Indigenous Teaching & Learning

Durham College acknowledges the lands of the people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nations. We are situated within the traditional territory of the Mississauga and in the territory covered by the Williams Treaties.

Suswaaning Endaajig First Peoples Indigenous Centre (FPIC)

Durham College’s Indigenous Coach, Julie Pigeon, is able to work with faculty who are looking at ways that they can begin to infuse Indigenous Knowledge into curriculum. They are also are available to provide a number of Indigenous specific workshops and presentations including:

  • How past historical policies continue to affect Indigenous Peoples today
  • Residential Schools
  • Reconciliation
  • Medicine Wheel teachings
  • Misconceptions, racism and stereotypes

For more information on the First Peoples Indigenous Centre please visit their website.

Academic School Indigenization Initiatives

Durham College has taken several steps to integrate indigenization initiatives into the student learning experience. Please review the Academic School Indigenization Initiatives document, which lists each schools recent Indigenization efforts.

Traditional Teachings, Terms and Protocols


In the Anishnaabe (A-nish-naw-bay) culture, traditional teachings express that education should be perceived as a gift. Giving and receiving are viewed as equally important and create an environment where sharing is of utmost importance. Given that the College rests within the traditional territories of the MSIFN, it is important to recognize elements of the Anishnaabe culture in appropriate ways across campus. This pays respect to our mutual identities and the knowledge that we are sharing our land and our ways with each other.

Traditional Territory

The Williams Treaties First Nations are comprised of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, Alderville First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, and the Chippewas of Beausoleil First Nation, Georgina Island First Nation and the Rama First NationThe traditional territories of the Williams Treaties First Nations are located primarily in the Georgian Bay and Lake Ontario watersheds and includes certain principal tributaries and streams. The Mississauga Nation was involved in treaties from Niagara all the way to the Gananoque River in the east, they controlled the lake Ontario watershed (on the Ontario side). Please see the Ontario Basin Map and the Williams Treaties and pre confederations map .

Durham College is situated within the Williams Treaty Area, which is home to the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. It is important to understand and acknowledge that it is through the treaty process that Durham College has been able to thrive and to give due respect by acknowledging MSIFN for sharing their lands.


There are many terms associated with First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) Peoples such as Indigenous, Aboriginal, First Peoples, Indian, Native, Native American, Native Indian, Inuit, Inuk and of course the various names associated with the diverse cultures, languages, and Peoples across this province and Canada. It is important to note this diversity and our commitment to inclusion. At Durham College, wherever possible, we will refer to our local community first and include other FNMI Peoples by saying “MSIFN/Anishnaabe and other First Nations, Métis and Inuit People or cultures”. This respect to the local community and the traditional territory of the local Peoples is in keeping with First Nations protocol across the Canada and around the world.

Traditional Knowledge Keepers

Traditional Knowledge Keepers are a very important part of Anishnaabe and other FNMI cultures. Traditional Knowledge Keepers may include Elders, Medicine People, Métis Senators, drummers, singers and dancers. Traditional Knowledge Keepers are very respected and often consulted on various issues within the community. Each Traditional Knowledge Keeper has their own special knowledge and may consult others on issues outside of their specialty. To request a Traditional Knowledge Keeper, it is customary to visit them in person, but if that is not possible, it is ok to phone them. Upon meeting, they should be presented with some Tobacco that would be tied up in cotton cloth, see (Appendix B) for explanation of Tobacco tie. If they accept the Tobacco offering it means that they are willing to do what you have asked of them. It is important to give the Traditional Knowledge Keepers plenty of notice as they often need time to consult others regarding the request.

There is a difference between “inviting” a Traditional Knowledge Keeper(s) to be a guest and “requesting” a Traditional Knowledge Keeper to provide a consultation or perform a certain task like an opening or a blessing. Several Traditional Knowledge Keepers may be invited to an event with the knowledge that one has been “requested” to perform according to their special knowledge. When a Traditional Knowledge Keeper is “requested”, it is important to provide a Tobacco tie and arrange for payment/honorarium and this is discussed in the next section. Invitations do not require a Tobacco tie, as a service is not being provided.

At Durham College, Traditional Knowledge Keepers may be requested through the Aboriginal Student Centre who have already established relationships, however the payment would be the responsibility of the department or the individual who is making the request.

Traditional Knowledge Keepers may be requested for the following tasks/consultations:

  • Consultation with Faculty regarding research.
  • Request to speak at a lecture.
  • Provide professional development.
  • Requested to give a blessing or opening prayer.

Invitations may include:

  • Attendance at events/socials such as Aboriginal Awareness Day.
  • The opening of new buildings.
  • Special events.

Honorariums Traditional Knowledge Keepers

The spirit of honorariums it to reimburse Traditional Knowledge Keepers for their time, travel and knowledge. Honorariums consist of a lump sum for the task they have been requested to perform. Honorariums are requested by providing a cheque requisition and this must be done at least two weeks prior to the Traditional Knowledge Keepers coming to campus. Payment should be made on the day of them providing the service. Refer to (Appendix F) for Durham College procedure for arranging for an honorarium.

Durham College Payroll Traditional Knowledge Keepers

The First People’s Indigenous Centre does have dedicated days/times when Traditional Knowledge Keepers may be available at no cost. However, should your request fall outside these predetermined times then payment is the responsibility of the requestor. To request a Traditional Knowledge Keeper that is already on payroll, contact staff at the First People’s Indigenous Centre for availability. If the requested time falls within their regularly scheduled hours then whomever is requesting their expertise will need to provide their budget code as they are responsible for payment. Options for the Traditional Knowledge Keepers time are up to 3.5 hours, which would be considered a half day or anything over 3.5 hours, which would be considered a full day.

Attendance at Events

Traditional Knowledge Keepers, who are considered an Elder may have a helper with them, who would attend to their needs. A helper is someone who will assist the Traditional Knowledge Keeper throughout the day or the assigned task. If they do not bring a helper with them, it is a good idea to assign someone this task. Throughout the day they would ensure that the Elder has everything they need. They will ensure that they get their food and drink if it is part of the function. It is important to note that Elders may not be comfortable in the presence of alcohol. If there will be alcohol served at an event, it is important that this is communicated so that the Elder can decide whether to attend or request special arrangements for them to feel comfortable.

In the Anishnaabe/FNMI culture, it is customary for Elders be served their meal first, followed by women, children and then men. If there is a buffet meal and there are Elders present, someone should speak to them to determine if they require assistance with their meals. They may feel obligated to eat everything that is on their plate so asking them how much food they would like is a thoughtful gesture.

Gifts: Giving and receiving

A gift is symbolic and indicates there is a respect in the sharing or exchange that is to take place or that has taken place. Harmony and balance is important in Anishnaabe/FNMI culture and the exchange of a gift for what you are about to receive assists to restore this balance. Gifts may include traditional Medicines (Appendix A) for explanation of Medicines and blankets. It is appropriate to give a small gift to a Traditional Knowledge Keeper. Sweetgrass and Tobacco are a small token of appreciation that is appropriate in many situations. These gifts are used for ceremonial purposes.

Appendixes & Resources

A- Medicines: There are four traditional Medicines in Anishnaabe culture. Tobacco is the first Medicine given from the Creator. It is in the East and represents the promise that the Creator is always willing to listen. Tobacco is often used as an offering, as there are no voids in the universe, we never ask for something unless we are able to give something in return. Sweetgrass is in the South and connected to Mother Earth. When Sweetgrass is braided, it cannot be pulled apart. Likewise when your body, mind and spirit are solidly connected, you will be full and strong in your personal life. Sage is in the West. As we move into the adult stage of our lives, we always exit through the West and Sage assists in that journey. The smell of Sage is intended to attract the spirits’ attention. Cedar is placed in the North. While Mother Earth sleeps, Cedar stays green, symbolizing that Mother Earth still watches over and protects us.

B- Tobacco ties: Can be used when making a request to a Traditional Knowledge Keeper. To make a Tobacco tie be mindful of what your intentions are while making it. Place a small amount of Tobacco in the middle of a square piece of cotton cloth (3x3). Think of the purpose of why you are making the Tobacco tie as you lift the corners of the cloth to touch in the middle. Twist the cloth and use a small cord of cloth to tie it up.

C- Smudging: Smudging is a purification ceremony that is used to create a positive mindset. Any one or a combination of the traditional Medicines would be lit with a match. When lit the Medicines produce some smoke and a scent is given off.

The smoke is then drawn over the individual to release negative energy, create a positive mindset and to ground the individual.

D- Regalia: Is traditional clothing that is typically made by the individual and worn for ceremonial events. Regalia is something that might be gifted to an individual by their family or their community as recognition that they have completed the journey of post-secondary education. It is important that they be able to honour their families and communities by wearing their regalia at this important occasion.

E- Honorarium payments: Are one time only payments, to non-employees, can be paid by completing a cheque requisition referencing account #61810 and should be limited to a maximum of $500 cumulatively in a one year are to be considered taxable and should be reported through payroll and issued a T4 slip. Below are the websites for the seven First Nations communities that are involved in the Williams treaties. Information on specific programming is available for each First Nation on their websites. They may also have cultural coordinators that may assist in accessing the Traditional Knowledge Keepers/Elders of their communities. Métis resources: Inuit resources:

Books on Indigenous Topics

The CTL and the ASC have books on Indigenous topics to help you with your teaching and learning.

Campus Library - Indigenous Studies Guide

This is a guide to recommended library resources. The Indigenous Studies Guide includes recommended books, article databases, streaming video collections and Anishinaabemowin language resources.

Teaching Practices

Professor Jason Vassell explains in this video how he is indigenzing aspects of the courses he teaches at Durham College.

Other Resources

University of Toronto

Understanding Indigenous Perspectives

These free learning modules have been created to support educators to gain a deeper understanding of Indigenous perspectives, knowledge and worldviews.

University of British Columbia

Reconciliation through Indigenous Education

Various videos from the Reconciliation through Indigenous Education massively open online course (MOOC) are available on the UBC ETS YouTube channel. The Reconciliation through Indigenous Education MOOC will run again in October 2017.

Confederation College

Confederation College has a list of Indigenous Learning Outcomes located on their teaching and learning website.