Journey Toward Reconciliation

As I began my journey toward reconciliation, I did not know what to expect. Prior to beginning University, I had not learned much about Indigenous people or what reconciliation meant. Throughout this semester, I have learned a lot of new information surrounding Indigenous people and reconciliation, due to a very eye-opening, emotional and informational journey. As I started on my journey towards reconciliation project, I found that Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching and Residential schools were topics that interested me. Alongside learning about Indigenous knowledge and Residential schools, I learned about new ways of teaching I hope to implement into my future classrooms. 

Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching interested me due to ECS 101 and Indigenous Studies 100. This is because of the exponential difference between Indigenous ways of knowing and the colonial-style learning I grew up with. Indigenous knowledge and teaching is spiritual and holistic. They learn from and value the environment that surrounds them. In Indigenous culture, they emphasize watching, listening and doing, rather than memorization like the Canadian school system. For Indigenous people, stories are a valuable tool when it comes to teaching children about how they came to be and how to live properly within the world. When it comes to learning, hands-on learning is prioritized which allows children to experience what they are learning firsthand (Long, Dickason, 2020).

While I was researching Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching, I found myself reflecting on my own educational experience. During my schooling, memorization was emphasized heavily. This led to many of my peers and I struggling in most of our classes. If watching, listening and then doing had been utilized, many of us could have been more successful in our classes, as we would have understood the content rather than just remembering it for an exam. The hands-on experience was another thing I reflected on. Many of my peers and I understood content better when we were able to physically participate in our learning. Unfortunately, hands-on was not utilized in my schooling. Thus, many of us struggled to understand the content being taught.

While researching about Indigenous knowledge and teaching, I came across a video that brought their ways into perspective. In this video, Native community connecter and author Larry Merculeieff discussed his upbringing. He was raised with a fully intact traditional upbringing. While growing up, Larry spent an equal amount of time with the men, women, elders and peers in the community. While with the men, he learned how to fish and hunt. When he was with the women, they would go berry-pick and he would watch them prepare meals. Larry would listen to all of their stories for hours and he was always encouraged by the community members. Growing up this way allowed children the space that they needed to achieve their own learning. A quote that I liked from this video was “The child was free to express their own senses, their own thoughts, their own feeling authentically, without anyone coming in and prescribing what it is they are to be learning.” (Tedx Talks, 2011) (7:54). This quote interested me because it displayed how freely the children are able to learn and how they are allowed to learn what they wanted to.

 This way of growing up sounds very appealing to me. Being allowed to choose what I want to learn and having the whole community encourage my education seems more productive and successful. By the children being allowed to choose what they wanted to learn, they could explore topics that interest them more in-depth. This way of learning also creates independent learners that are in control of how they learn. During my school experience, there were limited chances to independently learn. When we were given the chance to research something of interest, we were given structured outlines of what we were supposed to follow. I found that this has made me dependent on outlines for projects. If I was allowed to take learning into my own hands more often while in primary school, I believe it would have prepared me to be an independent learner in university.

Learning about Indigenous ways of knowing and learning influenced me to look into how I could incorporate place-based learning successfully into my future classrooms. I came across two videos that displayed simple ways that place-based learning could be incorporated into classrooms. At STAR school located near the Navajo Nation in the United States, they focus on using the environment around them to learn. One way the math teacher incorporates place-based learning into her class is by caring for the trees on the school property. The students check the tree limbs and count the blossoms. The teacher incorporates math by getting the students to measure how wide and big the berms are. She does this because they place cardboard under the tree and place mulch on top of the cardboard (STAR School Media, 2012). At Crellin Elementary school in the states, the grade five class takes care of trout. The class is given trout eggs that hatch within three days. While in the classroom, the students study how the fish grow and eat, and the students take data on the water temperature and chemical balance of the water. Once the trout are ready to be released into the stream that runs behind the school, the students make sure the stream is well equipped for the trout to survive (Edutopia, 2015).

While I watched these videos, I realized how important place-based learning is. By children learning from the environment around them, the learning becomes relevant and real to them (Edutopia, 2015). Place-based learning also creates hands-on experiences. If it had been used while I attended primary school, many of my peers and I would have been able to relate to the content being taught and very likely would have understood it better. Incorporating place-based learning into classrooms is fairly simple. One way it could be used is by having students go outside and study the insects found on the school property. Place-based learning is something I am adamant about incorporating into my future classrooms.

When beginning my journey, I felt very compelled to research Residential schools. I felt it would be best to learn from survivors’ experiences, which led me to watch many videos. Two videos stood out to me. The first video is about many survivors and children of survivors discussing what they experienced. Raymond Mason recalled supervisors coming into the showers every day with the children. He said that the supervisors stated that they had to show the children how to wash their private parts. The children ended up being taken advantage of. Raymond recalls being strapped and his tongue being pinched when he was caught speaking his native language (CBC News: The National, 2015). In the second video, three survivors talked about their experience with physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse at these schools. Clifford Quah stated that the trauma he experienced was so bad, he blocked out most of his time at the Residential school. As survivors, they expected there to be children buried at these schools, but they were surprised by the number that came from the Residential school in Kamloops (CBC News: The National, 2021).

The impact of Residential schools has stuck with many indigenous people and has created a negative view around schools. Many survivors’ opinions have been transferred to their children creating an uncomfortable feeling around the school. This is a reason why Indigenous children’s attendance at school is poor and the graduation rate of indigenous students is low. By implementing place-based learning and more Indigenous ways of knowing into classrooms, Indigenous children may feel more comfortable and welcome.

My journey toward reconciliation has been a difficult yet informational experience. I have discovered so many new topics, ideas, and knowledge that I did not know or knew little about before. My journey towards reconciliation is far from over, but I am prepared and excited to continue it as I work towards becoming an educator.


CBC News: The National. “Residential School Survivors on the Scars of Abuse.” YouTube, 4 June 2021,

CBC News: The National. “Stolen Children | Residential School Survivors Speak Out.” YouTube, 2 June 2015,

Edutopia. “Place-Based Learning: Using Your Location as a Classroom.” YouTube, 10 Nov. 2015,

Long D., & Dickason O. P. (2020). Introduction to Indigenous Studies: FNUC custom edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf]. Retrieved from

STAR School Media. “Place-Based Education: The STAR 3-To-3rd Model.” YouTube, 12 Sept. 2012,

TEDx Talks. “TEDxHomer-Larry Merculieff-Native Knowing.” YouTube, 9 Nov. 2011,

The First Nations, Métis, Inuit Education Association of Ontario. “Pedagogical Considerations for Teaching about Residential Schools.” Google Docs, 2021,