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BCTF Advantage
Teacher Magazine Volume 28, Number 3
January/February 2016

Whose story is it?

By Lucinda Tooker, teacher-librarian, Maple Ridge

A challenge for teachers integrating First Nations Principles of Learning is to avoid using materials that have appropriated Aboriginal stories. Shared Learnings: Integrating BC Aboriginal Content K-10, a resource published in 2006 for BC teachers, cautions: “Certain stories belong to specific individuals, families, or clans. Be sure to obtain permission before using the stories.”

Judy Iseke-Barnes, an indigenous researcher and teacher from Ontario writes in her paper titled, “Unsettling Fictions: Disrupting Popular Discourses and Trickster Tales in Books for Children,” that “educators are challenged to consider Indigenous literatures written from Indigenous perspectives and to engage with these in ways that transform educational experiences.” (

She explains the significance of such storytelling to original communities and hence, to the broader community. She points out that Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest, is a well-known title, a Newbery Honor book, yet misappropriates Northwest indigenous art, and incorporates western story-telling techniques.

Here is a short list of books from a growing and dynamic collection of indigenous and related literature, that you may want to consider:

How the Robin Got Its Red Breast, retold by Donna Joe and illustrated by Charlie Craigan, both Shishálh or Sechelt people, is only one title in the Legends of the Sechelt People series of creation stories.

Roy Henry Vickers, northwest coast storyteller and artist, has retold the stories Raven Brings the Light, and Cloudwalker, describing the creation of the rivers in two beautiful self-illustrated volumes.

Interior Salish and Métis author Nicola I. Campbell retells her childhood experiences, capturing some of the essence of the intergenerational relationships in her picture book Grandpa's Girls.

Another intergenerational story is Yetsa's Sweater by Sylvia Olsen, who lives in the Tsartlip First Nation. This story also explains the tradition of the Coast Salish knitters who make traditional Cowichan sweaters.

Maria Williams (Tlingit), an ethnomusicologist and the Native Folk Arts Director for the Alaska State Council on the Arts, learned the creation story of How Raven Stole the Light from her father, also Tlingit.

In the book, A Native American Thought of It: Amazing Inventions and Innovations, Rocky Landon, an Ojibwa originally from Wabigoon, Ontario writes of the amazingly creative techniques and innovations to improve First Peoples' chances of survival in every situation imaginable. The book also uses authentic, archival images to supplement the written information.

For older readers, the novel Reading the Bones by archaeologist Gina McMurchy-Barber, handles with great sensitivity the discovery of ancient human remains in urban areas, specifically the Crescent Beach area of south Surrey, and recreates the lifestyle of those who lived there for millennia.

The topic of residential schools and their ongoing impact on First Nations communities is another topic teachers will be incorporating in their teaching. Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton is an early chapter book describing the experiences of an Inuit girl who goes away to a residential school far from her family.

When I Was Eight retells the same story in picture book format.

Nicola I. Campbell effectively portrays the residential experience in her picture books Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi's Canoe, which are beautifully illustrated by Kim LaFave.

Other relevant resources
The BCTF's ebook Project of Heart: Illuminating the hidden history of Indian Residential Schools in BC is a 40-page publication that contains links to a great range of teaching resources including videos, original historical documents, timelines, classroom activities, and more. (

The First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) has created several new resources for public and First Nations schools to promote greater understanding of First Peoples and to make the BC curriculum more accurately reflect the experiences of First Nations peoples.

Check out Strong Nations Publishing for their collection of indigenous literature. (

Initiated by School District 85, Vancouver Island North, the Ministry of Education in partnership with three additional districts recently published the framework and resource document, Aboriginal worldviews and perspectives in the classroom: Moving forward.” (

Cross-curricular lessons and strategies are outlined in the 2006 document “Shared Learnings: Integrating BC Aboriginal Content K-10,” which also suggests a number of resources. (

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action contains a number of recommendations that will allow for true reconciliation. (

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