ohpikinâwasowin / Growing a Child

Implementing Indigenous Ways of Knowing with Indigenous Families

Edited by Leona Makokis, Ralph Bodor, Avery Calhoun and Stephanie Tyler  

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Western theory and practice are over-represented in child welfare services for Indigenous peoples, not the other way around. Contributors to this collection invert the long-held, colonial relationship between Indigenous peoples and systems of child welfare in Canada. By understanding the problem as the prevalence of the Western universe in child welfare services rather than Indigenous peoples, efforts to understand and support Indigenous children and families are fundamentally transformed. Child welfare for Indigenous peoples must be informed and guided by Indigenous practices and understandings. Privileging the iyiniw (First people, people of the land) universe leads to reinvigorating traditional knowledges, practices and ceremonies related to children and families that have existed for centuries.

The chapters of ohpikinâwasowin/Growing a Child describe wisdom-seeking journeys and service-provision changes that occurred in Treaty 6, Treaty 7, and Treaty 8 territory on Turtle Island. Many of the teachings are nehiyaw (Cree) and some are from the Blackfoot people. Taken together, this collection forms a whole related to the Turtle Lodge Teachings, which expresses nehiyaw stages of development, and works to undo the colonial trappings of Canada’s current child welfare system.

  • EPUB
  • ISBN: 9781773634203
  • August 2020
  • $29.99
  • For sale worldwide
  • PDF
  • ISBN: 9781773634227
  • August 2020
  • $29.99
  • For sale worldwide

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  • The book’s contributing authors – 15 social-work and social-services practitioners, not including the editors, from nêhiyaw, Métis, Anishinaabe and non-Indigenous backgrounds – examine the over-representation of Western worldviews, values and practices in the lives of Indigenous people and present an alternative to current child welfare services. Using the nehiyaw Turtle Lodge Teachings, the book provides several decolonized wisdom-seeking (research) projects and service provision changes. One example is that, instead of focusing on chronological age, the book instead uses the lens of the eight interconnected stages of life based on the lived experiences of children and youth.

    While the book is rooted in Indigenous tradition, the material is presented in a decidedly contemporary context – QR codes in the first chapter, for example, lead to videos of teachings from Elders on everything from Creation stories to relational accountability.

    “Right now, social work is very focused on trauma-based theory, trauma-based approaches – however, once you understand trauma, what’s next?” Bodor says. “With Indigenous children and families, we need to move into healing. So, all our work is focused on ceremony-based healing.”

    — Zoltan Varadi, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary (full review)


  • Introduction: Entering the Circle (Leona Makokis, Ralph Bodor, Avery Calhoun, and Stephanie Tyler)
  • iyiniw tâpwêwin ekwa kiskeyitamowin (Leona Makokis, Ralph Bodor, Avery Calhoun, Stephanie Tyler, Amanda McLellan, Ariel Veldhuisen, Kristina Kopp, Suzanne McLeod, and Sharon Goulet)
  • miyawata. Family Teachings on Turtle Island (Carolyn Barker)
  • kayiwatisi. Indigenous Program Indicators (Carol Turner and Ralph Bodor)
  • ayahpatisi. Practice as Ceremony (Amber Dion, Stephanie Tyler, Christie Pace, and Karen Delver)
  • tâpwêwin. Foundations of wīcihitāsowin (Angie Pinder and Avery Calhoun)
  • kîseyihtamowin.  miyo ohpikinâwasowin: Igniting Spiritual Fires (Kristina Kopp, Caleb Anacker, Angie Pinder, and Bonda Thompson)
  • ayawawasowin. pe kīwe Come Home: Indigenous Adoptee Re-Connection with Self, Family and Community (Fran Kuefler Jose and Judy McRee)
  • kakehtawewin. Bringing Ceremony Home: An Inaugural kiskinohamakewin (Stephanie Tyler and Avery Calhoun)
  • Conclusion: Closing the Circle
  • Glossary: English Meaning and Pronunciation of nehiyaw Words
  • Glossary: English Meaning of nehiyaw Kinship Terms
  • References
  • Index


  • Leona Makokis

    Leona Makokis is an Elder and member of the Kehewin Cree Nation and has dedicated her life to supporting the growth of programming that balances iyiniw language and worldview with contemporary experiences. Dr. Makokis is a former president of the University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills.

  • Ralph Bodor

    Ralph Bodor is an associate professor with the Edmonton-based Central and Northern Region of the Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary.

  • Avery Calhoun

    University of Calgary

    Avery Calhoun is a retired associate professor from the Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary.

  • Stephanie Tyler

    Stephanie Tyler is a PhD student at the University of Calgary and a sessional instructor at MacEwan University.

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