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Decolonizing Educational Practices through Fostering Ethical Relationality in an Urban Indigenous Classroom


  • Diane H. Conrad University of Alberta
  • Etienna Moostoos-Lafferty University of Alberta
  • Natalie Burns Edmonton Catholic School Division
  • Annette Wentworth University of Alberta


Indigenous education, decolonizing education, ethical relationality, wîcihitowin and wahkohtowin


To foster the success of young Indigenous learners, our study partnered with an urban Indigenous school in Alberta’s capital region. This paper explores the decolonizing practices that emerged through the ethical relationships developed with students and staff guided by the Cree wisdom teachings of wîcihitowin and wahkohtowin. A group of Indigenous and Canadian university and school-based co-researchers worked with a class of students over four years (from grade 6 to 9) incorporating Indigenous knowledges with the mandated Social Studies curriculum. The teachings included Cree language, land-based activities, ceremony and story. Students expressed appreciation for the teachings and the opportunities they had experienced over the course of the study; it was a small step towards decolonizing education.

Author Biographies

Diane H. Conrad, University of Alberta

Diane Conrad is a Professor in the Department of Secondary Education at the University of Alberta. She is very thankful to have been co-Principal Investigator of this SSHRC funded project – to have had this opportunity to learn more about Indigenous education.

Diane Conrad est professeur au département de l’enseignement secondaire de l’Université de l’Alberta. Elle est très reconnaissante d’avoir pu agir à titre de co-chercheur principal de ce projet subventionné par le CRSH. Elle a ainsi eu l’opportunité d’en apprendre davantage sur l’éducation des autochtones.

Etienna Moostoos-Lafferty, University of Alberta

Etienna Moostoos-Lafferty was born and raised in Grande Prairie Alberta. Her family is from the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 8 territory. Etienna works as an Indigenous Education Coach and is currently completing her Masters in Secondary Education at the University of Alberta.

Etienna Moostoos-Lafferty est née et a grandi à Grande Prairie, en Alberta. Sa famille est originaire de la nation crie Sturgeon Lake dans le territoire du Traité numéro 8. Etienna travaille comme coach en éducation autochtone et complète sa maîtrise en éducation secondaire à l’Université de l’Alberta.

Natalie Burns, Edmonton Catholic School Division

Natalie Burns is a settler-ally who currently resides in Amiskwacîwâskahikan on Treaty 6 Territory. She holds a BEd in Secondary Education from the University of Alberta. Natalie has been teaching Social Studies with the Edmonton Catholic School Division since 2008.

Natalie Burns est une alliée des pionniers qui réside actuellement à Amiskwacîwâskahikan, au sein du territoire du Traité numéro 6. Elle détient un baccalauréat en enseignement secondaire de l’Université de l’Alberta. Natalie enseigne les sciences sociales à la division scolaire catholique d’Edmonton depuis 2008.

Annette Wentworth, University of Alberta

Annette Wentworth is an author and PhD student in the department of Secondary Education at the University of Alberta. Her research interests are in memory studies, feminist, post/anti-colonial and arts-based research.

Annette Wentworth est auteur et doctorante au département de l’enseignement secondaire de l’Université de l’Alberta. Elle s’intéresse à l’étude des souvenirs, au féminisme, au post/anticolonialisme et aux recherches basées sur l’art.


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How to Cite

Conrad, D. H., Moostoos-Lafferty, E. ., Burns, N., & Wentworth, A. . (2021). Decolonizing Educational Practices through Fostering Ethical Relationality in an Urban Indigenous Classroom. McGill Journal of Education / Revue Des Sciences De l’éducation De McGill, 55(2). Retrieved from



Notes from the Field