Inviting Elders into the Classroom

Who is an Elder?

According to the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Center, an Elder is any person recognized by a First Nations community as having knowledge and understanding of traditional life, the history and heritage of the community, speak a First Nations language fluently,  and is knowledgeable and supportive of First Nations ceremonies, protocols, and songs.  An Elder is not determined by reaching a specific age, but rather is someone in a First Nations community who has knowledge and wisdom in all aspects of a traditional life.

Ask An Elder: What's An "Elder?"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byIWr0TAQIo

First Nations Pedagogy http://firstnationspedagogy.ca/elders.html

This website offers a beautiful explanation of who an Elder is, an Elder's role, and protocols to follow.

Click on the image to go to the website.

Protocols when Inviting an Elder to Your School or Classroom

Inviting an Elder into the classroom is a great way to develop relationships with a First Nations community member.  It not only benefits First Nation students, but will also help non-First Nations children develop a better understanding of First Nations culture and build relationships with First Nations people (Ngai & Koehn, 2010).  In order to honor First Nations culture, it is important to be aware that there are certain protocols when asking an Elder to share their knowledge.  This usually includes greeting with a hand shake, giving of tobacco and perhaps some cloth. Each area has its own protocols, so if you are unsure of the protocol in your area, feel free to always ask.  For more information click on the document below.

Aboriginal Elders and Community Workers in Schools

This Saskatchewan Learning guide has been produced to assist boards of education to develop policy and guidelines if they choose to initiate programs involving Elders, Aboriginal community workers or other resource people. It will also assist school division administrators and their community partners to design and implement local initiatives in schools.

Download PDF here

An example of protocols from "Aboriginal Elders and Community Workers in Schools (2013, p. 24)

Click on image to download page.

You may need to ask your school/board for funding to provide tobacco, an honorarium, and/or money to cover transportation to and from the school. 

 

Here is an example of a letter I wrote requesting funding.

Invite an Elder to speak at your school

Building relationships within your community is important to support children's understanding of Aboriginal pedagogy and inviting families, community members and Elders into the classroom plays a large role (Ball & Simpkins, 2004). School boards or school administration might already have specific contacts and partnerships, or may have Indigenous Advocate Teachers for your area.  If you are not sure where to find an Elder, the Office of the Treaty Commission have speakers who are available.  Please check out the website below. 

The Office of the Treaty Commission have a number of speakers available to speak about First Nations culture, history, Treaties, and residential schools.  Some of these speakers are respected Elders.

Click on the image to go to the  website.

Regina Public Schools Elementary Indigenous Advocate Teachers

Contact information and a description of their role is included in this pamphlet.  

Click on the image to go to the website.

References:

Ball, J., & Simpkins, M. A. (2004). The community within the child: Integration of Indigenous knowledge into first nations childcare process and practice. The American Indian Quarterly, 28(3), 480-498.

Ngai, P. B., & Koehn, P. H. (2010). Indigenous studies and intercultural education: The impact of a place-based primary-school program.

 Intercultural Education, 21(6), 597.

Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from Retrieved from http://www.sicc.sk.ca/index.html