Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations

Whether or not knowledge is shared depends on the type of knowledge, who holds that knowledge, and the context. Some knowledge is freely shared, while other knowledge is not. Some knowledge is held by specific people, families, clans, or First Nations, and permission must be gained from the holder(s) before it is shared. An example of this are some narratives or “stories” that cannot be retold unless permission is given by the person or family to whom the story belongs. Being told a story is not implicit permission to retell it, such as reading a story from another person or culture does not mean one can rewrite it as one’s own.

There is knowledge within various First Peoples communities that is not intended to be shared with people who are not members of the community. These may include specific ceremonial practices that incorporate songs and dances that belong to specific people or families. For examples, many First Nations have long house teachings that happen in traditional ways, and these teachings are honoured by not sharing them with people who are not a part of the process.

The understanding that some knowledge is not freely shared requires the people who do not hold that knowledge to be comfortable with asking respectful questions about what they can use, and understanding when they cannot use knowledge. It also requires thinking about how to avoid trivializing knowledge or cultural practices of others by trying to replicate practices in inauthentic contexts.

Relation to Other Educational Theory

Ownership of knowledge can be loosely compared to the concept of copyright. It also encompasses Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property, and connects to Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP).

Implications for Classroom and School Include:

    • Ensuring that First Peoples knowledge can be shared before using it. This can mean double checking the source of material (ensuring that that a story was not written down by a non-Indigenous person and published without permission).
    • Asking about what local protocols might be attached to specific knowledge or process.
    • Being comfortable with asking respectful questions.
    • Not assuming that Indigenous learners will share all aspects of their home and community lives in the school or classroom.
    • Thinking about reciprocity. If one is asking for something to be shared, ask what is being provided in return.
    • Ensuring that Indigenous knowledge is not trivialized by turning deeply meaningful cultural practices into “arts and crafts” in the classroom. Instead, it may be more meaningful to help learners understand the cultural practices, and learn about the practices in an authentic venue.

Relevant Core Competencies

Personal Awareness and Responsibility

  • Includes the skills, strategies, and dispositions that help students to stay healthy and active, set goals, monitor progress, regulate emotions, respect their own rights and the rights of others, manage stress, and persevere in difficult situations. Students who demonstrate personal awareness and responsibility demonstrate self-respect and express a sense of personal well-being (2015, BC Ministry of Education).

Social Responsibility

  • The ability and disposition to consider the interdependence of people with each other and the natural environment; to contribute positively to one’s family, community, society, and the environment; to resolve problems peacefully; to empathize with others and appreciate their perspectives; and to create and maintain healthy relationships (2015, BC Ministry of Education).

2 thoughts on “Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations

    1. This principles refers specifically to Indigenous knowledge. It supports the understanding that there is knowledge that is shared only in specific contexts – that there is Indigenous knowledge that is not intended to be shared outside specific communities or outside of certain contexts.


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