Book Creator

A New Way

by Dianne Depner


A New Way of Seeing
Presented by: Dianne Depner
EDU 503
Module 3: Supporting the Application of Foundational Knowledge
(First Nations, Métis, and Inuit)
My learning journey with Indigenous pedagogy and culture began in 1987 when I was an educational assistant for a Native Youth offender program at the St. Mary’s Complex, a former residential school in Mission, B.C. The youth offender home, called Swówles La:lém, meaning boy’s home, housed seven youth offenders that offered a 6-month program teaching the Aboriginal ways through seat lodges, smudges, circle and story sharing. During my time at Swówles La:lém, my appreciation and understanding of the land and the Aboriginal way of knowing began to unfold. 

Throughout my career as a teacher, Indigenous culture was shared in classrooms. Teachers began to teach Indigenous culture, and students learned about talking circles, smudging and Indigenous games with no understanding of how teachers’ mainstreaming and colonizing approach to teaching does not truly embed the Indigenous way of knowing (Ball, 2004). Just in the last five years, we have learned about the residential schools and the impact these schools have had on Indigenous people. 

St. Mary’s Complex reminds me that we need to decolonize the curriculum and start to indiginize the curriculum. As Restoule & Chaw-win-is state, “being truthful about colonization and its legacy, about law policy, and the different levels of government’s role in both enslavement and emancipation of Indigenous people” (2017 p.10). This has been ignored and forgotten for too long. 

Leadership is like a tree
grounded in its roots
with flexible branches
nurturing the many
leave of possibilities.
-Dianne Depner
Becoming a newly acquired principal within a rural Mennonite community in Northern Alberta can be challenging and a blessing. The community’s beliefs, values and educational philosophy are intertwined with the school climate. 

As a school leader, I must observe and engage with the community to understand their perspectives and, in turn, find a way to expand the community’s knowledge of other cultures’ beliefs and values. There is no ‘one’ way of knowing what is right or wrong, and “learning through observation and imitation” (Kanu, 2023, p.12) enables us to watch, listen, and build relationships with each other. 

My tree drawing represents how much we are all connected to each other by sharing our abilities, strengths and stories. When the Elders, the tree's roots and the keepers of knowledge, share their stories, we listen and extend our knowledge to others, like the tree trunk extending and growing out to the branches. And it is the branches we nurture so they learn and grow into beautiful leaves, blossom and turn into saplings.