Reciprocity, Responsibility, Relationships

To live in balance and harmony with others and the natural world around requires reciprocity and responsibility. Educators can demonstrate these values in their teaching, interactions with students, families, and communities, and caring for the natural world.


What is Reciprocity?

Reciprocity is expressed through exchange, where everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner.

What is Responsibility?

Responsibility assumes that as educators we are all accountable for ensuring Indigenous ways of knowing flourish in our school systems as part of a socially just education.

What is Relationship?

Indigenous peoples view the world through relationships. Connections and inter-relations between ideas, concepts, people, and the world around us, is how we come to knowing. As educators, from a relational perspective, it is important to recognize Indigenous histories, worldviews, and contemporary realities.

What does it mean to teach within these values?

We seek to understand our own histories/ancestries in relationship to Indigenous peoples, colonization and Indigenous education. This personal exploration of how our knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal people has been constructed and shaped over time will help us develop teaching practices that move beyond colonial imperatives and shift existing personal and professional paradigms to include Indigenous knowledges, content, perspectives, and approaches to learning. Professional Standards for BC EducatorsLinks to an external site. – Specifically, Standard 9 calls educators to “respect and value the history of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis in Canada and the impact of the past on the present and the future”. We must engage in Truth and work toward ReconciliationLinks to an external site.. Kirkness & Barnhardt (1991) invite us to reflect on these aspects of respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility. It is an opportunity for personal reflection for you. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Who are you? Your name? Your Ancestry? What Lands are you from?
  • What is your knowledge and experience in Indigenous Education?
  • What is a way you connect with the Land?
  • What is something you feel nervous about in approaching Indigenous Education?


Post Author, Jesse Halton

Video created for EDUC 440 Aboriginal Education in Canada, Rural and Remote Teacher Education program, UBC

With thanks to contributors including the Indigenous Education Circle, Jesse Halton, Bonny-Lynn Donovan, Megan Read, and Denise Flick.


Kirkness, V. J., & Barnhardt, R. (1991). FIRST NATIONS AND HIGHER EDUCATION: The four R’s — respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility. Journal of American Indian Education, 30(3), pp. 1-15

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