Discovering connections: mindfulness curriculum and Dene culture for Indigenous and northern Canadian children and youth
This paper explores the self-study research question, How can an exploration of Dene cultural teachings and my experiences in a NWT classroom inform the development of a culturally appropriate mindfulness curriculum? The study focuses on finding culturally appropriate mental health and wellness strategies for students in Northern Indigenous locations. This study involved integration of five main sources - the Mindful Schools curriculum, personal journal reflections of my teaching practice, personal experiences, literature, and the published voices of Elders. The methodology for this study included teaching a mindfulness curriculum to three elementary classes and three middle school classes, exploring the literature for Dene teachings and knowledge, and finding connections between twelve main topics in the mindfulness curriculum and Dene knowledge. Three common connections found between the fourteen themes include the importance of on the land experiences, connection to others by building and maintaining healthy relationships, and self-awareness to help students develop understanding of themselves, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and how they can be a capable person. School based barriers include the general lack of inclusion of culture and language in most subject areas, support for teachers, and cultural bias and perspectives of school leaders and teachers. Recommendations to remove barriers, as well as to ensure cultural sensitivity and accuracy require Elder presence in the schools, and collaboration with community.