Glossary of Terms


someone from a privileged group who is aware of how oppression works and struggles alongside members of an oppressed group to take action to end oppression

anti-oppression theory

the framework for understanding the world and one’s own place in it, questioning and challenging one’s practices, and creating new approaches that counter oppression and lead toward reconciliation and decolonization

cultural appropriation

using intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone’s culture without permission. It is most likely to be harmful when the source culture is a group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways (as with Indigenous Peoples), or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive or sacred.

cultural oppression

shared societal values and norms that allow people to see oppression as normal or right.

cultural safety

the recognition that one needs to be aware of and challenge unequal power relations at the level of individual, family, community, and society. In a culturally safe environment, each person feels that their unique cultural background is respected, and they are free to be themselves without being judged, put on the spot, or asked to speak for all members of their group.


the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches. Decolonization involves valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches, and rethinking Western biases or assumptions that have impacted Indigenous ways of being.

holism/holistic learning

engaging the four knowledge domains that interweave all aspects of learning: emotional (heart), spiritual (spirit), cognitive (mind) and physical (body).


the process of naturalizing Indigenous knowledge systems and making them evident to transform spaces, places, and hearts. In the context of post-secondary education, this involves bringing Indigenous knowledge and approaches together with Western knowledge systems. It is a deliberate coming together of these two ways of being.

Indigenous epistemologies

theory of knowledge that is based on Indigenous perspectives, such as relationality, the interconnection of sacred and secular, and holism. The emotional, spiritual, cognitive, and physical dimensions of knowledge are common in Indigenous epistemologies.

Indigenous knowledge

knowledge systems embedded in relationship to specific lands, culture, and community.

Indigenous pedagogies

the method and practice of teaching that focus on the development of a human being as a whole person, learning through experience, and recognizing the important role that Elders have an important role in passing on wisdom and knowledge.

learning spirit

the entity that guides learning (beyond family, community, and Elders). It is an Indigenous concept that spirits travel with individuals and guide them, offering, guidance, inspiration, and the unrealized potential to be who we are.


brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights, invalidations, and insults to an individual or group because of their marginalized status in society.


exploitation based on perceived difference of a group of people who share a social category (such as race, class, cultural background, religion, gender, sexuality, age, language or ability).

personal oppression

the thoughts, behaviours, and actions that constitute a negative judgment or treatment of an oppressed group. For example, a person making the assumption that Indigenous people always get special treatment.


ways of interacting with Indigenous people in a manner that respects traditional ways of being. Protocols are unique to each Indigenous culture and are a representation of a culture’s deeply held ethical system.


addressing past wrongs done to Indigenous Peoples, making amends, and improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to create a better future for all.


the concept that we are all related to each other, to the natural environment, and to the spiritual world, and these relationships bring about interdependencies.

structural (or systemic) oppression

the manifestation of oppression in societal institutions, such as governments, religions, education systems, health care, law, and the media. For example, the fact that Indigenous people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and child welfare systems is a form of structural oppression.

two-eyed seeing

the guiding principle of seeing the strengths of multiple perspectives in an interconnected and respectful way rather than as binaries or opposites. Shared by Mi'kmaq Elder, Albert Marshall, the word Etuaptmumk is a way to see the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives with one eye and to see the strengths of Western knowledge and perspectives with the other eye; then you learn how to see with both eyes together to benefit all peoples.


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Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers Copyright © 2018 by Asma-na-hi Antoine; Rachel Mason; Roberta Mason; Sophia Palahicky; and Carmen Rodriguez de France is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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