CULTURES OF BELONGING that embrace Indigenous ways of knowing are fostered by whole school approaches that invite teaching and learning, which include Indigenous ways of knowing, doing and relating.

Approaches that foster a sense of belonging for all students can build on the Indigenous notion that everything in the universe is part of a single whole; everything is connected in some way.

This notion can shape and guide the creation of a classroom community where students, parents, and other community members see themselves reflected and a vital part of the relational space.

Identity, Wellness, Spirit and Holistic Learning

“Indigenous people are healthier when their lives include traditional activities and values.” Dr. Cheryl Currie

Looking at wellness in schools as holistic or interconnected allows students and staff to realize their fullest potential physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually.  First Nations, Métis and Inuit people highly value traditional knowledge that revolves around an integrative holistic model that seeks to balance the mind, body heart and spirit with community and environment. This traditional knowledge and understanding of holistic wellness benefits all staff and students universally.

The following resources are to help guide educators and students in becoming aware of the connection between mind, body, heart and spirit and how these elements work together to achieve an important balance in how they think, feel, act and live their lives.


Start to bring mindfulness, meditation and calm into your student’s lives.

The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness. Wikipedia

Eagle Feather Meditation

This meditation is a prayer meditation that uses the First Nations symbol of an Eagle Feather to promote healing and relaxation. This meditation assists with focusing on body awareness and allowing breathe to be used to help with relaxation.

The accompanying traditional music is provided by Adrian Lachance, a Cree First Nations who drums and sings to further promote healing and relaxation.

Sacred 4 Meditation

We will be using the number four which is a sacred number for First Nations People. It is the number of four directions, four seasons as well as mental, spiritual, physical and emotional self. This meditation uses body awareness as well as breathing to assist in releasing tension and stress and allowing a state of relaxation.

First Nations drumming is the background music. The drum is the heartbeat of of our people and is a sound that reminds us of our connection to Creator, Mother Earth and each other.

Length: 1:54


Fostering Belonging through Wellness

Go to the Native Counselling Services of Alberta’s website, which showcases multiple videos related to wellness. This website is host to a hub of programs which are all grounded in reclaiming interconnectedness, reconciliation or relationships and self-determination.


The Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel has been used by generations of various Indigenous groups across Canada and North America for centuries. The wheel is a symbol of health, healing and balance. Depending on where you live, the Medicine Wheel can take many different forms, it might even have different colours.

The wheel or the teachings of the four directions relates closely to the idea of belonging due to the fact that the wheel represents a series of interconnected relationships. It is in these relationships that we find our place in the world and acceptance from within. When one is balanced and follows the teachings of the Medicine Wheel, it is easier to live harmoniously with “all our relations.”

The following are a series of links to get you started on your journey to understand the Medicine Wheel. As previously stated, these teachings vary from community to community, and it is strongly encouraged that you seek out the teachings from people closest to you in geographical location.






The Medicine Wheel: A Printable Lesson and Teachings of Balance

The Native-American concept of the medicine wheel symbolically represents a nonlinear model of human development. Each compass direction on the wheel offers lessons and gifts that support the development of a balanced individual. The idea is to remain balanced at the center of the wheel while developing equally the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of one’s personality. This resource offers a generalized overview of some lessons and gifts connected with the development process.

Teaching about Medicine Wheel: A Framework for Indigenous Education

This article explores the teachings of Medicine Wheels from an Anishinaabe cultural perspective. A focus on its applications to education is addressed through pedagogy and the transmission of Medicine Wheel teachings. These concepts are then illustrated with an example of Medicine Wheel pedagogy in practice through the Anishinaabe Bimaadiziwin Cultural Healing and Learning Program, an Anishinaabe culture-based school.


Teaching of the Medicine Wheel by Francais Whiskeyjack

For centuries Aboriginal people have used the four directions of the medicine wheel as a tool for learning and teaching. For the past 12 years, Elder and spiritual advisor, Francis Whiskeyjack, has used the medicine wheel as a guide and as a tool to help others. Whiskeyjack, who was born and raised in Saddle Lake, Alta., credits the medicine wheel as being one of the positive forces in his life.

Belonging in Schools

Belonging Inspired by Historical Teachings

To be effective in schools, character education must involve everyone – school staff, parents, students, and community members – and be part of every school day. It must be integrated into the curriculum as well as school culture. When this happens and school communities unite around developing character schools see amazing results.

This philosophy is much like the traditional teachings systems of Indigenous people of Canada. Teachings about how to behave, live and honour one’s own culture has to be fully understood and lived by the whole community. Without this sense of cohesiveness, many of the teachings that exist today would not have survived. There is much to learn about Indigenous ways of being. The following are some examples of how to foster belonging and relationship in any contemporary school setting.


The Circle of Courage

This video describes in great detail the components of the Circle of Courage, which is a model of positive youth development first described in the book Reclaiming Youth at Risk, co-authored by Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg, and Steve Van Bockern. The model integrates Native American philosophies of child-rearing, the heritage of early pioneers in education and youth work and contemporary resilience research. The Circle of Courage is based in four universal growth needs of all children: belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

Length: 8:58


The Seven Sacred Teachings (also known as the Grandfather Teachings)

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.


Tipi Teachings

Each of the tipi poles holds many teachings. It would take time and a lot of experience to truly understand each one: obedience, respect, humility, happiness, love, faith, kinship, cleanliness, thankfulness, sharing, strength, good child rearing, hope, protection and finally balance/clarity.

Tipi teachings will vary from community to community and each teaching may differ, depending on who is sharing these teachings. This link will provide you with insight into these teachings. However, it is strongly encouraged that you seek out the wisdom from knowledge holders closest to your location.

Relationality and Belonging

Fort, Curriculum, and Indigenous Metissage: Imagining Decolonization of Aboriginal-Canadian Relations in Educational Contexts by Dr. Dwayne Donald

In this article, Dr. Donald presents critical insights gained from attentiveness to the significance of the fort as a mythic symbol deeply embedded within the Canadian national narrative that reinforces the troubling colonial divides that continue to characterize Aboriginal-Canadian relations. He argues that forts have taught, and continue to teach, that Aboriginal peoples and Canadians live in separate realities. One way to rethink these relations, overcome these teachings, and decolonize educational approaches is to consider a curriculum sensibility called Indigenous Métissage. Indigenous Métissage is a place-based approach to curriculum informed by an ecological and relational understanding of the world.

The Ethical Space of Engagement by Willie Ermine

The “ethical space” is formed when two societies, with disparate worldviews, are poised to engage each other. It is the thought about diverse societies and the space in between them that contributes to the development of a framework for dialogue between human communities. The ethical space of engagement proposes a framework as a way of examining the diversity and positioning of Indigenous peoples and Western society in the pursuit of a relevant discussion on Indigenous legal issues and particularly to the fragile intersection of Indigenous law and Canadian legal systems.

Well Being and All My Relations

“All my relations” is the English equivalent of a phrase familiar to most Native peoples of North America. It may begin or end a prayer or speech or a story, and, while each tribe has its own way of expressing this sentiment in its own language, the meaning is the same. “All my relations” is at first a reminder of who we are and of our relationship with both our family and our relatives. It also reminds us of the extended relationship we share with all human beings. But the relationships that Native people see go further, the web of kinship to animals, to the birds, to the fish, to the plants, to all the animate and inanimate forms that can be seen or imagined. More than that, “all my relations” is an encouragement for us to accept the responsibilities we have within the universal family by living our lives in a harmonious and moral manner (a common admonishment is to say of someone that they act as if they had no relations).

Indigenous Achievement

This webpage identifies and explores successful outcome-based practices that various districts have applied in support of First Nations, Métis and Inuit student learning, including learning guides and videos that illustrate their experiences. The page also includes a presentation, designed to tell a story about First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education in Alberta including where we are at, promising practices from around the province and resources and tools available to all.



Additional Links to Foster Belonging and Build Relationship

Advancing Reconciliation with Indigenous People

This backgrounder describes the federal government’s Budget 2019’s investments to help advance the important work of reconciliation.

Promising Practices in Supporting Success for Indigenous Students

The six Canadian provinces and territories that participated in this study, along with New Zealand and Queensland (Australia), are actively seeking to better meet the educational needs and aspirations of Indigenous students and their families.The report seeks to identify promising strategies, policies, programmes and practices that support improved learning outcomes for Indigenous students and to build an empirical evidence base on Indigenous students in education. The study investigates four areas in Indigenous education: well-being, participation, engagement and achievement in education. These outcomes are inter-connected and mutually reinforcing, and each is essential for the success of every student.

Children’s Books that Teach Belonging

This list of the best kids books about belonging provides a variety of titles, from Little Elliot, Big Family to Be My Friend. The books in the list focus on a variety of settings and contexts.

Where I Belong

This story of self-discovery, by Tara White, a Mohawk woman from Kahnawake, Quebec, takes place during the Oka uprising in the summer of 1990. Adopted as an infant, Carrie has always felt out of place. When she finds out that her birth father is Mohawk, living in Kahnawake, Quebec, she makes the journey and finally achieves a sense of home and belonging.

Let’s Help Bob Belong

Teachers can tell – belongingness matters for teens’ performance in school! But how can we help? This video suggests two short, empirically supported interventions to promote belongingness in school.

Length: 3:13