Indigenization Guide: Learning from Mistakes

The following is an excerpt from Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers by Asma-na-hi Antoine, Rachel Mason, Roberta Mason, Sophia Palahicky, and Carmen Rodriguez de France. 

Some non-Indigenous people may feel that it is not their role to become involved in integrating Indigenous content. In some cases, this is because they don’t want to make a mistake. It is natural to feel nervous about making mistakes when interacting with Indigenous people and communities. Nobody wants to appear disrespectful or racist. However, in a world that has been saturated in Western-dominated values, and in which Indigenous knowledge has been systematically excluded and devalued, doing nothing is a form of perpetuating this exclusion. It is critical that people from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds contribute to the work of Indigenization. This is everyone’s responsibility. 

In fact, learning from mistakes is a common aspect of Indigenous pedagogy, as it involves experiential learning and self-development. In this view, mistakes plus correction equals learning. Indigenous communities and families have a cultural process for “fixing” a mistake by creating a safe place to acknowledge your mistake, to fix it, and then learn from it. This process isn’t about shaming or belittling the individuals, but rather it is intended to raise them up and raise the people up who may have been affected by a mistake. After the process of acknowledging and fixing a mistake, it’s then time to let go, move forward, and continue to work together.

You may feel uncomfortable when you make mistakes, but try to also be grateful for the opportunity to learn and ask questions. This way you can understand and fix your mistakes. Whatever you do, don’t let the fear of making mistakes keep you in a state of complacency with the status quo.

Activity 1: Learning from Mistakes

Time: 10 min

Type: Individual

In the following videos, Asmanahi Antoine, an Indigenous educator and Rachel Mason, a non-Indigenous educator speak about their experiences learning from mistakes.

After watching the videos, reflect on any mistakes you may have made in engaging with Indigenous communities, and what you learned from them.

Learn more:

  1. Asmanahi Antoine video: 
  2. Rachel Mason video: