Education among indigenous communities is hampered by several factors. These include the lack of adequate funding and cultural homogenization. Moreover, Indigenous people believe that learning requires sacrifice and trauma. Therefore, Sun Dance ceremonies incorporate life’s hardships and transform them into contexts for learning. In other words, indigenous people mobilize their wounds as teaching tools.
Lack of adequate funding impedes access to education
Despite international recognition of indigenous peoples as legitimate right holders, education available to these peoples has been inappropriate, sometimes even threatening their existence. In most cases, education policies and systems are designed to assimilate indigenous peoples into the mainstream, which robs them of their cultural security, identity and rights. Indigenous education is critical for strengthening land rights, cultural security and individual empowerment.
A recent UN study cited several reasons for the lack of access to education among indigenous communities, including a lack of culturally appropriate education and pedagogical support. Moreover, indigenous people reported that their programs were not delivered by them or in their native language. Further, the programs often did not respect the indigenous culture or history.
Indigenous children have been denied quality education for a long time. The Liberals’ election commitment of $2.6 billion for First Nations education could close this gap. But the bureaucracy may not agree. Fortunately, there are a few resources that can help fill the gap. Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is a registered charity that provides financial support for post-secondary education among Treaty and Status FN people. In addition to providing post-secondary education support, Indigenous Services Canada also offers scholarships and bursaries for apprenticeships and technology programs.
Despite efforts to address the inequalities in education, there are many important factors that limit the ability of indigenous people to access quality education. These include poor language skills, lack of culturally appropriate curriculum, and low income. These factors can make it difficult to access higher education, which ultimately affects their ability to advance their lives.
Children with disabilities, children from ethnic minorities, LGBT communities, children from underprivileged communities, and children living in rural areas are also at risk of not receiving an adequate education. These children will have “aged out” during Covid-related school closures. They will not have received the minimum education required under domestic laws. They will also face challenges in accessing distance education opportunities.
Learning with the heart
The teachings of Indigenous communities emphasize the importance of learning with the heart. Learning with the heart involves observing nature and the processes that are a part of life. It involves observing the processes in a way that expands the students’ awareness of other things. These teachings also emphasize self-deception and its impact of it on the students.
Educators who want to implement an Indigenous-based curriculum should first consult with local Indigenous communities and elders. It is also important to include Indigenous language and cultural programs in the curriculum. These can help students reinforce their Aboriginal identity and improve overall performance. In addition, teachers who are knowledgeable about the culture and language of their communities can also help improve learning outcomes for students.
The learning process among Indigenous communities is based on the recognition of the cultural values and gifts of each individual. It also focuses on the development of a balanced person who can contribute to the community and its goals. Such a person will be physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually balanced. This is an important part of education because it develops a person’s self-image and well-being.
Indigenous teaching practices focus on cultivating a student’s true self, thereby helping them overcome the obstacles that prevent them from learning. The majority of Indigenous teaching takes place within a real-life situation. It reduces the amount of intellectualization and focuses more on direct experience. This way of learning opens the student’s horizons beyond speculation and allows them to judge what is true for themselves.
Indigenous peoples are underrepresented in mainstream education. This lack of representation can lead to a sense of insecurity and a lack of belonging. Students can also develop anxiety and mental health challenges as a result of being undervalued.
Learning with the mind
Indigenous worldviews are passed on through stories, metaphors, and models through family, community, art, and media. The stories are based on the belief that the natural world is interconnected. They include guiding principles for good relational living and relate the central ideas of respect for plants and animals.
Indigenous people understand that learning is a process involving sacrifice and trauma. During ceremonies called Sun Dance, the Indigenous people incorporate life’s hardships as a context for learning. This transforms the wounds into teaching tools. It is this process that creates a deeper understanding. In addition to teaching with the mind, indigenous people also focus on learning with the heart.
Indigenous education is rooted in the ecology of indigenous societies. In his book, Look to the Mountain: Indigenous Education and Indigenous Communities, Gregory Cajete explores the relationship between indigenous education and the environment. He offers examples of promising practices and describes the federal budget’s investments in reconciliation. This resource can be helpful in helping educators create curriculums that are effective and relevant for indigenous communities.
Indigenous communities also value the power of oral language to transfer knowledge. They use complex practices to transmit oral histories to future generations. Indigenous peoples teach their community members to use oral language from a young age. As a result, educators consider opportunities to integrate oral communication into curriculums. These practices may also be useful in teaching students about the Indigenous ways of knowing.
Indigenous pedagogies emphasize the importance of each person as a teacher. This type of education seeks to connect students with their inner selves and their relationships to the land and with each other. In addition, Indigenous educators use mythology and ritual to cultivate an openness to lessons from the natural world.
Assimilation through cultural homogenization
Assimilation through cultural homogenization is a common phenomenon in countries where minority groups are under pressure to adopt a dominant culture. This process can be voluntary or forced and results in a loss of cultural identity. It may also lead to increased violence and discrimination.
The history of assimilation among indigenous communities stretches back centuries. In the early modern period, European empires often forced indigenous peoples to adopt their culture and beliefs. This practice was commonly accompanied by policies such as forced religious conversion, removal of children from families, division of community property, and suppression of traditional gender roles. In addition, indigenous foods and practices were generally eliminated. Ultimately, forced assimilation was not a particularly beneficial process.
Assimilation through cultural homogenization is particularly prevalent in Latin America. Post-independence discourses on mestizaje have sought to highlight Indigenous peoples’ heroic resistance to Spanish colonialists. In Chile, for example, de la Cadena (2006) recognizes a tendency to identify mestizo as a 19th-century hybrid, translating the term as “a mixture of European and Amerindian.” In Chile, as elsewhere, the national identity is generated through assimilation and cultural homogenization.
The loss of cultural identity is often an important consequence of urbanization. The urban Indigenous population is no exception. They often face many challenges, such as poverty and lack of employment opportunities. Many of these communities experience discrimination, yet mainstream research continues to ignore their experience and continue to perpetuate stereotypes that diminish their identity.
In Canada, this process has had many adverse consequences. During colonization, many Indigenous people were forced to become assimilated and integrate into mainstream society. For example, the Potlatch Law prohibited potlatches and sun dances, which were sacred ceremonies among coastal First Nations. This law also led to the loss of countless other cultural traditions and practices.
Before European contact, indigenous peoples educated their youth through traditional methods, such as oral teachings, group socialization, and cultural rituals. However, the introduction of classroom-style education and the development of Western educational methods disrupted these methods and caused a great deal of cultural trauma among the indigenous youth. Today, however, reformers of Indigenous education policies are attempting to restore and support Indigenous ways of learning.
Traditional education among indigenous communities has always been deeply rooted in the environment. Indigenous peoples have long accumulated an incredible amount of knowledge from their environment, which they share with future generations. These lessons, called Traditional Ecological Knowledge, have been passed down through generations. Indigenous peoples valued these lessons because they are useful in everyday life. They acquired these lessons through observation and lessons with elders.
Indigenous peoples have cultivated unique worldviews and knowledge systems over millennia, surviving major social changes. As a result, their core values are now being recognized as “adaptive integrity.” This deep knowledge can benefit everyone, including educators and scientists. In addition to helping children learn, Indigenous people also promote their active participation in the community.
Traditional education among Indigenous communities relied on family socialization, observation, oral teachings, and community institutions to provide education to their youth. The adults who provided education included parents, grandparents, extended family members, and community elders. In the case of the Inuk, for example, senior men of the extended family taught boys on the land, and senior women taught Inuk girls domestic skills. This method of teaching was common among most Indigenous nations.
Indigenous people have also founded several higher education institutions, many of which engage in active knowledge transfer and promotion. For example, the Indigenous Education Institute seeks to apply Indigenous knowledge to contemporary contexts, especially in science disciplines such as astronomy.