Indigenous Art Lesson Project

Written by Jim Elwood



How did I come to creating this project?

Growing up on B.C.'s west coast, Indigenous artwork was always very visible. Whether it was a traditional pole or a mural on a building, I always connected to that west coast style. In 2008 I created what I think was the first Indigenous Art Studio course in our province. When the B.C. Ministry of Education brought out the new curriculum and the only change for art education was the inclusion of Indigenous content, I saw this as an opportunity to broaden what I had already done at my school. Working with my art teacher colleagues it became clear that many of us were nervous about including Indigenous content. We did not want to get it wrong! As well, many teachers would default to repeating the same dominant nation's work, usually the ever amazing Haida Nation's work and not acknowledging our sylix/Okanagan Nation.

The process.

In 2018 I brought my idea of a set of lessons to elders and cultural leaders with Westbank First Nation. With their guidance and inspiration, I started to develop a set of lessons from K-9. While many lessons were based on syilx/Okanagan culture there are many lessons from a variety of nations across Canada. While building the lessons I would meet with the WFN cultural leaders, test the lessons at local schools and worked with a representative from Apple Canada to house the lessons in an easily accessible digital format. Once the lessons were finished they were presented to the Westbank First Nation Council to ensure that the lessons were appropriate for their territory.


How to use the lesson.

Teachers use enough of their time creating lessons for their students. I wanted these lessons to be instantly and easily teachable. They are in an ebook format with an introduction, overview, supply list, instructional art videos, Ministry Big Ideas, and examples. But, the most important part of these lessons is the cultural teachings, they are as important as the art making itself. Many of the lessons repatriate culture back to their nation of origin, ie. returning the Dreamcatchers to their Ojibwe origins. Please be respectful of the process that created these lessons. The lessons have been researched and checked for cultural appropriateness as they stand, if a teacher takes the lesson and adapts it is possible the lesson will no longer be culturally correct. As well, if a teacher borrows a lesson from another grade level then students may end up repeating a lesson or do a lesson they might do in the future.


To access the lesson's visit Jim's Indigenous Art Lessons Website.

Some adaptations during our remote learning.

These are new lessons. This means that your students will not have done the lessons from the previous grades and working on lessons from younger grades works perfectly well! Every grade level can easily be adapted to another grade level. I used my grade 9s last year to test the lessons, it worked beautifully!

These lessons in the future.

I see these lessons as a living thing. Each year to be reworked and expanded on. As pleased as the cultural leaders at Westbank First Nation were with the process and the lessons they felt the end product was culturally flawed. Life and cultural teachings don't exist as separate subject areas. Art does not exist separately from science, history, music, physical activity etc. I agree 100%! I would love to see cross-curricular connections that incorporate other subject areas of learning. As well as more art lessons at each grade level. If you would like to help build onto these lessons I would be pleased to have you help!

Kelowna Art Gallery show.

There was a plan for September 2020 to celebrate these lessons in the front community gallery at the Kelowna Art Gallery. That of course has changed but I am hoping it will still happen sometime in the future. I have several teachers that have signed up for various grade levels but I welcome more! Email me if you would like to be included in this celebration of learning!

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the kind help and support of cultural leaders and elders from Westbank First Nation, as well, Principal Raquel Steen and Deputy Superintendent Terry Beaudry. way' lim lemt