Learning social and emotional skills is a vital aspect of early education. For her Faculty of Education Professional Semester III project, Kate Lawless (BA/BEd ’21) wanted to find a way to incorporate them consistently and frequently into her teaching. But she wasn’t sure how.

“Then I took Blackfoot 1000,” she says. As soon as she was introduced to the 11 values of the Blackfoot First Nation, Lawless recognized how perfectly they blended with developing social and emotional skills.

Not being Indigenous, however, she was concerned about appropriating and teaching aspects of a culture not her own. So she approached faculty instructor and Blackfoot Elder Don Shade for advice. Shade was warmly receptive. He spent many hours mentoring Lawless on Blackfoot values, and in a special ceremony granted her permission to share them with others.

“The process of giving this knowledge to Kate and giving her the right to use it is called a transfer of knowledge,” says Shade. “She can now legitimately teach them to others without question.”

Lawless' Grade 1/2 students at Queen Elizabeth School in Calgary were excited to learn about the Blackfoot people and practice their perspectives on kindness, respect, gratitude, helpfulness, and more. She was impressed by how seamlessly the values could be incorporated across the curriculum and was pleased to witness students applying them on the playground.

As an Early Childhood Education specialist, Lawless believes that focussing on positive content to fulfill First Nation, Métis, Inuit curriculum requirements in the early grades is important.

“Teaching the values is a good way to start laying the foundation for who Indigenous people are and their importance in Canadian history."

She focusses on the Blackfoot because she teaches on Blackfoot territory, but her material is adaptable to other FNMI cultures as well. “The Seven Sacred Teachings could also be used,” she says.

Lawless received the Wigham Family Professional Inquiry Project Award for her symposium presentation. She is gratified that other teachers are using the lesson plans and resources on her website and finding them easy to modify for upper elementary and secondary grades.

Shade’s transfer of knowledge to Lawless included a naming ceremony. “Her new name is Morning Star Woman,” he says, “significant of the fact that she will shed new light in the area of the new initiatives in Education.”

Kate's Professional Inquiry Project, "How to Incorporate Blackfoot Values into the Early Elementary Classroom" here.
The Faculty of Education Professional Inquiry Project here.

Writer: Elizabeth McLachlan
Photo courtesy: Kate Lawless


Related story links to the Faculty of Education Professional Inquiry Project and undergraduate student research:
Undergraduate Teacher Research: Generating New Knowledge and Resources
The Faculty of Education Professional Inquiry Project
Wigham Family Professional Inquiry Project Award
Tackling Racial Underrepresentation in Majority White Schools: Deema Abushaban (BSc/BEd ’21)


For more information please contact:
Darcy Tamayose
Communications, Dean's Office
Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
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