November is Indigenous Peoples Awareness Month

Inuit athlete, leader enthralls students, staff

Students had a fascinating glimpse into life in Nunavut when they welcomed multiple-medal-winning, self-described “proud Inuit and proud Canadian” athlete, actor and community leader Johnny Issaluk. 

“I shot my first caribou when I was five years old. I built my first igloo when I was 12,” he said. “My grandmother was an accomplished hunter. My parents lived nomadically, and that’s only a generation away…I am very fortunate that I know my traditions. 

“When we’re hunting, we only catch what we need,” he explained. “We share everything we catch with our fellow hunters and neighbours…we are all connected, with other people, the animals, the land, the air.”

Johnny’s visit was one of many special events held in November to mark the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board’s inaugural Indigenous Peoples Awareness Month. He brought his high-energy presentation to Clarke High School and The Pines Senior Public School in Newcastle, and East Northumberland Secondary School in Brighton.

Johnny demonstrated, and involved students and staff in trying, traditional Inuit games in which he has won more than 200 medals. “These were originally games of survival,” he explained.  “They developed agility, strength and endurance,” all attributes that Inuit hunters needed to successfully feed their families and communities.

In one traditional game, Johnny jumped from a standing position to kick a small piece of sealskin hanging well over two metres in the air. In another, he bounded around the stage on just his knuckles and toes. The games that involved audience members revolved around body strength.

Johnny finished his presentation with sage advice. “I won over 200 medals, but lost 300 or 400 times in between. But I kept working at it,” he said. “Believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything. Be good to yourself, respect yourself…and there are no limits.  No matter how tough or painful it gets, you are tougher.”

Both students and staff were clearly “pumped” by the presentation, with many teachers discussing how they could adapt Inuit knowledge and culture in their classrooms. “I have never experienced any of the Inuit games,” teacher April Berry said after trying her hand – or, more accurately, her arm – at a game of strength. “It was really unique.”

And, as students exited the gym following the presentation, one word could be heard often:  “Cool.”


Learning About Treaties at Warsaw Public School

One had only to listen to Warsaw Public School students after presentations by Curve Lake First Nation’s Anne Taylor to know the students had truly taken in what they had heard about Indigenous peoples.

In honour of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board’s inaugural Indigenous Peoples Awareness Month, Anne – a Cultural Archivist at Curve Lake – offered two presentations in Warsaw. She spoke to Kindergarten-Grade 3 students about the meaning of treaties, using a story about a squirrel and chipmunk learning to share the same tree and the seeds it produced.

For Grades 4-8 students, she used the Blanket Exercise to illustrate Indigenous peoples’ history, experiences and relationships with non-Indigenous peoples and governments in Canada.  

Speaking about the reasons behind her presentations to students, Anne explained: “It’s important because we are all treaty people.  We are all affected by treaties that our people and the government signed, and many people don’t know that.”

Clearly, the students got the message.  Asked afterwards about what they had learned, the youngest ones defined treaties thus:  “It’s an agreement.”  “It’s important to be kind.”  “We all need to follow rules.”

After the presentation to the older group, Marcus Elia’s Grade 7s wrote down what they had learned about treaties, residential schools, loss of Indigenous lands, and much more.  “The students were all just quietly listening and engaging in the presentation,” says Marcus, who later showed the students’ notes to Anne Taylor.  “This is how they become better informed, and can carry forward their knowledge to others.”

“This school has been working on teaching all kids about Indigenous history and culture for the past two to three years, trying to grow their understanding,” explains Principal Janice Mackenzie. Morning announcements have focused on First Nations’ Seven Grandfather Teachings, facts about local First Nations, and acknowledgement that the school is located on traditional Mississauga First Nations territory. 

A section of the school library has been dedicated to First Nation, Métis and Inuit books and resources. The School Council also has been successful in obtaining a provincial Parents Reaching Out grant for evening workshops for families to attend.  The engaging, interactive workshops will involve families in arts, games, stories and foods, all with an Indigenous focus.

Following Anne Taylor’s presentations, the students proudly told her what they had learned on announcements that morning. “Miigwech,” they said. “That means thank you in Ojibwe.”

Community Events for Indigenous Peoples Awareness Month

In February, 2017, the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board was pleased to adopt a recommendation from its Indigenous Education Advisory Committee to recognize the month of November as Indigenous Peoples Awareness Month. The month of November was chosen because of other special dates and events in November, including Treaty Recognition Week, Louis Riel Day and Inuit Day.

All students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are enriched by learning about the histories, cultures, contributions and perspectives of First Nation, Metis and Inuit peoples in Canada.

We are committed to championing Indigenous education, achievement and awareness in our schools and within our organization as a whole.

There are several community events scheduled this month. Everyone is welcome, pre-registration is not required.


November 15, 2017


Movie Presentation (Silent Thunder) 

Special Guest Speakers – Shirley Williams, Professor Emeritus, Trent University, Wikwemikong First Nation, Residential School Survivor, and Kevin Lamoureux, National Education Lead for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg


Cobourg Collegiate Institute

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

November 20, 2017

Movie (Colonization Road)

Moderator – Dr. Dawn Lavell-Harvard, Director, First Peoples House of Learning at Trent University

Trent University – First Peoples Gathering Space, East Bank Site

5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.


November 22, 2017

Guest Presentation

Special Guest Speaker – Anishinabek Nation Grand Chief Patrick Madahbee

Clarington Central Secondary School

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

November 27, 2017

Movie (Muffins for Granny)

Special Guest Speaker – Nadia McLaren, Artist, Filmmaker, 3rd Generation Residential School Survivor

Kenner Collegiate Vocational Institute

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

November 5-11 is Treaties Recognition Week in Ontario

Treaties Recognition Week is a time to learn about the importance of treaties in Ontario.

Ontario is covered by 46 treaties and other agreements, such as land purchases by the Crown. These agreements were signed between 1781 and 1930.

Schools within the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board sit on land within the Williams Treaties of 1923, signed with the Mississauga and Chippewa Nations. The Williams Treaties First Nations include the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, and Hiawatha First Nation, as well as other neighbouring First Nations.

Treaties helped to establish relationships between First Nations and Europeans, and between people and the land.

To learn more about Treaties and access other resources, please visit our Indigenous Education page.

You may also wish to visit the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation’s website: