Healthy Cities in the SDG Era

9. Quality Education

September 29, 2021 Centre for Global Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health Season 1 Episode 9
Healthy Cities in the SDG Era
9. Quality Education
Show Notes Transcript

SDG 4: Quality Education, focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Content warning for listeners: This episode contains discussions on residential schools in the following sections:

  • 2:38-3:10 
  • 16:01 – 16:25 
  • 20:15 – 20:35 
  • 30:19 – 31:31

Dr. Angela Mashford-Pringle is an Algonquin (Timiskaming First Nation) Assistant Professor and Associate Director at the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Dr. Mashford-Pringle worked for over a decade at the federal government in Indigenous initiatives. Angela is the Director of the Master of Public Health – Indigenous Health program (MPH-IH), Director of the Collaborative Specialization in Indigenous Health (CSIH) and Founding Editor of the Turtle Island Journal on Indigenous Health (TIJIH). As the only Canadian and first Indigenous board member at the Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), she has been finding ways to connect Canadian community organizations to university researchers in Canada. She works with Indigenous communities in urban and rural settings with issues related to Indigenous health including culture and cultural safety, language, land-based learning, climate action, and policy analysis and development. 

Hopi Martin is a PhD candidate in Applied Psychology and Human Development at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at University of Toronto.  His research focus has been to bring forward an Ojibwe Seasonal Pedagogy to the 'edge of the bush' between Ojibwe Knowledge of Early Childhood Education and the current colonial pedagogies that dominate research, policy, and practice. Learn more about Edge of the Bush.

Mental Health and Wellness Resources:

Education Resources:

CREDITS: This podcast is co-hosted by Dr. Erica Di Ruggiero, Director of the Centre for Global Health, and Ophelia Michaelides, Manager of the Centre for Global Health, at the DLSPH, U of T, and produced by Elizabeth Loftus. Audio editing is by Sylvia Lorico. Music is produced by Julien Fortier and Patrick May. It is made with the support of the School of Cities at U of T. 

Erica Di Ruggiero [00:00:07] I'm Erica Di Ruggiero and this is Healthy Cities in the SDG Era, a podcast about the Sustainable Development Goals and how research conducted by faculty and students at the University of Toronto is helping to achieve them. We're recording from Toronto or Tkaronto, which for thousands of years has been the traditional land of the Huron- Wendat, the Seneca and the Mississaugas of the Credit. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land. In this episode we'll look into SDG 4 Quality Education, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. A content warning for listeners though. This episode contains discussions on residential schools. Please listen with caution and view the episodes shownotes for timestamps if you would like to skip these sections. SDG 4's targets encompass ensuring access to quality education from early childhood to tertiary levels, increasing youth technical and vocational skills, eliminating gender disparities in education and improving global rates of literacy and numeracy. Education is a key part of sustainable development and it has profound impacts on socio-economic mobility, quality of life and health. Notably, the UNESCO Institute estimates that achieving universal primary education for all women around the globe would result in a 66% reduction in maternal deaths and a 15% reduction in child deaths. Prior to the COVID 19 pandemic, however, global progress towards achieving our SDG four's target was already insufficient to meet the 2030 deadline. In Canada, inequitable access to education persists, despite the fact that its education system ranks consistently high among all OECD countries. In today's episode, our discussions will focus on access to education for indigenous peoples in Canada. Education is recognized by both the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or UNDRIP and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or the TRC. Historically and currently, the education systems in Canada are rooted in colonial and Eurocentric ideologies from which indigenous peoples' knowledge and history have been systematically excluded. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 139 residential schools have been identified in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. According to Federal Government estimates, at least 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students pass through the residential school system. Intergenerational trauma resulting from the residential school system and the systemic violence of colonization continues to harm and impact the lives of indigenous peoples today. Our guests for this episode will speak more about how colonization has disrupted education pathways for indigenous peoples within Canada. In addition to ways we can ensure quality and culturally safe education to promote indigenous peoples health and well-being. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:03:35] Dr. Angela Mashford Pringle is an Algonquin Timiskamin First Nation, assistant professor and associate director at the Walker-Byness, Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Dr. Mashford Pringle worked for over a decade at the Federal Government in Indigenous initiatives. Angela is also the Director of the Masters of Public Health Indigenous Health Program, Director of the Collaborative Specialization in Indigenous Health and founding editor of the Turtle Island Journal on Indigenous Health. As the only Canadian and first Indigenous Board member at the Community Campus Partnerships for Health, she has been finding ways to connect Canadian community organizations to university researchers in Canada. She works with indigenous communities in urban and rural settings with issues related to indigenous health, including culture and culture, safety, language, land based learning, climate action and policy analysis and development. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:04:35] Welcome to the program, Angela. It's really my delight to have you on this program today to talk about the sustainable development goal four: quality education. So let's just start a bit with you telling us a bit about yourself. 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:04:51] Sure. So my name is Angela Mashford Pringle. I'm from Timiskaming, First Nation in northern Quebec, but I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. And so I have not lived on a reserve, but I have spent an awful lot of time in in around my community and my my family. I'm Bear Clan ah my mother and my grandmother are from Hunters Point, Quebec, which is a very small you wouldn't even notice it on a map. And that's why my mum decided she wanted to move to the city because there was really little opportunity for her there. So, you know, that's great. And that gave me the opportunity to not only go all the way through to the to the end of high school, but I managed to go into post-secondary. I got my Bachelor's at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, my Master's in Aboriginal education, and adult Ed at OISE. And then I did my Ph.D. at Dalla Lana School of Public Health in Indigenous Health and Indigenous Health Policy and Public health. So I did a lot of time afterwards to try to get to the Western education. So this is a great and fitting topic to talk about. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:06:13] Yeah. And I really appreciate you sharing a little bit about yourself. I know we could probably spend a whole episode talking a little bit about your journey, but I think it really helps to contextualize your perspectives on education. And speaking of that, I wanted to hear your thoughts about what is education to indigenous peoples. Maybe you can reflect on it from your own perspective also here and if you have any thoughts about what that might mean for indigenous peoples in other countries. 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:06:43] So, you know, I've thought a lot about this. And so in Indigenous education, it's land based, it's land based learning, it's connecting with everything in creation. It's really knowing and learning our traditional ways of knowing and being. So that can be everything from our cultures, in our languages to how to plant our medicines. And medicines aren't just the four sacred medicines, but there's tons and it's it's seeing things from a very unique position. And so what I'm starting to notice is there's this rise in Western education that indigenous people globally are entering into the education system we all know currently, but our elders and our grandmas and our grandpas are all telling us, don't forget your own ways. So, you know, the red paper in 1970 that was put out by the National Indian Brotherhood, which is now the Assembly of First Nations, talked about this, that we needed to have control over our education so that we wouldn't lose our traditional ways. So for me, I keep thinking about what is that and what does that look like? And I think for most people, if they had the opportunity to go back, even if you don't consider yourself indigenous, your family came from somewhere. So could you go back and find those ancestral ways that we taught our young people? Because, you know, education is actually a relatively new field in the in the scheme of things. So could we go back and learn how we did our teaching before, not just indigenous people but anybody in the world? And would that help us to understand how to educate in the 21st century? 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:08:26] Mm hmm. Yeah. I think you're really raising some really important points about the relationship between people's social location and how education is. So tied to culture and really not to wash away the importance of the diverse cultures that make up society, including the many different cultures within Indigenous communities. It makes me think also about um...So what does quality education look like from the perspective of indigenous communities? We have many metrics for measuring quality in a formal academic setting, as you and I both know. But what does quality mean if you were to reflect on that from an indigenous perspective? 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:09:08] So I thought about this too, because I have this feeling that in the era of COVID we could make substantial changes to the educational system, which would then help not just those made vulnerable in our systems. And I do use that language made vulnerable because we didn't make ourselves vulnerable. Somebody else did. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:09:29] Important. 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:09:30] Yeah, that is I think it's huge. So to have quality education, I think if we started with our traditional ways of knowing specifically for indigenous people and the ways that we teach. So on the land, using practical and deliberate teaching methods where we start with smaller chunks, we don't ask people to sit down and read a textbook or book for that matter. We're asking you to practically pick up things. That does not mean that at some point you won't pick up a book to further learn, but that you have to start with...We have different kinds of learning styles, so we have to start thinking about those. So for example, you know, I would think of I'm learning to read as an indigenous first Nations person and I can string my beads together and I have kind of got that down. I'm still learning how to space them and make them into a design. And so it's just going to take time and it's going to take feedback from people that do know how to do it. Then there's others. They can bead small objects, they can do earrings, they can do moccasin vamps, which is, you know, the top of your moccasin, that part that goes over your toes. And then you have others who can bead entire purses or they can bead shirts or other objects. And so if you think about that, that's hands on. But it's also feedback and it's about, you know, trying and trying and trying a very iterative process that also comes from the land, because a lot of our designs come from what you look at in nature, and so do the beads themselves. Right? Like there are see beads and those see beads come from the sea. So, you know, you're actually incorporating nature into everything you do. Whereas I find Western education, it's built on these power dynamics where you have a teacher who's supposed to be in charge, supposed to know everything, the expert. And we think it's a meritocracy, but hint, hint, no, it's not. And there's this unequal balance about how we evaluate people. So we need to start thinking, can we start doing something different? So going back to those traditional ways would help us with a quality education. And I'm not saying that everything is just land based, but what if we had some kind of mixture that gave us traditional education systems as well as the way that we see education in the right now in our in our 21st century world? And what if we did that right from early childhood all the way through to post-secondary? So I have a course that I teach on the land, and I think that's really, really important for students, because often they've never had that opportunity to learn from the land or with the land. And I think that's part of quality education because you're going to experience how you relate to the world. It's not just about the topic area, but you're relating to the world, which we don't do in classrooms. In classrooms, it's very siloed. We think about one specific subject. So for example, when you're in K-12, you go to math class, you go to social sciences or history and geography classes, or you're going to to learn English or grammar. They're all part of one thing. So why we silo them and say, we are only going to teach a small bit, I get it. But in the same token, there's interconnectedness among those subjects, so we could just use different methodologies in order to do that in pedagogies. But we're not doing that and we keep thinking that everybody's at the same point, right? So if you're at if your age is five, then you must be this. And if you're at ten this, you must be at this stage that's not helpful. And it's certainly not comforting to students who either learn faster or slower. So, you know, we need to start thinking about quality education as actually creating creative thinkers who can analyze things. You know, some students are really good at book learning and others are really good at hands on learning, and still others are good in a visual or artistic manner. And yet we don't see those so we don't pull them through from early childhood all the way to post-secondary. And maybe we should be because we don't need everybody to be the same person. We actually need people with a wide variety of thoughts and beliefs and and ways of doing so. I think that quality education comes from the way that we interact with each other, as well as changing how we we actually teach, if you will, because nobody taught you how to speak English or how to walk. You learn that by doing. So if we take that concept into education, what would that actually look like? And that's where I'm excited to see us. You know, in COVID, we have this opportunity to actually change what education looks like and go back to some basics and bring things together in a different way. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:14:26] Mm hmm. It's almost like we've kind of taken out of the opportunity of education to be creative, to use a mix of approaches. And there's lots that we can learn. And I mean, we, as in Western educational systems, from the teachings of indigenous peoples that really strive to have a blend and also look at the context within which that learning occurs, which sometimes is divorced from the in-classroom experience, which is a missed opportunity, as you're saying. And speaking of, you know, Western ways of knowing and educating, I think it's really important for our listeners to hear from you about how colonization has disrupted education pathways for indigenous peoples in Canada. And I know we could have a whole episode on that, but I think we'd be remiss if we didn't speak to some of those harmful influences. Any thoughts on that question? 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:15:22] Yeah, I mean, we have historic trauma and it's not just here in Canada, it's around the globe. Every time colonization happened in the country, it disrupted the way we were or were living. And I think that that's an important piece, that it doesn't get overlooked per se, but people dismiss it. So when when you hear people talking about truth and reconciliation here in Canada and actually in other countries as well, they make it sound like that trauma was historic but not ongoing. And it's still ongoing. So it continues to disrupt that education. It also we also have to think about the policies and the legislation that have disrupted it. So residential schools in by themselves have disrupted education in that that wasn't our traditional way of teaching. And people had to go to Western education in order to be educated. And who says that somebody that lives in the bush isn't as smart as somebody that's got a Ph.D.? So credentialing is very much a Western paradigm. And do we all believe that? So colonization is telling you is setting up for all of us. It doesn't matter who you are, but indigenous people in particular, that you're not good enough unless you can live up to the Western paradigms. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:16:43] Mm hmm. Yeah. Which I think is very harmful and of itself, because we all have different potential, and we need the strategies and the supports to be able to realize them. I mean, we're really thrilled to have you on the program because I know you do a lot of research that is really trying to contribute to ensuring quality and culturally safe education to promote indigenous peoples health and well-being. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the research that you're doing in this area to really start changing those norms, as you've outlined that come from a history of colonization that still has major impacts, contemporarily speaking? 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:17:23] Yeah, I mean, I've been fortunate enough to have the University of Toronto and Dalla Lana School of Public Health help me in in trying to achieve some of my goals and my dreams and my visions, one of which is having land based courses. So right now we have one, but it kind of threw me through a loop and I had to go virtual. But we still managed to do some learning on the land while we were virtual. And I'm still looking at moving more and more of our courses to the land because it brings about your... it changes your physical, your mental, your social and your spiritual health by being on the land. So my students who got to do the land based course a couple of years ago, they built a community and they still talk to each other. So, you know, five days together and it's like all of a sudden your family. Oh, I wonder where else that happens. Indigenous communities. So learning from the land is also important for your for our collective human health. Because if you start to understand that Mother Earth is your mother too, and that everything she provides is for all of us, then there's a likelihood that you won't be polluting her. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:18:43] Mmm Hmm. 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:18:44] Which I think is another issue. Right. Um, we have a number of people who think nothing about climate change. They don't think about how that's affecting our future selves or our future generations. And so being on the land also helps you to think about that. And it might help you with spirituality. And often people equate spirituality to religion. And that's not the same as. Spirituality is that belief in something bigger than yourself. And so being on the land and learning with and from the land helps you to figure out where you fit in this universe, on this planet, in this community, that kind of thing. And I think that when we start talking about those things, that also helps you to become more culturally safe because you start to understand and self-reflect. Which, in all fairness, a lot of people don't stop long enough to actually reflect on who they are, what they do every day, and how much influence they have in the world. So they don't think about what I call the three P's power, privilege and positionality. And so, you know, where you go and purchase something, what you're purchasing, how much you're spending on that, that tells the greater society about what we find important. And that can be changed, by the way, that we have education. I think as we see young people starting to learn about indigenous people, I'm seeing I'm not saying it's gone away. I think we're seeing less and less some change. Yeah, discrimination. And I mean, I haven't talked about the sixties scoop. I haven't talked about the what I call the new residential schools. All of these things, if we have culturally safe education, would ultimately have a huge impact on future generations, not just right now, but, you know, for a long time to come. And it has a huge impact on climate and environment. And I think that's the piece we need to keep thinking about because we are in a climate emergency. I don't care what the politicians say we need to start thinking about, you know, I can't actually imagine 60 years from now people still living in these big cities, in these high rises and the amount of damage we've done to the Earth by creating these high rises in these cities. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:21:03] But it's very relevant to this episode and this podcast series because this is about healthy cities. So I think you're spot on and these are things that indigenous peoples have known for so long because of their strong connection to the land. And I would argue that many people are so disconnected from their environment that they can shut these things out and ignore them to their peril and to the planet's peril and our peril right now. So I want I mean, you've kind of alluded to this a little bit in terms of what needs to change. But, you know, just to close up this episode, what does need to change in in health and education sectors to really start moving the needle in the right direction? Do you have any examples of innovative programing? You talked about your land based course, but any other promising approaches to policy or programing you want to highlight? 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:21:59] I think the other thing is for the past, at least 150 years here in Canada and approximately 4 to 500 years in North America, indigenous people haven't been that haven't had a seat at any table. So I'm not sure I, I just heard this the other day. I'm not sure we want a seat at the table, but rather we want to change the table. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:22:25] Or people should come to your tables. 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:22:27] Yeah. Yeah. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:22:28] Which is to switch things up as well. 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:22:30] So and hopefully that would switch up the paradigm shift. Right. But right now we haven't had any input into things. So COVID is one example of this, but we need to start switching. Why aren't we learning on the land? Why aren't we learning about indigenous ways of knowing? Why are we only privileging Western scientific positivistic education? Why do we have to have so much evidence to prove that what we know as Indigenous people inherently through our oral tradition is right? Like you read lots of stories now about how trees are related, how they connect underground. Erica, as you much know, I love to tell everybody I'm the crazy professor who says, go and talk to a tree. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:23:15] Now, that's okay. I'm I'm reading and finishing the book called The Overstory, which actually makes a beautiful point about what we can learn from nature and the power of trees and and what they have to teach us, which is humbling, but I think important in the face of sort of what constitutes evidence and scientific thought. So I'm with you. 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:23:41] So I would just say we have to have more input. And I'm not just talking about indigenous people here in Canada. I mean this globally. You know, I I've had opportunities to me and work with indigenous people and scholars from around the globe. And often what I have noticed is they have so much more unique knowledges even than what I know as a First Nations person here in Canada. And I think that it's important for us to all stop and listen. But there is one big teacher, and we're all on her. So we should be trying to listen to her. And, you know, really, in all fairness, she gives you everything you need to know if you want to know about the Fibonacci sequence. Go look at a dahlia. If you want to know how to space things appropriately, go look at a spider's web. If you want to know how to measure something, your arms, your legs become your measurement tools. We don't need meter sticks and yardsticks. So we need to start thinking more creatively about where we want to go in the future. And we need to start building on the knowledges that are ancient and have been here for thousands of years, which we haven't been very good at, because we're not humble enough to back up to see it. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:24:53] Mm hmm. Yeah. I think nature is one of the most powerful teachers, and we need to embrace her. And so on that note, I want to thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts with us and for these perspectives on the role of education from an indigenous perspective. So thanks so much for making the time, Angela. 


Angela Mashford Pringle [00:25:12] Thank you, Miigwech


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:25:22] Hopi Martin is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Psychology and human development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on bringing forward and Ojibwa seasonal pedagogy to the edge of the bush between a Ojibway knowledge of early childhood education and the current colonial pedagogies that dominate research, policy and practice. So far, this work has resulted in the development of early learning bush schools following that seasonal pedagogy along the rivers that shaped Tkaronto and the development of an international early childhood community. A practice that is exploring these Mother Earth teachings in relationship to local indigenous peoples and knowledge. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:26:07] Welcome to the program. Delighted to have you, Hopi. Let's just start off by you telling us a little bit about yourself. 


Hopi Martin [00:26:17] Nanaboozhoo! Gizhewe'e Inini n'dishnikaas. Waabaazheshii Doodem gaye. [Greetings in the name of Ojibwe First Teacher! Kind Man I am called. I am Marten Clan too.] Hopi Lovell Martin are my other given names. I  was born in Massachusetts along the Housatonic River and my ancestry is Lenni Lenape, Briton and European. And I came here to Toronto, Tkaronto the sacred territory of the Haudenosaunee Anishinaabeg Confederacy Huron- Wendat and tobacco nations. And that's currently in the care of the Mississaugas of the Credit.  I came to this territory when I was really small, when I was five years old, four years old. And it's in this context that I belong to the Waabaazheshii Martin Clan of the Ojibway, a Warrior Clan and strategists, and that's through my traditional teacher and auntie, Gokoomis (Grandmother) Jacque(line)  Lavallee. And it's with under her guidance that I walk an all time Ojibwe path called Asemaa Nitam, which means : "tobacco first." So in everything that I do, I begin with that most sacred medicine first. And it's through those teachings and that and my work with her, I'm what's called Oshkaabewis, which is a ceremonial helper and messenger. And so I [am] working with her as a traditional teacher and and really that's instrumental in the work that I'm doing as I'm bringing that aspect of me into the academic world to try to make place and make space for indigenous knowledge and early childhood education. So those are that's where I'm the way I was taught is to say who you are, where you're from, and how you walk, like where your heart's at. And so that's really the essence of me and how I come to this work that I'm sharing with you today. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:28:07] Oh, that's lovely. Thanks so much for sharing that part of you. And I think it leads us really nicely into what we'd like to talk about today on the program and some of the work that you're doing. So let's just start off with a question actually about why it's important to focus on early childhood in terms of indigenous people's health and wellbeing. 


Hopi Martin [00:28:32] Sure. So it's interesting that in the last probably decade or two, Western science has started to catch up with really what Indigenous people have known all along. But as they've been able to map brain science and see the impacts and measure the impacts of early childhood experiences for those first. So people talk about the first 5000 days or the first seven years or the first five years. Everybody has different ways of counting that, but they they see how it has this long term effect on your health and wellbeing. Well, Ojibway have always known that and the way I was taught through what's called the Life Lodge  teachings, that first seven years is what's called the good life. And in those first seven years lays the foundation for your whole life of how to live and be. And so the foundations that are introduced there, and this is from my teachings, are kindness and honesty and caring and sharing and then strength. And so those foundations are what's like the underlying basis for this good life. Or, as you know, in Ojibwe, we say "mino-bimaaduziwin" which is the good life way. And so that early childhood education is where that all happens. And in old time that would happen in the home and in the family and primarily with Mum first because of the relationship between the child and their mother was that that first bonding and that first interaction. Unfortunately, if you even if you think about that point of education in for indigenous people, you have to include residential schools as part of that because they're both in the adoption agencies today and in the residential schools that have now closed. They're taking children a really young age. So during the residential school area, it's, you know, even three and four year olds are being taken and they're away from their families. So out of that context, where that kindness and that honesty and sharing and strength comes from. And so those teachings were really interrupted. And then in the modern age, so-called now the because of the impacts of colonization, there's more children in care today than there were at the height of the residential school era. And so we're in a real crisis situation with really the the the early with education in general but the early childhood education the good beginning is really is really important and really not in a good way. So the work that I've been focusing on is saying, well, we have a lot of this Western Eurocentric knowledge in early childhood, but we haven't there hasn't been a lot of talk about those traditional teachings. And so my work has been interviewing and talking to the elders and indigenous early childhood educators about what they see as important, what those foundations are from an indigenous worldview. And they're a little different than what they are from a Europe European worldview. And that's really important for that, that those little ones have a good beginning so that their feet are touching Mother Earth right from the start, because that's where our teachings come from, Mother Earth. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:32:16] So I think you're really addressing some really important, I think, values that need to be brought back into early childhood education programing. I just want to hear a little bit more about how how does one go about centering the diverse indigenous cultures that aim to strengthen early childhood education programing? I think it's an important message that you're alluding to about the fact that there isn't just one culture but indigenous peoples who represent very diverse cultures. So how do how do we go about sort of trying to make sure that these different ways of knowing are actually integrated into early childhood programing? 


Hopi Martin [00:33:01] So in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. They and it's actually just reiterated what was said in 1996 with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. And what was said in 1972 with the Indian control for Indian education goes all the way back. It's always saying about this good, the importance of that good beginning. And in it they say we need to develop culturally relevant early childhood education. That's the most recent one. But that question, like you said, is, okay, well, whose culture? And that's challenging because indigenous way of thinking and Indigenous knowledge, you know, as a as a concept is that it exists as like in relationship to an ecosystem. So the way I'm speaking to you from Ojibwe context from here in the Anishinaabe Territory. But if you talk to somebody who's Inuit or, you know, Blackfoot or from different parts of the country, there's different teachings. And the interesting thing about being here in Tkaronto is that we have all these nations from all over. And Toronto's actually got 250 nationalities represented, 170 languages. And in that, you've got this very underrepresented and very diverse and vibrant indigenous community spread across this huge city. And you've got Ojibwe, Cree, Haudenosaunee, Mi'kmaq, Wendat. You've got everybody from all different places right here. So this is a real challenge when we talk about how to develop culturally relevant ways of teaching little ones. So the way I've focused on it is actually focusing on pedagogy, which is the process there. Typically what's happening right now with the government and the way they approach it is it's like, okay, we just need indigenous time, which means, okay, we'll bring an eagle feather into the classroom or will, you know, we'll get we'll invite people to come into that classroom setting or early childhood education setting or read a book by an indigenous author. Those are all really good things. But the point that I've made, and this is particularly relevant for working with Indigenous families, is that unless you change the process and unless you change the way you're doing it, you're really just integrating indigenous content into a colonizing system that actually is set on erasing that indigenous knowledge and way of doing things. So the way I've approached it is, look, I'm looking for that process, that pedagogy that way that's that relates to all the different cultures. So it's a puzzle because. Where do you look for that? And I can't say that I'm some brilliant person, because all I had to do was I went back to the land and I went back to my auntie. And I found that there are some old Ojibway teachings for working with little ones that are right here. They've always been here, and all I'm trying to do is not create new knowledge like the university wants, but actually just uncover some really old knowledge about how things happened for little ones. So that's been my focus is to say, let's not let's not look at that, look at the content, but more look at the process and look at that pedagogy. So that's how I've approached it. And what the key to that has been going to Mother Earth, or as it's more common, people talk about land based teachings or land based learning because every indigenous nation has a relationship with that land. And so but again, instead of just focusing on that sort of surface treatment of it, I went to my auntie and I asked how to say the word for how do I say land as teacher in Ojibwe? And she said, well. There's not really the word for land is actually "Ahki", Ahki, which is Earth as in Mother Earth. And when we talk about the word teacher, it's "gekinoo'amaaged" and it really means Mother Earth, Mother Earth teacher or Mother Earth teaching. Which is really different than saying land as teacher. It's actually that the Mother Earth is teaching us all the time. And so learning to follow her natural processes is the key to walking in that. Good kind way. So that's what I focused on is looking at, well, what are those natural processes that that we can walk together? And that brought me back to looking at the Four Seasons, because no matter what color you are or what nation you're from, you standing in this territory you're experiencing, that's the most powerful experience of Mother Earth and her movement. And change is how our environment here changes through those four seasons. And each nation has different ways of marking the seasons. Like, just like there's different names for the moons, different languages and approaches to that. But all of them relate to how you relate to Mother Earth. So that's the focus of the pedagogy that I've been looking to bring forward as a seasonal pedagogy. But rather than go deep into Ojibway. Approach to that. They say, well, here's what's relevant in Ojibwe, but I work at what's called because you look at me, I've got both as English and Lenape Anishinaabe in me. I'm what's called edge of the bush, which means I'm on the edge of community because my knowledge comes from Bush Ojibwe, but I'm also from the colonizing world as well. And so my meeting place is right on the edge. So what I've been focusing on with this pedagogy is working with those Ojibwe elders to bring understand what can ethically be brought to the edge. So when we talk and when we work with people, it's like, this is how you can relate in a relevant way in this territory. And these are words that it's not saying you're appropriating it. It's like, you know, we want you to pick this up. Please pick up this words. Please do this with little kids. Because the reality is, is that in any given classroom or early childhood education setting in Toronto. There's indigenous children there. You may not see them. They may look like me, but they're there. Those little ones, if they go out and touch Mother Earth and they learn to do that from a young age, that setting, that template, that foundation for their whole life, that, oh, this is a kind and caring and gentle place that I'm going to treat Mother Earth like I treat my mother. That's what I'm after, so that we're actually walking together in a kind way with Mother Earth. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:40:42] I think it's important to recognize that it speaks to that reciprocal relationship with Mother Earth and to really build that into early childhood education as the core foundation and the earlier the better before other influences get in the way. And actually, I did want to return back to some of the challenges you alluded to, some of them. So it's about really embracing that diversity of cultures that make up 250 plus indigenous communities that are represented just in Toronto alone. But what are some of the other challenges that you've faced in your work with existing pedagogical approaches? I know you've talked a little bit about, you know, Western ways of of teaching in early childhood. How are those challenging, I guess, efforts like the one you've just described about taking a seasonal pedagogical approach? 


Hopi Martin [00:41:41] So the. The thing that I guess most people aren't even aware of is the is the colonial construct that we're in the way of doing business, the way of educating children, the way the college system works, the way the universities work. The way the businesses work is all from a certain way of thinking or a worldview that's intent on that sees doesn't see Mother Earth, but sees Earth as something we can take from as a natural resource. Just like, you know, you work at a company that sees you as a human resource. And that's it. This idea of taking coming to a natural thing and taking from it. So the real challenge is to think from an indigenous worldview is to think from the opposite view rather than coming. Taking is coming with a gift. So you mentioned that word reciprocity, and that's a key part of it. And teaching kids from a young age, oh, if we give first, say give our thanks first. You know, for for my teachings, it's give tobacco first to say thank you before I take something. So that's a really big shift. And so what happens is that when I talk about it or try to introduce approaching that seasonal pedagogy or that seasonal way of working with people who've their whole life, they've been trained to think in a certain way. You know, where you finish the workshop and they say, Well, what's the takeaway? I say, think about those words. You're going to be taking. What's that? How can I take this indigenous knowledge if we can't take it? You can learn to come into relationship with it. And here's how you do it. Here are some steps you can take. So one of those steps is starting with gratitude and starting with thanks. So when we look at whenever I mentioned pedagogy in any early childhood education setting, especially in Ontario, the the main pedagogy that's here is called How Does Learning Happen? Ontario's pedagogy for the early years. And if you look at it, it's got some really good ideas and we've, you know, synthesize a lot of different resources and really tried a lot of smart people got together to try to make something that was going to help focus educators on process. And that's really good. But then you look down and there's only one reference to anything indigenous in the whole thing. And that is that's whoa. Right. So there's 70 I think about 69 references. And there's one reference to this. And so it's now six years since Truth and Reconciliation came out and said culturally relevant. Early childhood education. But right up till last, I think a few months ago or 2020, the Ontario government said every licensed childcare in the province has to follow. How does learning happen? Every early on, which is the family. Family centers, early ons are across the province has to follow. How does learning happen. And so you have, you know, unreserved schools where there is a really definite culture  like you know at the mississauga's of the credit they have a reserve childcare. And if you look at their programing, they have to balance between traditional knowledge and how does learning happen. That's the real obstacle, is that all of these policies, all of these structures are focused on a Eurocentric way, which really the essence of that worldview is trying to get everybody to fit, is to conform to one way of doing things. So one of the lines in that policy says this policy has applies regardless of age, culture, you know, everything. It's just this is this is going to work for everybody. This fact for foundations of well-being, expression, engagement and belonging. Matter for good childhood education for everybody. But if you think about those four foundations, those are quite different than the ones I talked to you about before. Nobody asked Ojibway elders about how learning happens because there's 40,000 years of knowledge about how learning happens for little ones, but no one asked. And so that's what I've asked in my research. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:46:25] Well, it's a huge missed opportunity. And as you say, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and many previous commissions have asked for this. And we're in 2021 and hopefully we're going to see some fundamental change in your research is going to help contribute to that. Thank you so much for taking the time. 


Hopi Martin [00:46:44] Oh, you're welcome. 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:46:44] To share your your teachings and your ways of thinking about the importance of early childhood education. I think it would be of benefit to all children. And so thanks for your time. 


Hopi Martin [00:46:57] Gichi Miigwech! 


Erica Di Ruggiero [00:47:07] The conversations with our guests today have really shed light on the importance of traditional land based learning and its role in promoting quality education for indigenous peoples. Dr. Margaret Pringle outlined how land based learning fosters community building, as well as promoting collective health and wellbeing. Quality education for Indigenous communities requires a paradigm shift away from positivist Eurocentric understandings of knowledge and teaching. As stated by Hopi, it is not sufficient to insert indigenous content into a colonized system. Instead of trying to create one standardized, one size fits all curriculum, we should really focus on understanding processes and pedagogies that underlie different cultures and ways of generating knowledge. Although COVID 19 has disrupted traditional classroom based learning and exacerbated existing educational inequalities, it has also provided an opportunity for us to reflect on critical gaps within our educational system. Ensuring culturally relevant and safe education are critical steps to achieving inclusive and equitable education for all. Healthy cities in the SDG Era is made with the support of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, whose mission is to bring urban focus researchers, educators, students, practitioners and the public together to explore and address complex urban challenges. We'd love to hear your thoughts on Healthy Cities and the SDG era. If you enjoyed this episode, please rate, subscribe and share. To help others find this series, you can find Healthy Cities in the SDG era on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health's YouTube page, as well as our Center for Global Health website. Please join us for our next episode where we'll look at SD 13 Climate Action. Thank you for tuning in and we look forward to speaking soon. Take care.