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Nourishing the Learning Spirit: Findings from a National Project on Knowledge Exchange in Aboriginal Learning. ABLKC Leadership and Governance Co-Managed: Aboriginal Education Research Centre (AERC), College of Education, University of Saskatchewan

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Nourishing the Learning Spirit:

Findings from a National Project on

Knowledge Exchange in Aboriginal Learning

ABLKC Leadership and Governance


  • Aboriginal Education Research Centre (AERC), College of Education, University of Saskatchewan
  • First Nations Adult and Higher Education Consortium (FNAHEC) and


  • Steering Committee, from Consortium of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis scholars, leaders, educators
  • National Advisory Committee of informed researchers and policy makers (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal).
knowledge exchange and information sharing bundle approach and priorities
Knowledge Exchange and Information SharingBundle Approach and Priorities

Review what we know (literature reviews/scans/surveys/

inventories of programs/report syntheses/meet with informed people…)

Ask and listen to what people say (dialogues, roundtables, workshops, conferences, schools, workplaces, forums,…)

Share with others what we heard (webpage, news bulletins, media, conferences, speakers, community talks, reports, papers, journals, On-line Resource Centre…)

Identify success (es) and find ways to report progress and celebrate these with each other and to the Canadian public (Composite Learning Index, State of Learning Report, National Recognition Program, national and regional conferences…)

Partnerwith learning organizations to make Aboriginal learning more visible, to identify good community work and publicize promising practices in learning.


Nourishing the Learning SpiritExplores the capacity and potential we have as human beings for learning and the impact of culture and how our ‘location’ (cultural, social, economic, political forces) in life affects the capacity to learn as individuals and groups.

Dr. Marie Battiste, Lead – Aboriginal Education Research Centre

College of Education, University of Sask

aboriginal perspectives on learning
Aboriginal Perspectives on Learning
  • The Aboriginal worldview is holistic – we are Spirit, Heart, Mind and Body.
  • We are a part of Creation; we are not separate from it.
  • We all have a purpose for being here, and we have Gifts from the Creator that are to be used for fulfilling that purpose.
  • Everything is/has Spirit/Energy. We need to be mindful of our feelings, thoughts, words and actions. What we put out there affects everybody and everything else.
elders perspectives of learning
Elders Perspectives of Learning

“Knowledge is held by the spirits, shared by the spirits and comes from the spirits…Our body then can be seen as carrier of the learning spirit.”

(Elder Danny Musqua, in D. Knight,1998)

“Learning and spirit are foundational to the ethos of Aboriginal culture and pedagogy.” (Ermine, 1998, 26)


What did We Learn?

  • Diverse First Nations, Métis, Inuit Peoples, languages, cultures, traditions, and beliefs
  • Common strands of shared understanding
  • Place informs knowledge, knowing, and learning
  • We can all learn from each other regardless of diverse origins

What is the Learning Spirit?

  • Personal and collective energy that influences our being, acting, living together
  • Present from conception through life
  • Characterized by combination of learning strengths, gifts, capacities, choices.and life consequences
  • Supported through interrelationships with relations, culture, language, tradition, community, natural world
learning is in relation
Learning is In Relation
  • Experiential, holistic, life-long, spiritual
  • With Mother Earth
  • With Ourselves: Care for Self:

mind, body, spirit

  • With Collective Community
lifelong learning opportunities
Lifelong Learning Opportunities
  • Choices (will/desire)

Positive energy activates more positive energy

Negative energy draws more negative energy

  • Conditions that create consequences (natural-floods/drought)+
  • (Social Cultural Economic Political Strategic-poverty/colonization/racism/politics)
learning spirit reveals
Learning Spirit Reveals…
  • Before birth (Mother/father/Elders dreams)
  • Birth/Naming ceremony
  • Dreaming/visioning/in-spiration
  • Talents and Gifts emerge
  • Self-inner Talk
  • Finding Purpose in Convictions
  • Propensities to service, teaching, occupations, etc.
  • Life path and choices
identified learning blocks
Identified Learning Blocks
  • Loss of spiritual connection
  • Disconnections with others/natural world
  • Forced assimilation (residential/public schools)
  • Trauma
  • Anger
  • Negative energy in others (low expectations, prejudices, pathologizing, some pedagogy etc.)
processes for reconnecting
Processes for reconnecting
  • Nourishing spirit, mind, body to reveal gifts
  • Visiting Elders and the Land (Protocols for seeking/committing to learning Tobacco, cloth, gifts, etc)
  • Attentive listening/uninterrupted spaces
  • Inviting spirit (back) into lives
  • Reconnecting to the collective (language, ceremony and traditions, history)
  • Caring for others
  • Sharing learning and learning lessons
Aboriginal Learning Knowledge Centre

Directors: Dr. Vivian Ayoungman (FNAHEC) and Dr. Marie Battiste (AERC)

  • Rita Bouvier, ABLKC Coordinator

AERC, College of Education,

University of Saskatchewan

Room 1212, 28 Campus Drive

Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X1

Ph: 306-966-1362 Fax: 306-966-1363

  • Genevieve Fox, ABLKC Coordinator

First Nations Adult Higher Education Consortium (FNAHEC)

#132 - 16 Avenue NE Calgary, AB T2E 1J7

Ph: 403-230-0072 Fax: 403-212-1401

  • Maria Wilson, Coordinator

c/o   Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) 170 Laurier Ave. W, Suite 510

Ottawa, ON  K1P 5V5 Ph: (613) 238-8181 ext. 267 Fax: (613) 234-1991

Canadian Council on Learning Website: