Canada’s Aboriginal peoples have been the target of the processes of integration and assimilation for many generations. Now, thanks to a vibrant cultural renaissance and renewed political strength, the First Nations are making it clear that they want to have a say in determining their place in Canadian society.
Before the concept of educational integration is relegated to the back burner, however, it deserves to be re-examined. The term itself suggests a mixing of ideas, a coming together of minds with appreciation for alternative ways of thinking. It is now becoming clear that Canada’s cultural make-up can be greatly enriched through an injection of Aboriginal philosophy and spirituality. The time is right; non-Native people now appear willing to listen and learn.
This book is an appeal to First Nations leaders in Canada to promote integration. Non-Aboriginals need to be educated about Native ways because the ancient sacred ways have much to offer. The traditional Indigenous reverence for the Earth and natural phenomena promoted harmony among all living things and assured a perpetual availability of natural resources. This form of integrated education can only be undertaken by Indigenous people because they alone possess traditional knowledge.
The integration of Indigenous knowledge necessitates a unanimous stance in the First Nations community and requires the shifting of Aboriginal energies from political fronts towards a more fraternal sharing of ideas. The benefits of such an undertaking cannot easily be overemphasized since the very existence of our planet may be at stake.
John W. Friesen, PhD, DMin, is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary, where he conducts research in Aboriginal education and teacher training. An ordained clergyman with the All Native Circle Conference of the United Church of Canada, he has authored or co-authored more than 50 books.
Virginia Lyons Friesen, PhD, is a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary and a frequent instructor at Old Sun College in Siksika, Alberta. She has co-presented a number of papers at academic conferences and has co-authored several books.
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