top of page

FNMI Indigenous Studies:
First Nations,
Métis, Inuit

I am certified to teach Intermediate through Senior level courses in First Nations, Métis, Inuit Studies (FNMI), as well as Visual Arts by the Ontario College of Teachers including:

•First Nations, Métis, and Inuit in Canada

•Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Issues and Perspectives

•World Views and Aspirations of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Communities in Canada

•Contemporary Indigenous Issues and Perspectives in a Global Context

•First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Governance in Canada

•English: Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices

Using the Arts to Help Us Better Understand
Indigenous History and Culture

My goal in teaching FMNI Studies is that learners gain traditional and contemporary knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to be socially contributive, politically active, and economically prosperous citizens of the world. My most powerful resource for teaching Indigenous history and culture is Indigenous Art. Traditional and contemporary Indigenous artists are celebrated and examined in all of my courses, workshops, and activities.  Indigenous artists' creative work allows learners to gain an appreciation and better understanding of Indigenous culture, history, and issues through authentic perspectives and voices. 

'Turtle Island' is the name for the lands now known as North and Central America. It is a name used by some Indigenous peoples who believe their land was formed on the back of a turtle. This fascinating view of our world is an example of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives that can benefit every student.  

Indigenous knowledge such as The First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning Model “represents the link between First Nations lifelong learning and community well-being, and can be used as a framework for measuring success in lifelong learning”.

Wampum = Treaties

The Hiawatha Belt is the national symbol and visual historical record of the founding of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.  The tree at the center of the Hiawatha Belt represents the Great White Pine under which the leaders of the Five Nations buried their weapons of war with the squares representing each nation united as one political family.

Treaties are important. When First Nations peoples made treaty agreements they were documented by Wampum. Wampum belts are painstakingly crafted using carved beads made from white and purple-edged quahog clam and whelk shells. These important documents are visual representations of the spirit of each treaty agreement.


Screen Shot 2022-12-29 at 3.11.27 PM.png

The Medicine Wheel as a teaching framework is also helpful in designing culturally relevant educational pedagogy that reflects Indigenous culture while instilling traditional values. 


This knowledge is crucial to creating a culturally relevant space, and environment for teaching and can provide all learners with the skills needed to “survive” in the modern world.

two row wampum.jpg

The Kaswentha “Two Row” Wampum documents the foundation of the relationship between the European and Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island representing two separate canoes moving through the pure white landscape side by side as equals who don't interfere with each other.


This Inuit carved stone sculpture,  "Transformation of Bear and Shaman" at the Art Gallery of Ontario, shows us the important relationship Indigenous people had with the natural world.

Dane-Zaa artist Brian Jungen draws from his First Nations heritage to transform ordinary objects into extraordinary sculptures. Creating whale skeletons from plastic chairs and totems from Nike sneakers, Jugen examines issues such as cultural appropriation, consumerism, and environmentalism. His work has been collected by many museums, including Tate Modern, the National Museum of the American Indian, and Vancouver Art Gallery.


The Métis are named after the French word “miscere,” which means to mix. Music is a central part of Métis life and culture which blends elements from French and First Nations traditions but is wholly different from both. Music and dance can teach us about each other and bring us closer together. 

ashoona art.jpg

The UN Declaration Wampum Belt: The UNDRIP Belt is a “modern wampum belt” designed and commissioned by Michelle Cook (Dineh) from Mashpee Wampanoag Hartman Deetz.  The UN Declaration Belt is a modern Nation to Nation agreement in part drafted by Indigenous peoples that underscores the rights of self-determination, free and prior informed consent, equal protection of human rights, and control of Indigenous people’s economic rights.


Indigenous Art, Music, Literature and Dance 

The Inuit artist Shuvinai Ashoona is an important and accomplished contemporary Inuit artist who has received worldwide recognition for her images.  She renders hybrid beings in her drawings, as well as communities of multiple species, real and imagined. Ashoona and other artists associated with the community at Kinngait Studios in Nunavut, Canada, have made pencil drawings for generations, partially because paint can freeze in cold temperatures.


Welcome to Turtle Island!

Woman Giving Birth to the World,  2010.

Pen and colored pencil on paper.

Course Content Examples:

The Arts Can Help Us Face and Understand Difficult Issues and Perspectives

This powerful 2016 painting by Cree artist Kent Monkman is entitled, "The Scream" which depicts some of the horrors faced by Indigenous families due to the terrible Residential Schools program brought about by the controversial Indian Act. 

The residential school system officially operated from the 1880s until 1996. and forcibly separated children from their families forbidding them to acknowledge their Indigenous heritage and culture or to speak their own languages. Former students of residential schools have spoken of horrendous abuse at the hands of residential school staff: physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological.

Listen to more stories by survivors of the residential schools.


Spoken Word and Literature 

Stories and literature are also important tools in teaching Indigenous studies. In Indigenous cultures, knowledge was passed through the oral tradition. This includes stories that are used to teach skills, values, history, and news, and explain the natural world.  

"I Lost My Talk" is a poem by Mi'kmaq poet and songwriter Rita Joe in 1978. The poem, which is autobiographical, focuses on the speaker's time at Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Canada, a boarding school where Indigenous children were punished for speaking in their native tongue. Losing her "talk," or her ancestral language, left the speaker isolated from her heritage, community, and even her identity itself. The poem highlights the important link between language and culture and also condemns the way in which colonialist governments may use the oppression of Indigenous languages to oppress Indigenous peoples themselves.

I lost my talk

The talk you took away.

When I was a little girl

At Shubenacadie school.


You snatched it away:

I speak like you

I think like you

I create like you

The scrambled ballad, about my word.


Two ways I talk

Both ways I say,

Your way is more powerful.


So gently I offer my hand and ask,

Let me find my talk

So I can teach you about me.

What is the Indian Act? This short video, "Shareable Facts: The Indian Act Explained" will explain some of the controversial laws and policies of this piece of legislation.  


Colonization has shaped many parts of the world, leaving behind a legacy of violence, trauma, and destruction. But rather than feeling powerless or discouraged by history and its shameful consequences, we can learn from it instead and take action to create a more just and equitable future. Educator Nikki Sanchez explains how.

“This history is not your fault, but it is absolutely your responsibility.” 

Decolonization is for Everyone
by Niki Sanchez

Haudenosaunee Metal Working

Screen Shot 2022-12-28 at 11.08.45 PM.png

Through my Indigenous Studies courses, students will understand the 400-year tradition of silversmithing amongst the Haudenosaunee as well as their work with copper and other metals and how ironwork became a proud Haudenosaunee tradition.

Screen Shot 2022-12-28 at 11.09.07 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-12-28 at 11.09.30 PM.png

Student Work

Students also get to experience ironworking for themselves as a memorable creative activity. 

Download Indigenous Role Models Document Here: 

Let’s work together to build a more just and equitable future for us all!

Robert Ponzio


Thanks for submitting!
bottom of page