Indigenous perspectives and content

We would like to begin by respectfully acknowledging the traditional territory in which we have collected stories and science for our content so far, as the ancestral unceded homelands of the Mi’kmaw, Passamaquaoddy, Beothuk, Chippewa and Heiltsuk People.

Ocean School is committed to working with Indigenous communities and creators with an awareness of past injustice, and acknowledging the role that a public media production can play in reconciliation.

The Indigenous content in Ocean School was created with Indigenous artists, Elders, producers, and educators in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia. The media in the Atlantic Unit and in our inquiry tools are meant as starting points to bring contemporary Indigenous perspectives into classrooms.

Ocean School recognizes that "Indigenous perspectives are rooted in complex, dynamic knowledge systems, and grounded in the long-standing cultural worldviews of Indigenous peoples. These perspectives reflect Indigenous processes, principles, and wisdom that are alive today" (Anderson, Chiarotto, & Comay, 2017).

In order for Indigenous perspectives to be deeply embedded in a classroom, it is helpful to have Knowledge Keepers. We caution that Indigenous perspectives cannot be deeply reflected in a single piece of media or written document outside their cultural contexts. We acknowledge this may be a difficult task. We encourage educators to follow these suggestions from the authors of Natural Curiosity:

  • Work whenever possible with Indigenous resource people, including Knowledge Keepers
  • Be upfront about what you do and don't know
  • Be clear that Indigenous people, cultures and knowledge are contemporary
  • Respect Indigenous knowledge as a precious heritage
  • Be aware of the complexities of real Indigenous people

We strongly recommend the educational resource, Natural Curiosity 2nd edition, for additional support.


How can Knowledge Keepers help?

In order for Indigenous perspectives to be deeply embedded in a classroom, it is helpful to invite Knowledge Keepers. Knowledge Keepers hold a special place in society. They are usually older with many years of learning, but can be any age. Knowledge Keepers commit to a legacy of learning and passing on knowledge from one generation to the next. Indigenous Knowledge, or Traditional Knowledge, encompass cultural, ecological and spiritual knowledge systems that include but are not limited to, oral histories, ceremonies, medicines, midwifery, songs, foods and seeds, hunting, fishing, harvesting, languages, rights of passage, and ways of living and being with and among the earth.

To connect with Knowledge Keepers, begin with your community. Reach out to other educators and community organizations who may be able to help you find the right person. Be transparent about what you want to do with the knowledge.

Where can I find Indigenous perspectives in Ocean School?

Ocean School has included acknowledgements in the platform and supporting documentation of the land and traditional territory in which we have collected our stories and science for our content. Where appropriate, we also strive to use Indigenous place names and language. Below we have provided a table that details the pieces of media that have explicit Indigenous content.

What’s coming next?

Ocean School recently filmed in the North Pacific with the Heiltsuk in Bella Bella. The module is being designed with the Heiltsuk community, and will be launched Winter 2020. It will focus on the herring spawn and salmon harvests in the Heiltsuk Nation.

Students will learn about the life cycles of herring and salmon, as well as the cultural importance of the harvests and how harvests are conducted and managed. Research focused on the nutrient and water cycles will be featured.

Ocean School aims to apply an Indigenous lens throughout the the module by

  • learning from traditional Heiltsuk knowledge and laws
  • reflecting on how we can better manage harvests
  • acknowledging the importance of using traditional knowledge systems with science

The inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and content is an ongoing process. We are learning every step of the way. We hope to continue building relationships with Indigenous communities, Elders, creators and educators in order to provide teachers and students with relevant, contemporary perspectives and content.

How can educators integrate Indigenous perspectives throughout Ocean School?

Beyond the pieces of media that Ocean School provides, we encourage educators to build Indigenous perspectives into their classrooms both during and after Ocean School. We strongly recommend reading the 2nd Edition of Natural Curiosity. The guide aims to bring Indigenous perspectives into the heart of educational settings and provides a framework, along with concrete examples, for an inquiry-based approach to environmental education.