Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Aboriginal Cultural Identity – Ten Considerations and Strategies

  1. Awareness of cultural identity needs to be woven into every step of activities. Use teachable moments to help youth explore positive and healthy notions of culture and what it means to be a First Nations or Métis or Inuit youth. Incorporate cultural identity during every step of program development, implementation, delivery, assessment practices and evaluation.
  2. Positive role models from youth cultural groups are an incredible asset in developing a healthy cultural identity. All youth turn to their peers for issues of identity, and this process is amplified among youth who are not part of the dominant culture. Positive peer role models are incredible assets in this regard.
  3. Culturally relevant teachings are best identified through community partners. Community partners, cultural advisors, and elders are best able to determine the cultural teachings that should be incorporated into a program. Strong and equal relationships with these people provide the foundation for this transfer of knowledge.
  4. Cultural identity needs to be reflected in the environment of the setting. All youth need to see themselves reflected in positive ways in the media around them. Aboriginal students need to see posters in the hallways that reflect their heritage. These culturally diverse posters should not be simply for issues related to culture, but for any positive images (such as work placements, student leaders, etc.).
  5. Cultural competence needs to be fostered among professionals. Non-Aboriginal youth and adults working with Aboriginal youth have an obligation to become educated about history, culture, and current events. Program deliverers must be culturally sensitive to effectively respond to the needs of the individual and community. 
  6.  Traditions and symbols are important components of cultural identity (but they are not the sum of it). There is an important place for rituals and symbols, but incorporating these into your program does not mean you have met your obligation to culturally enhance your services. Utilizing these symbols needs to be done carefully, as misappropriating a tradition or symbol is disrespectful.
  7. Different ways of knowing need to be incorporated into programs. Culture is also about process in terms of traditional ways of knowing. The use of a sharing circle reflects equality in some First Nations and Inuit cultures, and may be more appropriate for Aboriginal youth than a lecture format.
  8. Holistic worldviews are an integral part of most indigenous cultures. One way to make almost any activity or program more culturally relevant is to incorporate a more holistic worldview with respect to health and balance. Attending to intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs will make a program more consistent with traditional Aboriginal values in general.
  9. Youth need access to culturally relevant material, but also the opportunity for self-reflection. Incorporating cultural information is not simply about providing youth with particular materials and experiences. It is also about providing them with opportunities to reflect and consider the traditional teachings and to consider the relevance and role of these teachings in a personal way.
  10. Historical and contemporary cultural images must be balanced. Attempts to integrate cultural information and images rely solely on antiquated characterizations that reinforce stereotypes. A balance must be maintained between historical and contemporary representations of Aboriginal people.
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