Mi’kmaw Traditions Woven Into Canadian Education

Mi’kmaw Traditions Woven Into Canadian Education

A high school in Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, Canada, introduces a new curriculum incorporating Mi’kmaw traditions. Planned and presented by Albert Marshall and his late wife Murdena Marshall, the framework weaves “etuaptmumk,” or two-eyed seeing, into the modern Canadian school system.

With this framework, Albert Marshall and the school districts are planning a 12th-grade environmental studies course centered around two-eyed seeing. 

What Is Etuaptmumk? 

Two-eyed seeing, or what the Mi’kmaw call “etuaptmumk,” is centered around the idea of viewing life through a more inclusive lens. Native Americans are to see the world through Indigenous ways of life with one eye.

And with the other eye, they are to see the world through a Western way of life. A practice Marshall says “governs how I should coexist in this wonderful creation of ours.” 

A Need For More Indigenous Culture 

Although it’s only now being introduced into the school system, the Marshalls’ idea to incorporate Mi’kmaw culture originally came 25 years ago. At the time, Murdena Marshall became aware of how few Indigenous students were enrolled in local universities. When she approached local tribe elders about her concern, she found she wasn’t alone. 

Local tribe members admitted the problem required restructuring the same school system that stripped Indigenous people of their culture years ago. Eventually, it was decided that the education system needed to add more Mi’kmaw content into the curriculum. 

An Innovation To The Standard Curriculum 

The new program has been granted a trial run, which will serve as an environmental studies course for 12th-grade students. In the course, students will use etuaptmumk and netukulimk as guiding principles and how they relate to environmental education and climate change.

With that, netukulimk helps reinforce the two-eyed seeing concept. For example, netukulimk is the idea that people should see all living things as being connected, creating an understanding of how a person should live their life on Earth. 

To ensure the program meets educational requirements while also teaching Mi’kmaw culture accurately, the school district hired a consultant to develop the course with community partners and staff members. Once the class is ready, students will participate in outdoor activities like field trips and water sampling.

Again, relating to the two-eyed seeing practice. According to the course’s developers, land-based learning experiences will be a central component of the class. 

The Benefits Of Connecting Students To Nature 

According to Marshall, the purpose of the new course is to benefit students, the environment, and demonstrate that all people are dependent on one another. For students, using two-eyed seeing is an effective way to get them to interact with their environment and develop a greater appreciation for it.

“Our overall objective is how can we live and use love and compassion as our guiding principle,” Albert Marshall explains. And with compassion comes a sense of reciprocity.

For example, when students learn about two-eyed seeing and implement those lessons in the real world, they capture the perspective needed now and for their future. “Again,” Marshall explains, “responsibility has to come from each and every one of us.” 

Another guiding principle for the Mi’kmaw-inspired course is showing how all people depend on one another, whether or not we realize it. “Your actions [must] be in harmony with nature and in harmony with people you’re living with – because we’re all related,” Marshall points out.

That said, the course’s material will show the importance and value in at least attempting to see things from another person’s perspective, all while connecting students with nature. 

The Mi’kmaw educational course is tailored for 12 graders and set for a trial run in the 2023 school year. If the program proves it’s effective, it will become available for more students.