Indigenous Schools – Past, Present, and Future

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

1 LU / HSW

Indigenous schools in Canada, the USA, Australia, and other colonized lands in the “New World” have charted a dramatic and frequently heartbreaking course that played a central role in the lives of indigenous peoples for two centuries. To the peoples variously styled by the now-dominant colonizing cultures as Indian, Native American/Canadian, Aboriginal, First Nation, Metis, Inuit, Alaska Native, or other, these government-sponsored schools were for the most part designed to destroy indigenous cultures, languages, and ways of life in order to assimilate. The results of this imposed, inequitable, and highly unjust policy and practice are evident today: graduation rates the lowest of any demographic; incarceration, substance abuse, and fatal encounters with law enforcement the highest. Central to much of this and to much of the transformative healing now underway are schools. This session will examine three models.

  • The Canadian Residential Boarding School system and its legacy to Indigenous peoples across Canada, as a devastatingly harmful model for the harm caused to generations of learners and entire societies, with lessons that are only just beginning to be acknowledged by the dominant Canadian society.
  • A contemporary school in Oregon as a model for both educational adequacy and the role of boarding schools for students who must travel great distances to obtain education.
  • A new Indigenous school for the Frog Lake First Nation in northern Alberta as a future model for its culturally inclusive community-based design process, architecture, operation, and use. Historically, western-based direct-instruction models, foreign attitudes, and supporting architecture were imposed.

Recent reintroduction of traditional, culturally-relevant learning approaches and designs are helping indigenous communities restore their cultures and heal their people. Beyond the architecture, this session will also explore lessons how traditional Indigenous approaches and attitudes towards learning can inform dominant colonizing cultures and mainstream educational systems and approaches.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Develop awareness of the historical models of schools for Indigenous students.
  2. Develop awareness of the importance of cultural relevance in school design, in particular for underserved and marginalized peoples.
  3. Develop awareness of the differences approaches to learning that are frequently found in Indigenous communities.
  4. Develop awareness of the lessons of Indigenous learning approaches that can be applied to learning and learning environments everywhere.

Ross Parker, AIA, ALEP, Seattle Education Studio Lead, IBI Group
Ross is the Education Studio Lead for IBI Group in Seattle, WA. He has a passion for inclusive, culturally relevant experiential design of educational facilities connecting pedagogy to design to nature. His 3-decade architectural portfolio spans from northern Canada, the UK, the US West Coast, and US South. It includes three James D. MacConnell Awards projects – 2010 recipient and 2004 and 2020 finalists. He is currently co-chair A4LE’s JEDI Committee.

Faye Strong, ALEP, Learning Environment Planner and Project Manager, Archiasmo Architectural Works Ltd.
Faye is a learning environment planner and project manager with Archiasmo Architectural Works Ltd. in Cochrane, Alberta. Her education includes degrees in Architecture and Math from Dalhousie University and for the past seven years has focused on educational work to develop, design and project manage Indigenous Education Projects. Her vision is to see equitable learning environments established within Indigenous Communities.

Dr. Terri-Lynn Fox, Sociologist, Director of Kainai Wellness Centre and Professor at Mount Royal University
Dr. Fox honours the spirit of victims and families, their survival, and the cultural resiliency of those traumatized by the Indian Residential Schools that operated into the 1990’s. Her graduate thesis Intergenerational Communication & Well-Being in Aboriginal Life addressed issues concerning lack of communication of traditional ways of knowing, teaching, and being due to colonization, assimilation, and segregation.

Cliffton Cross, Council Member, Frog Lake First Nations
Cliffton is a Council Member of Frog Lake First Nations, with responsibility for portfolios of Education, Daycare, Youth and Recreation. He was born, educated, and raised a family in FLFN. For 10 years he served as FLFN Youth and Recreation Director and recently oversaw completion of the new Frog Lake High School and First Nation Intermunicipal Library, including securing funding to create some semblance of equitable opportunity for his community.

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

LearningSCAPES 2021

October 14-17
Hyatt Regency | Denver, CO