Awakening Indigenous Knowledge: Perspectives and Experiences of Indigenous Early Childhood Education Diploma Students


  • Shelley Stagg-Peterson OISE/ University of Toronto
  • Lori Huston Oshki-Pimache-O-Win: The Wenjack Education Institute
  • Eugema Ings Oshki-Pimache-O-Win: The Wenjack Education Institute
  • Brenda Mason Oshki-Pimache-O-Win: The Wenjack Education Institute
  • Kim Falcigno Oshki-Pimache-O-Win: The Wenjack Education Institute


early childhood education diploma programs, Indigenous knowledge, northern Indigenous postsecondary education, Indigenous cultural revitalization, early childhood education professional requirements


We draw on a focus group discussion amongst four Indigenous northern Ontario early childhood educators (ECEs) from an Indigenous postsecondary institution’s ECE diploma program, to show the important contributions of programs offered by Indigenous postsecondary education institutes to Indigenous cultural revitalization. We are the Indigenous Elder, two instructors, and senior administrator of the program, as well as a non-Indigenous university professor. We argue for Indigenous community-generated curricula that embody local Indigenous cultural knowledge, values, and practices, drawing on themes arising from analysis of focus group data: participants felt that they brought limited knowledge of their Indigenous language and culture to their program, and participants experienced an awakening of Indigenous knowledge through their participation in Indigenous practices outside the core curriculum.

Author Biographies

Shelley Stagg-Peterson, OISE/ University of Toronto

Professor, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Lori Huston, Oshki-Pimache-O-Win: The Wenjack Education Institute

Graduate Student, Masters in Education, UBC, with a specialty in ECE and fulfilling part-time work assignments

Eugema Ings, Oshki-Pimache-O-Win: The Wenjack Education Institute

Instructor, Early Childhood Education Diploma Program

Brenda Mason, Oshki-Pimache-O-Win: The Wenjack Education Institute

Elder, Early Childhood Education Diploma program

Kim Falcigno, Oshki-Pimache-O-Win: The Wenjack Education Institute

Academic Director


Anishinabek Educational Institute. (2018). Binoojiingyag Kinoomaadwin; ECE diploma program.

Anuik, J., Battiste, M., & George, P. (2010). Learning from promising programs and applications in nourishing the learning spirit. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 33(1), 6382.

Ball, J., & Simpkins, M. (2004). The community within the child: Integration of Indigenous knowledge into First Nations childcare process and practice. American Indian Quarterly, 28(3/4), 480498.

Battiste, M. (2008). The struggle and renaissance of Indigenous knowledge in Eurocentric education. In M. Villegas, S. R. Neugebauer, & K. R. Venegas (Eds.), Indigenous knowledge and education: Site of struggle, strength, and survivance (pp. 8591). Harvard Education Review.

Battiste, M. (2013). Decolonizing education: Nourishing the learning spirit. Purich Publishing.

Battiste, M., & Henderson, J. (2009). Naturalizing Indigenous knowledge in Eurocentric education. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 32(1), 518.

Benton-Benai, E. (2010). The Mishomis book: The voice of the Ojibway (2nd ed.). University of Minnesota Press.

Castellano, M. B. (2000). Updating Aboriginal traditions of knowledge. In G. J. S. Dei, B. L. Hall, & D. B. Rosenberg (Eds.), Indigenous knowledges in global contexts: Multiple readings of our world (pp. 2136). University of Toronto Press.

Charette, J. (2019, May 30). Canadore College and First Nations Technical Institute renew decades-old partnership. Canadore College.

Government of Ontario. (2007). Early Childhood Educators Act.

Government of Ontario. (2014). Childcare and Early Years Act.

Government of Ontario. (2017). Ontario Institutes Act.

Gunn, T. M., Pomahac, G., Good Striker, E., & Tailfeathers, J. (2011). First Nations, Metis and Inuit education: The Alberta initiative for school improvement approach to improve education in Alberta. Journal of Educational Change, 122(3), 323345.

Hare, J. (2011). ‘They tell a story and there’s meaning behind that story’: Indigenous knowledge and young Indigenous children’s literacy learning. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 12(4), 389414.

Hare, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Transitions to early childhood education and care for Indigenous children and families in Canada: Historical and social realities. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 35(2), 1927.

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. (2017). Evaluation of the Aboriginal Head Start in urban and northern communities program 20112012 to 20152016.

Hodson, J., Hedican, N., Huston, L., Mason, B., Junnila, M., Falcigno, K., & Evans, K. (2019). Anishininiiwi awaashishiiw kihkinohamaakewi niikaanihtamaakew (Indigenous early childhood education professional development program: A summative research report). Oshki-Wenjack-Pimache-O-Win: The Wenjack Education Institute.

Kenjgewin Teg. (2019). Early childhood education fact sheet.

Makokis, L. (2010, March 5). Success stories: Enhancing Indigenous child well being: An educational experience of Indigenous culture and ceremony. Opening speech for the Gathering at Blue Quills First Nations College.

Manning, M., Wong, T. W., Fleming, C. M., & Garvis, S. (2019). Is teacher qualification associated with the quality of the early childhood education and care environment? A meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 89(3), 370415.

Moll, L. C., & Gonzalez, N. (2004). Engaging life: A funds-of-knowledge approach to multicultural education. In J. Banks & C. A. McGee Banks (Eds.), Handbook of research on multicultural education (pp. 699715). Jossey-Bass.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation. (2020). About us.

Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. (2018). Early childhood education program standard.

Patton, M. Q. (2015). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (4th ed.). Sage.

Peterson, S. S., Huston, L., & Loon, R. (2019). Preparing Indigenous teachers from remote communities: Voices from northern Ontario. Brock Journal of Education, 48(2), 1732.

Preston, J. P. (2008). Overcoming the obstacles: Postsecondary education for Aboriginal peoples. Brock Education: A Journal for Research and Practice, 18(1), 5763.

Preston, J. P., Cottrell, M., Pelletier, T. R., & Pearce, J. V. (2011). Aboriginal early childhood education in Canada: Issues of context. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 10(1), 318.

Ritchie, J. (2012). Early childhood education as a site of ecocentric counter-colonial endeavour in Aotearoa New Zealand. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 13(2), 8698.

Sam, M. A. (2019). Contextualizing approaches to Indigenous peoples’ experience of intractable conflict. New England Journal of Public Policy, 31(1), Article 5.

Styres, S. (2017). Pathways for remembering and recognizing Indigenous thought in education: Philosophies of Iethi’nihsténha Ohwentsia’kékha (Land). University of Toronto Press.

Sutherland. D., & Swayze, N. (2012). Including Indigenous knowledges and pedagogies in science-based environmental education programs. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 17, 8096.

Toulouse, P.R. (2016). What matters in Indigenous education: Implementing a vision committed to holism, diversity, and engagement. Measuring What Matters, People for Education.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.

United Nations General Assembly. (2007). United Nations declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples. New York: Author.

Vu, J. A., Jeon, H. J., & Howes, C. (2008). Formal education, credential, or both: Early childhood program classroom practices. Early Education and Development, 19(3), 279504.

Wurm, S. A. (2001). Atlas of the world’s languages in danger of disappearing (2nd ed.). United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Publishing.




How to Cite

Stagg-Peterson, S., Huston, L., Ings, E., Mason, B., & Falcigno, K. (2022). Awakening Indigenous Knowledge: Perspectives and Experiences of Indigenous Early Childhood Education Diploma Students. McGill Journal of Education / Revue Des Sciences De l’éducation De McGill, 56(1). Retrieved from