Prior to these two sessions I approached one of the presenters to ask if the Laurentian (LU) Resources discussion would be beneficial for educators from outside of LU. The response reflected just what I think a leader would say. Essentially I was told that maybe if I attended it would help us collaborate more across institutions. Another example of how inclusive this conference is.

Cynthia Belfitt and another audience member shared their story about they found out about their indigenous heritage and began learning about their cultural background. Both stories shared a common thread of needing to hide their identity. Every time I hear people’s stories where they share a need to hide their identity due to fear of discrimination it reminds me how important Truth and Reconciliation is.

Charles spoke about how learning how to support student success is a journey.

We can all work together and learn from each other.

Medicine Wheel
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Introductions are important because Indigenous people often have a similar story according to Cynthia. Low self-esteem or lack of confidence may be common because students were told that they will never make it in University. Using the medicine wheel as a guide some tips for engaging students include:


  • They may see teachers as someone to fear engaging with. It takes encouragement and support to get them to feel like talking to us about failures or late assignments.
  • Being mindful of the discussions that are happening in the class and managing the discussion is important. Do not allow lateral violence or segregation.
  • Be viewed as an ally and engage in courageous conversations.
  • The classroom may be where they are learning about their identity and culture. Calling on them as an expert in their culture is often not appropriate. Do not single students out.
  • Allowing students to bring their children to class helps new moms engage in academic activities, especially if they have no supports because they are away from home.
  • Land-based teachings and making use of elders may be appropriate.
  • Students may be triggered by past traumas. Talking and learning about residential schools may trigger emotions like anger. Being mindful about how we talk about these things is important.
  • Asking representatives from the Indigenous learning center come to class and engage in discussions with the class promotes appropriate referrals for support. When showing a video about the history it helps to have the support there.
  • Students may not want to identify or feel that they are not Indigenous enough to access services. Promoting that services are open to anyone helps to crate an inclusive environment.
  • It can be emotionally challenging to facilitate the discussion of topics around the history of Indigenous culture.


  • Relocation is difficult. They may not get money to support their education. Those that do get money do not get enough to live on.
  • They may not know what supports are available in the community.
  • To visit family they may need to take 4 or 5 days as the train to their community does not run often.
  • As faculty going to the physical space makes us more approachable. Eating lunch there shows a willingness to learn and makes us more approachable.
  • Students may leave during the week for hunt camps.
  • Funerals last longer due to ceremonies. It could take a week or two.
  • There is an opportunity to incorporate Indigenous content into all courses.

Much of this session was discussion based. Many good ideas were shared. Essentially we need to find a way to incorporate more content into our courses in partnership with Indigenous learning centers at our campuses. Here is a link to some excellent resources. Scroll down to the six topics.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit

1 Comment

jessica · May 9, 2019 at 4:35 am

Thanks for sharing this post,
is very helpful article.

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