Building Healthy Communities Through Inclusion

◄  Previous (Water Walkers)                                       Next (Chilcotin Oral Storytelling)

Name: Rachel Smith (Kwakwaka’wakw, Wuikinuxv)
Grades: 6 & 8
Subject Areas: Physical and Health Education
Artefact /Place/ Skill: Inclusive communities, pre-colonial diverse family structures, and gender variant and two-spirit knowledges help community and self identity

Building healthy communities through inclusion: understanding two-spirit identities, gender variance and diverse Indigenous family structures

Making Space

How might teachers prepare their students to work with this content? What background knowledge might be required?

In preparation for building learning opportunities using Indigenous knowledge, Teachers should:

  • teach students about the history of colonization in Canada and North America broadly using a strength-based approach
  • focus on contemporary Indigenous Peoples’s existence and learn about and name the Indigenous territory you are teaching on
  • prime students with teachings about celebrating differences and that diversity makes us strong
  • introduce students to the idea of ethnocentrism and positionality, the things that appear normal or a given in your culture and society can be seen as different in another
  • building healthy communities includes being aware of biases and assumptions, and it is ok to explore and challenge initial points of view

Practice Humility

How might non-Indigenous teachers sensitively work with this subject? What might they need to consider in their own positionality?

For educators who may be non-indigenous, it is crucial to remember when incorporating Indigenous knowledge sensitively into teaching:

  • Indigenous Peoples’ family structures have been altered by colonization
  • Monogamy, gender-binaries, and couple-centric family systems come from specific world views (European, Christian) and should not be seen as a given
  • Traditional Indigenous knowledge about Two-Spirit people and identity has been targeted and erased
  • Two-Spirit is unique to Indigenous Peoples, and often implies special community roles and the term should not be applied to non-Indigenous Peoples and their gender expressions
  • Traditional knowledge around Two-Spirit identities has been targeted by colonial, assimilationist projects like Residential Schools. Indigenous language was targeted and lost at this time period, homophobia, transphobia, queer-phobia in Indigenous communities emerge from the combination of loss of language and culture at the same time that Christian values were forcibly placed upon them
  • For Indigenous Peoples family structures pre-colonization looked very different than the nuclear family of today, rights and responsibilities were often passed through families and could include matrilineal structures of power

Acknowledge Sources

What can teachers do to find good supporting resources? How should they be cited, especially when it comes to Indigenous knowledges?

How to properly cite Indigenous knowledge sources: always give credit to where you heard information from, whether it is from an Indigenous scholar, artist, relative, friend or colleague and, if possible, use their name, traditional name, and say what nation they are from if that information is available (make an effort to learn how to pronounce their name and nation’s name, ask for help with pronunciation, and keep practicing.

Driskill, Qwo-Li. (2011) “Doubleweaving Two-Spirit Critiques: Building Alliances between Native and Queer Studies.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 16 no. 1, 2010, pp. 69-92. Project MUSE,

How does it relate to BC Curriculum?

Click on the subject area below to expand the section.

Physical and Health Education

Big Idea(s):

  • Learning about similarities and differences in individuals and groups influences community health.
  • We experience many changes in our lives that influence how we see ourselves and others.

Curricular Competencies:

Social and community health:

  • Describe and assess strategies for responding to discrimination, stereotyping, and bullying

Mental well being:

  • Explore and describe strategies for managing physical, emotional, and social changes during puberty and adolescence
  • Explore and describe how personal identities adapt and change in different settings and situations

Concepts & Content:

Big Idea(s):

  • Advocating for the health and well-being of others connects us to our community.

Curricular Competencies:

Social and Community Health:

  • Create strategies for promoting the health and well-being of the school and community

Mental well-being:

  • Explore and describe the impact of transition and change on identities

Concepts & Content:

First Peoples’ Principles of Learning

Which First Peoples’ Principles of Learning apply?

  • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
  • Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.
  • Learning recognizes the role of Indigenous knowledge.
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
  • Learning requires exploration of one‘s identity.
  • Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations.

Inviting Community

What is one way that teachers could work with community members for this project?

  • UNYA programs for Indigenous urban youth in Vancouver
  • If not teaching in the lower mainland: Recognize that different nations will have different teachings around these topics. Seek out Indigenous knowledge holders and activists that are from the territory you are teaching on and build relationships-invite them to share with your class on these topics.

Indigenous perspectives

How does your lesson relate to decolonization or reconciliation of education?

Harlan Pruden:

Sara Hunt