Language & Culture

Knowledge is developed in historical and cultural contexts where past, present and future are all connected. Indigenous people make sense of the world through stories, traditions, and values that are carried through the generations. As educators, we seek to honour and provide opportunities for connection and story.

This requires an understanding of the diversity of Aboriginal people in Canada (British Columbia) in terms of their identities, languages, and territories. Armstrong (1998) tells us that “language was given to us by the land that we live within” (p. 175).

The shared history of Indigenous-settler relations in Canada is shaped by colonization and has much to teach us about our responsibility as educators. It is a history that has produced very different outcomes for Indigenous people from that of their non-Indigenous counter- parts.

How do we respectfully approach language & culture in the classroom?

Language is Land, Land is Language” Language and Culture are interconnected concepts. Cultures and Languages of Indigenous peoples are rich and diverse, and connected to the Land on which they are. While the impacts of colonization has deeply impacted Indigenous languages and cultures, revitalisation has been started in many different Indigenous communities. Bringing Language and Culture into the classroom can be engaging, positively impactful, and offers vital representation. Brayboy & Maughn (2009) talk about the power of representation: “The process of contextualizing what is being learned and tying it to the actual lives of the children is an important part of Indigenous Knowledge Systems.” (p. 11). TIPS: Work with the Aboriginal Education staff in the school and district to see what resources are available and if there are any protocol that must be followed.  FNESC offers some great materials to work with and First Voices brings the sounds of Indigenous Language speakers to your devices. The United Nations has declared 2022-2032 to be the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.


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.


Armstrong, J. C. (1998). Land speaking. In S. J. Ortiz (Ed.), Speaking for the generations: Native writers on writing (pp. 174-194). University of Arizona Press.

Brayboy, B. M. J., & Maughan, E. (2009). Indigenous knowledges and the story of the bean. Harvard Educational Review, 79(1), 1-21.

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