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National Indigenous History Month 2023: LEF's Understanding of The Seasonal Pedagogy

June 9, 2023
June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, an opportunity to learn about the unique cultures, traditions and experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. It's a time to honour the stories, achievements and resilience of Indigenous Peoples, who have lived on this land since time immemorial and whose presence continues to impact how Canadians relate to this land that so many now call "home".

Introducing the Seasonal Pedagogy (Dr. Hopi Martin)

Canada's relationship with the Indigenous Nations has not always been kind. Since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action (2015), Canadian organizations like LEF have been searching for ways to authentically respond when government has only been able to meet 13 of the 94 Calls to Action (Jewell & Mosby, 2022). Despite this context, LEF has had the courage to commit to a journey of learning from and with Indigenous Peoples’ as its first of four strategic priorities. These four priorities are reflective in nature and yet each is rich in action.

A graphic displaying the seasonal pedagogy. It has a circle in the middle with black, white, yellow, and red sections. In the four corners reads "Relationship, Passing, Movement, and Birth"

In relationship to our first priority of journeying with Indigenous Peoples at LEF, we have begun thinking about our strategic priorities as a natural progression in relationship to an Ojibwe Seasonal Teachings of Birth (Summer Solstice), Movement (Fall Equinox ), Relationships (Winter Solstice), and Passing (Spring Equinox) that we are learning from our Indigenous Advisor, Dr. Hopi Martin and his Aunt, Dr. Gokoomis (Grandmother) Jacque Lavallée from Shawanaga First Nation based on research of a ‘Seasonal Pedagogy’ (

Week 1: Birth - Children & Families

In the context of Children & Families, The Seasonal Pedagogy offers a framework to help illustrate the natural process of birth, movement, relationships and passing (Listening to Land as Teacher in Early Childhood Education, Martin, 2021) that occurs when children are exploring their surroundings. This can best be seen outdoors when children are engaging with the land in self-directed ways. We often refer to the birth as ‘the spark’. Educators observe and reflect to determine what it was about an experience that sparked wonder for a child or for themselves. This is the beginning of a cyclical learning process that could last a few brief moments or extend over a long period of time. There are many births throughout each day as children and Educators explore together, deepening and sharing their relationships with Mother Earth.

Birth coincides with Summer Solstice, a time when the sun begins to warm Mother Earth as she prepares for growing. In our childcare centres, this is also a time of growth as seeds are planted and cared for over the growing period.

In Children & Families, we have come to see each spark of wonder as the possibility for a seed to grow and we know that if it is a good seed it will grow. To learn more about the Seasonal Pedagogy, please visit

Week 2: Movement - Finance


The Colour of Movement is Red


“For Ojibwe, the New Year begins when Mother Earth gives us her first fruit: Ode’miin (Heartberry/Strawberry). This new beginning or ‘Birth‘ happens just after the Strawberry Moon during Summer Solstice. In honour of Mother Earth, I was taught to colour this time Green.
At Fall Equinox just after Ricing or Corn Moon, Mother Earth gives back all of her bounty through harvest time. I was taught to colour this time of ‘Movement,‘ Red like the lifeblood of the People.
At that Dreaming time when we have the longest night and Mother Earth begins to tilt back towards Grandfather Sun, we celebrate ‘Relationships,‘ with Spirit and Father Sky. I was taught to colour this time Blue.
After a long Winter’s sleep, Mother Earth returns to life when the Maple Sap begins flowing under Maple Moon around Spring Equinox. The seeds that have been buried beneath the snow begin ‘Passing‘ new life to the next Seasonal Circle. I was taught to colour this time Black like Gizhwe Manidoo (Great Kind Mystery).”

In my world of accounting, red and black have very specific meanings.  When someone says, “we’re in the black”, it’s typically a good thing.  It means we have a surplus, i.e. we brought in more money than we spent.  We have a reserve for the future.  However, if that number is negative or red, then we have given out more than we have taken in, which may threaten our ability to keep delivering programs in a sustainable way.

In the extract from the Ojibwe oral tradition quoted above, Mother Earth does not reckon in black and red.  When she gives her bounty, it is all red.  It is up to those who take to be responsible and take only what they need.  It is up to us to ask the question about whether the harvest we take is sustainable, not just for us, but for all who depend on Mother Earth. 

I am not the first to point out how one-sided our accounting and financial statement are.  We treat the bounty of Mother Earth, the harvest, the minerals under the ground, even the air we breathe as being “free”, as having no cost other than the costs of extraction.  Again, it is up to us, all of us, to recognize the real cost of what we consume, and do it wisely and justly.

Week 3: Relationships - Digital Communications

Relationships are at the core of everything we do in Communications at LEF. Our ability to tell the best stories and reach our clients, partners, and staff in the best way can only happen through strong relationships with those around us. These relationships are always ongoing, but are ignited after the Birth of an idea, and the Movement of planning how that idea will come to life. After planning, we lean on those around us to provide us with the materials we need to accomplish the task at hand.

Nothing in Communications can be done with our department alone. To be able to share what is happening at LEF, Relationships with our front-line staff and those working behind the scenes are crucial. Without those relationships, Communications becomes inauthentic and superficial, rather than a true connection to the clients and families we support, which comes in the Passing stage.

Week 4: Passing - People & Culture


After a long Winter’s sleep, Mother Earth returns to life when the Maple Sap begins flowing under Maple Moon around Spring Equinox. The seeds that have been buried beneath the snow begin ‘Passing‘ new life to the next Seasonal Circle. I was taught to colour this time Black like Gizhwe Manidoo (Great Kind Mystery).

When we think of this description of Passing from Dr. Hopi Martin’s Seasonal Pedagogy, it reminds us that where one ends, another begins, or a change breathes new life into something or someone.  Every phase of the circle is to be celebrated as it leads us to new and beautiful awareness, imaginings, and possibilities of things to come.

As one employee retires, it opens the door for someone else to step into or up to the role that employee left.  In the past year, we celebrated retirements with 9 employees who accounted for a total of 216 years of service to LEF or an average of 24 years!  That average number of years says something about our wonderful people, their dedication to serving others, and to our deep respect and gratitude to them throughout their careers with us.

When we think of Human Resources, or as we call it here at LEF, People and Culture, this reminds us of our respect for and listening to the needs of our employees and meeting them where they are in this moment in time.  Adjusting our supports as much as possible to hear their needs and supporting them in their journey as they engage with the community we serve and with each other.

We do not walk alone in our Passing journey as we partner with the community and with the sector for a stronger and resilient organization. We have adopted the ONN Decent Work practice with fair wages and benefits, building a culture of equity and inclusion.

This Spring we introduced a new benefits program considering feedback received from our employees to better meet their varying stages of life and individual needs resulting in a flexible plan with more options. We trust this new plan meets the needs of each employee today and into the future.

We have reviewed and updated our compensation program for it to be internally equitable and externally competitive within our sector.

As the Seasons continue, People & Culture remains engaged with all members of the organization to support each phase and ensure we continue to foster all elements of a resilient economy.

Learning to walk with Indigenous Peoples and understanding their teachings helps keep our focus on what really matters, people, relationships, support, sharing information and being grateful to all who are here and have come before us.


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