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Masked dancers in canoes - Qagyuhl 1916 by Edward Curtis - Click to see Large View



In a workshop at the University of British Columbiaís Longhouse in 2009, Elder, academic and author Eddie Benton Banai described the central spiritual beliefs of the Anishinabe people. He said it could be summed up in four words: Respect, Respect, Respect and Respect. He went further to elaborate, that this meant:

Respect for Self;
Respect for Others;
Respect for Mother Earth and all upon Her; and
Respect for Father Sky, the Great Spirit and the Universe.

Respect has been a common theme of Elder teachings across diverse First Nations and Inuit nations for millennia, and has been adopted in time by Metis nations. he following traditional lesson about the Seven Sacred Teachings or Laws is called the Seven Grandfathers Teachings by the Anishinabe peoples from the Great Lakes area. However, the story is also told with slightly different contexts by other nations such as White Buffalo Calf Womanís teachings from the Lakota and Sioux peoples; the Dene Laws by the Dene nation of the Northwest Territories, the Seven Laws by the Kwantlen Nation of British Columbia, and other names by other nations. The point is that these laws are quite universal across the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.

These sacred teachings emphasize the importance of respect for all, which is demonstrated through respect for each individual. These teachings provide guidance to educators on how to honour First Nations, Inuit, and Metis ways by respectfully attending and deeply listening to each learnerís expressed preferences, needs, goals, and concerns. They also provide advice to promote cultural safety, since they describe a very astute state of being that is able to graciously co-plan education with learners, their families, and their community supports.

Respect addresses the dignity of people, and encompasses the honouring and valuing of who they are as a unique person. Inherent in the overarching principle of respect is the honouring of rights, autonomy, choice, worthiness, uniqueness, and self-determination. Respect is not reserved for those with special societal status, income level, intellect, power or attractiveness: respect is deserved by all of creation, human or otherwise. It is considered a fundamental attitude and way of being for all people.


READ: Toulouse, P. (March 2008). Integrating Aboriginal teaching and values into the classroom. Ministry of Ontario. The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. What works? Research into Practice. Research Monograph # 11.


TRY THE ACTIVITIES (Young Children) in: Penner,R. (2010). Sharing the seven sacred teachings through puppetry. Toronto: The Curriculum Foundation.

TRY THE ACTIVITIES (Youth): in The Learning Circle: Five Voices of Aboriginal Youth in Canada. A learning resource for ages 14 to 15. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

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