Grade Seven Thematic Unit Part 5: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Traditional Knowledge Regarding Water

Part Five: Respecting Water and Water Conservation

Social Studies: First Nation Water Issues

Time Frame: 90 Minutes or two 45 Minute periods.


  • Students will be able to review various stories regarding water issues of First Nation and Métis People.
  • Students will be able to identify water issues within the media and provide the classroom with current events and facts regarding water in their area.
  • Students will monitor media outlets for current events regarding water (floods, river flows, tsunami, etc.)


  • Teacher instruction and lecture
  • Brainstorming
  • Media and Internet search
  • Small group brainstorming and interaction


  • Chart paper
  • Teacher’s information or handouts, photocopied
  • Internet access
  • Media access to print
  • Audio and video
  • Camcorder & video tapes

Background Information: Throughout the history of Canada, water has played an important role in not only establishing settlements but influencing trading and traveling routes. It was the Hudson Bay Company and Great West Trading Company that provided Aboriginal people with trading goods. It was the Métis people who were often the interpreters and the traders for the companies that introduced Euro Canadians to the original highways; our waterways. Many of the explorers came through various waterways to discover the beauty and the vastness of North America. It was within the last century that waterways began to be blocked with the construction of hydroelectric dams, many of the great waters flooded over Aboriginal hunting and sacred sites. With recent changes in the constitution and the duty to consult Aboriginal people this would not have been done. There is a famous historical and sacred rock (Mistasini) that was blown to bits in the Diefenbaker Dam area. The James Bay Cree have been fighting with the Quebec and federal governments regarding land claims by the James Bay I and II Dam projects. Yellow Quill First Nation was on a boil water advisory for nine years. Many Aboriginal communities have just recently been hooked up to water and sewage lines. Water is one of our greatest resources but it is not as protected as Aboriginal people would like to see. At one time there was talk about diverting Canadian waterways to the United States of America, but many Aboriginal people opposed this. We should not be messing with Mother Earth’s veins; our rivers and streams. Water is a sacred spirit in which it holds our life force, a person can live months without food, but can only live for a few short weeks or less without water. It is important for people to realize the importance of water and that it is something that needs to be respected and honoured. Water conservation is an important part of respecting our water.


  1. Have students read through the stories provided in the handout. Ask students to write jot notes regarding these four case studies. Invite the students to reflect and offer opinions on the information they have read (15 minutes).
  2. Divide the students into four groups; each group will be assigned one case study. The task of each group is to find additional information about their story on the Internet and through multimedia sources. They are then to present their topic as if they are on a national newscast. Each of the students will play different roles. The students must first write and then rewrite their screenplay for the newscast and research the information. The news item should be no longer than three minutes (45 minutes).
  3. Students will then record the information onto a camcorder (20 minutes). Students will present their recorded newscast and talk about the process behind gathering and making the news. Each group will be allocated ten minutes to present their newscast and the process in which they gathered and obtained information (40 minutes).
  4. Optional: Download the newscast onto the computer and add graphics and text to the story. Include websites and links. Put the newscast onto a school website and e-mail it to the SDWF and/or a partnered school.


  • Group Evaluation Rubric
  • Presentation Rubric

Please read the Grade Nine Operation Water Spirit Unit for the four case studies

Science: TEK/TK

Time Frame: 60 Minutes to 120 Minutes


  • Students will be able to understand Aboriginal science perspectives through Dr. Jim Morin’s analytical perspective regarding indigenous knowledge.
  • Student will be able to identify the four components of Traditional Knowledge and provide examples.


  • Teacher lecture
  • Large group reading
  • Small group discussion


  • TK/TEK handout
  • Interest
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Glue sticks
  • Magazine pictures

Optional Materials:Internet

Space Requirements: Classroom

Background Information: Please see Information Handout.


  1. Handout the information regarding TK/TEK and give students time to read on their own (10 minutes). Then, have the class read out the points and develop jot notes on the information they have been given (15 minutes).
  2. Advise the students to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the four components of TK from Dr. Morin’s theory. Divide into groups of four and then, as a group, write the definition of each of the components providing at least two examples for each (35 minutes).
  3. On a large poster or chart paper divided by the four components, put their definition in each section and the title for each section. Have students draw or cut out pictures to represent each of the four components of TK (45 minutes). Present the finished product to the class (15 minutes).
  4. Alternative: Have students write personal reports on one of the four components of TK and how it currently relates to them in their lives.


  • Group evaluation rubric
  • Personal writing rubric

Information Handout #1

What is Traditional Knowledge?

Traditional Knowledge is something that will never be truly defined. Traditional Knowledge is held by all members of the community, it is something that is very individualized. The term Traditional Knowledge has been coined by western science to acknowledge the knowledge that is held by Indigenous/Aboriginal/First Nations people. To define Traditional Knowledge is an ominous task because what may be true for one person or community may not be true for the next. First Nations people have lived on this land and within this territory for centuries; they can provide a leadership role in ensuring that Mother Earth is taken care of. Traditional Knowledge is:

  • The information about where the plants are and how those plants are used
  • The protocols that are used when taking the life of an animal.
  • The stories that are told at certain times of the year; to teach the children the role that they have within the world and within society.
    • The stories that talk about floods or hardships that are supported by archaeological findings.
    • The story of where to find the best raspberries and where to find the best rabbits.
    • The stories of how everything is connected and everything relates to something.

What is Traditional Ecological Knowledge?

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is another term that is used by western science, which talks about how Indigenous/Aboriginal/First Nations people have specific knowledge of their community and traditional lands which can be used to ensure ecosystem management is done in a good way. Traditional Ecological Knowledge is based upon the intrinsic and intertwined connection with the land. Items like sweet grass are spoken about because they are disappearing; as these grasslands are depleted, it becomes concerning for Nations who use these items in ceremony and practice. There is distrust when sacred sites and medicinal plant locations are given to mainstream society; items have been appropriated for personal gain. Many First Nations would like a blanket generic protection of sacred plants and herbs because environmental protection should be both on and off-reserve. Traditional Ecological Knowledge is held by the individual and the community, it is the connection to the land. Traditional Ecological Knowledge is:

  • The information about where the plants are and how those plants are used.
  • The protocols that are used when taking the life of an animal.
  • The stories that talk about floods or hardships that are supported by archaeological findings.

Information Handout #2

Traditional Knowledge Spiritual Knowledge of Traditional Knowledge is the recognition of the Creator and is specific to individual groups and persons; the spiritual connection to the land is the belief that everything in the world is interconnected and has a spirit, and that even a rock has a spirit. The Aboriginal people believe that the rock is an animate object, a living entity and is often referred to in various Aboriginal languages as a relative such as grandfather. Rocks are used in a variety of different ceremonies and practices such as Sweat Lodges, Talking Circles and Naming Ceremonies. There is great reverence given to the rock, as it is a representative of Mother Earth and the Grandfathers.

Intuitive Knowledge of Traditional Knowledge is the ingrained understanding of the ecosystems and the role humans have in their relationship to the land. There is a respect for all parts of the world and that each is connected, what one does to the environment is felt by others. This is like ecosystem management systems, where an animal cannot be expected to free range indefinitely, the herd must be kept at a manageable level. This is also the knowledge of when and why certain plants grow certain places at certain times (ex: morrell mushrooms after a forest fire).

Empirical Knowledge of Traditional Knowledge is the location of plants, methods of hunting, and methods of planting and harvesting; this Empirical Knowledge plays a role in Indigenous Resource Management systems. It was the Empirical Knowledge that ensured the survival of the new settlers; it was the identification of the plants and their uses, as well as drying methodologies for storing meat and fish. More than 50 new foods came from Europe: maize (corn), turkey, white potato, pumpkin, squash, avocado, chocolate, and several kinds of beans and these foods account for a large part of the food economy today. Numerous medicines went to Europe: quinine, ephedrine, Novocain, curare, ipecac, devil’s club, and witch hazel.

Historical Knowledge of Traditional Knowledge is information passed through the generations that speak of climate changes, natural disasters and extraordinary events. It was found that oral history and oral stories could be accurate portrayals of historic events. The basis of oral history is information that is passed to generation after generation in a verbatim format, in this way the history of Aboriginal peoples can be maintained. Certain events were also shown through pictographs and stories, so some parts of history have been written down.

Dr. Jim Morin, a Métis geologist who was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba outlines his Traditional Knowledge framework that was made up of four components. Dr. Morin has a PhD in geology from the University of Saskatchewan, and BSc Honors and MSc from the University of Manitoba. Dr. Jim Morin has personally approved using his information in the lesson plans.

Traditional Knowledge Group Worksheet

In small groups, identify and provide examples of TK, be ready to present to the class. Give a definition using your own words.

Spiritual Knowledge:



Intuitive Knowledge:



Empirical Knowledge:



Historical Knowledge: