Indigenous Learning Cultures

For the learning theory report in my PIDP course at VCC, I chose to learn about Indigenous learning philosophies. As always when I learn about the cultures we settlers have oppressed (and still do), I am blown away by the richness and depth of things we still need to learn. To put all of what I learned into a five-minute video was difficult and I invite you to discuss further in the comments of this post.


My name is Frithjof Petscheleit and I came to this country as a settler from Germany. My ancestors have lived there for many generations and my brothers and sisters still do.

I am very grateful to be allowed to live and work on the beautiful, unceded traditional territory of the Syilk Okanagan Nation and I will do everything in my power to preserve this land for generations to come. I feel honoured to learn so much from my indigenous colleagues and friends.

Reconciliation is about addressing past wrongs done to Indigenous Peoples, making amends, and improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to create a better future for all.

Indigenization is a process of making Indigenous knowledge systems a more natural part of teaching and using them to transform spaces, places, and hearts.

In the context of adult education, this involves bringing Indigenous knowledge and approaches together with Western knowledge systems.
This benefits not only Indigenous students but all students, teachers, and community members.
The goal is not to replace Western knowledge with Indigenous knowledge, and the goal is not to merge the two into one. Rather, Indigenization can be understood as weaving or braiding together two distinct knowledge systems so that learners can come to understand and appreciate both.

Key aspects of Indigenous philosophies of learning are relationality, the interconnection between sacred and secular, and holism.

Relationality is the concept that we are all related to each other, to the natural environment, and to the spiritual world, and these relationships bring about interdependencies.
We can apply the concept of relationality by creating learning opportunities that emphasize building relationships with fellow students, teachers, families, members of the community, and the local lands.

The second important aspect of Indigenous philosophies is that they are rooted in worldviews that Include both the sacred and the secular.
In the Eurocentric learning model, spiritual and secular are separated. To honour the interconnection that is part of the indigenous learning model will be complicated but important.


And finally, indigenous pedagogies focus on the development of a human being as a whole person. Academic or cognitive knowledge is valued, but self-awareness, emotional growth, social growth, and spiritual development are also valued.

Indigenous approaches can be brought to life by providing opportunities for students to reflect on the four dimensions of knowledge (emotional, spiritual, cognitive, and physical) when they engage in learning activities.

  • Emphasis is placed on learning by doing
  • Learning is connected to a specific place
  • And learning involves all generations

Weaving Indigenous and Eurocentric learning cultures together is a long process. As Chantale said in the interview in my latest blog post, we have to listen and learn, we have to ask “who’s story is this and are we allowed to tell it.”

I used to limit the amount of stories from my own experience before but after learning about the power of stories, I will share more of them.

I believe we need to make more room in to listen, to the students, other people in the field we are teaching and to members of the indigenous communities we are serving.
I will invite indigenous students to share their stories, but I will also respect their preference if they don’t want to.

Learning about indigenous culture and traditions has a strong effect on me. I believe that opening up education on all levels will be one of the most effective ways to bring together indigenous and settler peoples.


Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers
Asma-na-hi Antoine; Rachel Mason; Roberta Mason; Sophia Palahicky; and Carmen Rodriguez de France

First Peoples classroom resources

Okanagan Song, Westbank First Nation

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action

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