educational supplies, books and posters on the Seven Teachings

The Seven Grandfather Teachings, from Native Reflections, in a Kindle version

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Videos

The Seven Grandfather Teachings: The Good Life Teachings

By viewing The Seven Grandfather Teachings, educators and students learn more about the values of wisdom, love, respect, courage, honesty, humility, and truth through a Tsimshian First Nations perspective. The video is recommended by Alberta Educators on LearnAlberta to support Social Studies as well as Health and Life Skills programs of study outcomes throughout Grades 5 to 7.

Wâhkôhtowin: The Relationship between Cree People and Natural Law

This in-depth video can be found on the Walking Together resource in the topic area of Kinship, Exploring Connections section on LearnAlberta, first listing under the heading of videos.

Community Character: Rules and Responsibilities