Guide to Relationships and Learning with the Indigenous Peoples of Alberta

oki, Ɂedlanet’e, oki, tansi, hóʔą, ãba waθtéč, Shé:kon,  ahneen, taanishi, hello, bonjour

Welcome to the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS).

As a provincial organization, we acknowledge that we are on traditional territory, gathering grounds, meeting place, and travelling route of the Treaty 6 First Nations, the Cree, Saulteaux, Blackfoot, Dene, and Nakota Nations; Treaty 7 First Nations, the Blackfoot Confederacy of the Siksika, Kainai and Piikani Nations, the Stoney Nakoda Nation of the Chiniki, Bearspaw and Wesley Nations, and the TsuuT’ina Nation; Treaty 8 First Nations of the Cree, Dene Tha, Dane-zaa and Denesuline Nations; Treaty 4 ; Treaty 10 and the traditional homeland of the Métis Nation. We acknowledge the many First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples of the past whose footsteps have shaped this land and those of the present and future who will continue to shape it for centuries to come.

CASS is committed to restoring and honouring the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, and we strongly believe that truth must be acknowledged to move forward to reconciliation. Engaging in respectful, responsible and reciprocal relationships with our First Nations and Métis communities is the path forward to reconciliation. Together we call upon our collective communities to build a stronger understanding and relationship of all the peoples who dwell on this land we call home.

Acknowledgement of the land is a critical part of demonstrating respect for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples as the original peoples and the traditional stewards of the land in Alberta and who continue to live here and whose traditional knowledge, cultural practices, languages, oral traditions and worldviews are tied to their relationship with the land. To acknowledge the traditional territory is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose land we reside on and a way of honouring the people who have lived and worked on the land since time immemorial.

The CASS “Guide to Relationships and Learning with the Indigenous Peoples of Alberta” was developed to support our members, as system leaders, to begin the process of deepening their understanding of foundational knowledge of Indigenous Peoples in Alberta. This Guide was developed through an Indigenous lens by including the voices and teachings of Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Their voices are captured on video and edited to introduce and bring understanding to multiple areas of learning that capture and cover the essential teachings identified by the First Nations, Métis and Inuit of Alberta. The development of this Guide was launched in 2019 with recent updates and revisions completed in 2022. The development of this Guide was made possible through a grant from Alberta Education.

The framework is designed around the common ground of meeting the expectations of the Alberta Leadership Quality Standard (LQS)and the Superintendent Leadership Quality Standard (SLQS), honoring Indigenous voices and providing opportunities for basic foundational learning with opportunities to delve deeper into the contextual topics and specific areas of interest and growth for individual Superintendents and system leaders  and whole education communities. Short testimonies from superintendents on leading Indigenous education in their school district are also included. This Guide will be one resource component of the CASS comprehensive learning plan alongside our conferences, zone learning sessions, online resources, cultural and traditional ceremony participation, and land and place-based learning. The Guide will contribute to the CASS outcome “Superintendent leadership supports quality school leadership and teaching to create optimal learning for all students in Alberta”. 

Relationships are central to learning and reconciliation, therefore, should be the starting point as you journey through this guide. To begin, click on the relationship portion in the graphic below. Watch the video, read the summary, explore further resources, reflect and then put your knowledge to action. Once you have completed the relationships portion of this guide, click the leaves on the graphic to access the other themes.

Independent: Choose a focus topic, read the questions, watch the video, read the introduction and then choose 2 or 3 resources to delve into further. Reflect back on the questions after exploring resources further. Repeat the process until all topics have been further explored.


1.Establish a learning group. Each person in the group considers the reflection questions while reading the introduction, viewing the video and then selects 2-3 resources to delve into. Each member of the learning group then shares reflections and an overview of the resources they selected. Each group member responds to others’ insights while generating action points on how to further incorporate and support reconciliation, relationship building and foundational knowledge into their district’s practice.

2.Some districts have implemented a learning process at each monthly district leadership meeting , with principals and system leaders , or with each cohort , to discuss a section of the Guide theme (leaf ) collectively and identify new learnings , further learnings , and actions that could be taken in their district and or schools .

The birch tree was chosen as the core graphic as it is symbolic of connection to the land in the past, present and future.  A tree is often used as a symbol of holistic learning models that redefine how success is measured in First Nations, Métis and Inuit learning. A comprehensive report  “Redefining How success is Measured  in First Nations, Inuit and Métis Learning” explains this in detail. 

The birch bark tree like many other Indigenous trees throughout this land are used for ceremony, medicine, shelter, transportation, art, tools, cooking, construction and survival. The birch tree’s legacy represents spirituality, traditional engineering, science, art, culture,  education and was used to help shape the country.  

Resources about the birch tree:

Traditional Uses of Birch Bark in Canada. 

Stories from the land – The power of a tree: why birch and its bark are so important to Anishinaabe culture. Wiigwaasabak. CBC DOCS

DISCLAIMER: This digital resource was developed to support superintendent and system leaders’ capacity to lead Indigenous education in their school districts. The Guide was also developed to fulfill a deliverable outlined in a grant received from Alberta Education, which is to develop a comprehensive learning plan to meet the Superintendent Quality Leadership Standard and the Leadership Quality Standard. The intent of the Guide is to contribute to the CASS outcome “Superintendent leadership supports quality school leadership and teaching to create optimal learning for all students in Alberta.”

This resource references issues that may be controversial or sensitive to some viewers. These issues are important to understanding the complex and diverse perspectives of the Indigenous Peoples in Alberta. The views presented by individual speakers/writers are personal perspectives and points of view and may not necessarily represent the views of CASS.

Note: This is a professional development resource for system leaders in education. The content in this resource has not been reviewed for use by students. Please be advised that the recommended resource links may change over time.