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Ways of Learning and Knowing

Oral History

First Nations people shared knowledge, beliefs, history, values, practices, customs, and way of life from generation to generation through oral traditions. Learning was done through listening, observing, and trying. Learning took place during ceremonies, games, and daily activities (like hunting and preparing food).

An illustrated Indigenous man holds a smoking pipe while a group of Indigenous people are sitting on hides in a circle with their heads bowed down.

Learning was done through listening, observing, and trying during ceremonies, and during daily life.

Four illustrated Indigenous men sit on hides on the ground, while another Indigenous man points to symbols written on the back of a bison hide on the ground.

There were no books, computers, or internet. Learning took place every day in different ways.

There were no formal written documents and no history books. Information was shared through storytelling and daily activities. Stories are centred around the land because First Nations people are deeply connected to the land and the environment.

An illustrated Indigenous person points to the night sky and teaches a young child that is standing nearby.

The First Nations people studied the stars to help them predict weather patterns.

The stories First Nations peoples would share involved many well-known characters, like tricksters and shape shifters. You must be careful when sharing stories. Each story has a meaning, and it should be shared in the same manner as it was shared years ago or else it loses its meaning.

For example, stories that showcased a trickster character are told only in the wintertime because when trickster stories are told, tricksters are called to the spot of the story. In the wintertime, prints in the snow can alert listeners that Trickster is near.

A piece of art by Leah Marie Dorion made with mosaics shows a large tree on top with an Indigenous person swinging from the roots. Another Indigenous person is in a garden with pumpkins and flowers.


Elders and knowledge keepers pass down stories through the generations and they all have lessons.

A reading of the 7 Sacred Teachings

Creation Story

‘Turtle Island’ is the name for the lands now known as North and Central America. The ‘Turtle Island Creation Story’ shares knowledge of how the world was created. There are different versions of this story and also other creation stories.

An illustrated turtle is shown with a globe for a shell.

The story of Turtle Island tells how the world came to be.

Sharing Stories

Winter was the time to share and tell stories about various teachings; it was when life slowed down and the snow settled in. Kids learned about how to live a peaceful life and all of the lessons they needed. While they were around the fire with the warmth of a tipi and shelter, stories are shared.

An illustrated group of Indigenous people sit on bison hides on the ground while watching a young child who is talking to them.

Since First Nations people had to stay in tipis in the winter to stay warm, they would spend their time telling stories.


Education did not take place in schools. First Nations people view learning as the process of observing, trying, working through failures, and eventually mastering skills. Learning is a lifelong journey. First Nations people recognize that every person has things to learn and to teach. Their education took place on the land rather than in schools like today.

An Indigenous woman points to a growing flower to teach something. Three other Indigenous people stand in the background watching.

If you listen and watch carefully, the land will tell you many things.

Medicine Wheel

Many Indigenous cultures use the medicine wheel teachings. The medicine wheel shows how all things in life are interconnected and represents the journey through life.

The circle is never ending; it is continuous and intergenerational. As we grow, we learn and when we are old, we pass on knowledge. Children were raised in a community where all of their beliefs and traditions had been passed on, including ceremonies, prayers, teachings, songs, astrology, hunting, survival, and more.

Medicine wheels are sacred to all Plains First Nations and their symbolism and meaning can vary from tribe to tribe.


Medicine wheels are sacred to all Plains First Nations and their symbolism and meaning can vary from tribe to tribe.

The medicine wheel teachings can be explored here.