Niitsitapiisinni: Real Peoples' Way of Life is a topic area (4-courses, 12 units) offered as part of the Interdisciplinary Master of Education (MEd) program. Centered in Niitsitapii ways of knowing, being, and doing in relation to aistomatoominniki (coming to know your heart, Blackfoot epistemology; Bastien, 2004), these courses involve in-depth exploration of Niitsi'tapiipohsinni (Blackfoot language), kiipatahpiisinoon (our way of life), and aakahtapiiyiitsiniksiin (old stories) through Niitistapii art and storytelling. This four-course topic area is designed for educators, school leaders, health care professionals, service providers and other community members who are currently working with or planning to work with Indigenous communities.
This offering is a direct response to identified community needs among the local Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot/Blackfeet) communities. This offering presents an important step in both language and cultural revitalization and preservation among the Siksikaitsitapi, which is critical given that the Blackfoot language is currently threatened. Further, this topic area addresses the recommendations of The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP; 1995) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC; 2015). Of note, the four courses in this topic address several of the TRC calls to action, with an emphasis on those falling under Education, and Language and Culture. Importantly, the courses within this topic area further respond to Alberta Education’s (2016) forthcoming Teaching and Leadership Quality Standards. Specifically, these courses address foundational knowledge in First Nations ways of knowing, being, and doing, that will build competence in areas including: treaties and agreements, residential schools and their legacy, engaging in community-based approaches to First Nations education, using and creating resources that highlight the strengths and diversity of Indigenous people and communities, and in-depth education and engagement with First Nations worldviews, cultural beliefs, languages and values, such that teachers and leaders will develop confidence in their abilities to work with Elders, knowledge holders, community members, cultural advisors, and families to incorporate culturally relevant, community-based curricula and pedagogies as appropriate. This program reflects a working collaboration between the University of Calgary, Red Crow Community College, and Blackfeet Community College. This topic is unique in its focus on Niitsitapii knowledges across the Canada-United States border, drawing upon strengths across tribes within the Blackfoot Confederacy, which was divided with the creation of the current colonial nation-states.
The place-based learning experiences in this MEd Interdisciplinary topic are scheduled to take place face-to-face off-campus on the Blood Reserve, Alberta with online zoom learning.