Consider This: "Hands back, hands forward" Passing Traditional Teachings to Younger Generations

Brooke Madden - Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Education Policy Studies, Faculty of EducationReferences

Passing traditional teachings to younger generations

Photo courtesy of Tamara HermanIndigenous education is unfolding during a momentous and precarious time. Education across Canada is undergoing programmatic, curricular, and policy reform. I am witnessing the ongoing reconfiguration of teacher education initiatives across universities and school districts as Canada pursues the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (2015) calls to action. National and international community-based movements toward advancing Indigenous education, wellness, and sovereignty that are deeply tied to land proliferate.

It is a powerful time of synergy, of coalition building, priority setting, and growing capacity. It is also a time of asking important questions about the preparedness of and the roles that government, public and private institutions, communities, practitioners, and individuals might play in pursuing reconciliation and sustaining Indigenous survivance.

In asking questions, I continue to be guided by the "hands back, hands forward" teaching of Tsimilano, Musqueam Elder Dr. Vincent Stogan:

"My dear ones,"

"Form a circle and join hands in prayer. In joining hands, hold your left palm upward to reach back to grasp the teachings of the ancestors. Put these teachings into your everyday life and pass them on. Hold your right palm downward to pass these teachings on to the younger generation. In this way, the teachings and knowledge of the ancestors continue, and the circle of human understanding and caring grows stronger. (Tsimilano, as cited in Archibald, 2008, p. 50)"

"Hands back, hands forward" encourages me to connect what can sometimes be narrowly viewed as a 'moment' to traditional teachings and practices that sustain the world's ongoing becoming in relation and in balance. It reminds me of the responsibility I hold to learn from and honour Indigenous Elders, philosophers, cultural mentors, artists, activists, and survivors who created and held space for Indigenous knowledges, ways, and commitments in contexts, whose challenges I cannot begin to imagine. It is because of leaders like Roberta Jamieson that we, the next generation of Indigenous and ally scholars, can engage in the work that those who came beforehand dreamed possible.

Roberta Jamieson

Roberta Jamieson, CM, IPC, LL.B, LL.D (Hon), is Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario. She continues to serve as President & CEO of Indspire, Canada's premiere Indigenous-led charity that has awarded over $12.2 million through 3,792 bursaries and scholarships to Indigenous students for the long term benefit of their communities and Canada. Indspire also supports a variety of educational resources and initiatives (e.g., Virtual Resource Centre, National Gathering for Indigenous Education, Indigenous Youth Conferences and Seminars) and annually honours extraordinary Indigenous students and outstanding K-12 teachers for their innovation in Indigenous education (Indspire, 2016).

Beyond her significant contributions to Indigenous students and Indigenous education, Roberta has much to share about her varied career accomplishments. Roberta is "the first First Nation woman to earn a law degree; the first non-parliamentarian appointed an ex-officio member of a House of Commons Committee; the first woman Ombudsman of Ontario (1989-1999); and in December 2001, she was the first woman elected Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Roberta also served as Commissioner of the Indian Commission of Ontario from 1986 to 1989" (Indspire, ΒΆ4).

The Department of Educational Policy Studies will be hosting an open conversation focused on Indigenous education with Roberta Jamieson on November 28th from 2:00-3:00pm in Room 129, Education South. Dr. Noella Steinhauer, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies will facilitate the session.

Later the same evening, Roberta will be giving a public lecture entitled "Our Most Fundamental Human Rights Challenge: Relationships with Indigenous Peoples and Education's Role in Successfully Meeting It". The lecture is hosted by Global Education, University of Alberta International and takes place 7:00 pm in the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science 1- 430.

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Brooke Madden - Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Education Policy Studies, Faculty of Education

Brooke is a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Education's Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. Her maternal ancestry is Wyandot/Iroquois, French, and German, and her paternal ancestry is Mi'kmaq, Irish, and English. Her research focuses on the experiences and perceptions of Indigenous and ally early career teachers who completed Indigenous education coursework within a Faculty of Education; whiteness, decolonizing processes, and teacher identity; and school-based Indigenous education reform.


Archibald, J. (2008). Indigenous storywork: Educating the heart, mind, body and spirit. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Indspire. (2016). President & CEO. Retrieved from

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Truth and reconciliation commission of Canada: Calls to action. Retrieved from