Talking with Dale Saddleback, keynote speaker for RSCT Waldorf Development Conference, Nov. 9, 10

Dale-320-2In recent years there has been a ground swell of interest in the role of Indigenous peoples, including acknowledgement of which bands lived on the land where schools are now located, and an awareness that teachers are the ones who can help spread awareness of, and respect for, Indigenous culture and people, to the new generations of students they are educating. On November 9th and 10th,  at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto’s annual Waldorf Development conference teachers and parents will have a unique opportunity to hear from someone who is devoting his life to building a new synthesis of Waldorf pedagogy and Indigenous nehiyaw traditions to help new generations make a living connection with the Indigenous peoples and traditions that have gone before.

Online individual and group registration forms for the conference can be found at this link.

Indigenous nehiyaw educator Dale Saddleback was raised on the Pigeon Lake Reserve #138A, south of Edmonton Alberta, among the nehiyawak (Cree). He was among some of the last students in Canada to experience the infamous residential school system (but just for kindergarten and grade one as a day-schooler). The remainder of his elementary and high school was more cross-cultural, as he attended county schools with children from mostly rural Alberta farming communities.

Dale says, however, that it wasn’t until university that he learned about treaties. But while growing up on the reserve, his life was enriched by experiencing many powwows and other traditional ceremonies which involve dancing and singing. In his teens Dale learned about some dance ceremonies and took part in sweat lodges among others.

Elders and Ancestors

Dale’s great grandfather was one of those who kept the Sundance (thirst dance) culture alive underground during all those decades when it was prohibited by the Government of Canada. The prohibition of ceremonies was finally lifted in 1951, and continued sponsoring Sundance from 1952 onward. Dale argues that Indigenous peoples in Canada were not even considered to be human beings until these prohibitions were lifted.

Dale says that the success he has achieved in life is rare among indigenous people due to systemic barriers. He credits his continued practice of traditional ceremonies for being able to keep going all the way through to postgraduate studies, in spite of the many negative influences that he and other indigenous peoples have had to deal with, living in rural Alberta.

Dale’s main project has been developing cross cultural curricula suitable for students from all cultural backgrounds, based on the outcome of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015 ninety-four Calls to Action. He has consulted with numerous school boards on topics related to Indigenous curriculum design.

Toxic Social Environment

Dale has found that in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, racism and stereotyping of indigenous people is still very prevalent among many of the people who live there. Dale says that Indigenous people are often living in second and third world conditions on the reserves, and that, as late as the 80s and 90s, the local KKK would gather after dark and burn crosses in the fields near Provost, Alberta, not far from the Saskatchewan border.

He says it is due to a kind of systemic racism that there are so many indigenous people in Canadian jails and that is why people like Kevin Annett — a white Anglican minister who tried to advocate for the Indigenous cause and who helped expose the residential school scandal through his movie “Unrepentant” — are so treated so badly.

Dale says the Northwest Mounted Police (now the RCMP) who were originally tasked with protecting treaty rights of the Indigenous, have instead historically turned to protecting the infringers. And regarding some recent Indigenous rights issues, he asks “what’s the use of a duty to consult, without those being consulted, having a veto over federal/provincial/municipal/county projects going ahead, if they are not in the best interest of the First Nation”. And he says that’s why the Mikisiw Cree will likely be taking their case against the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision against them to the UN.

It wasn’t that long ago that a pipeline blew up in BC and another Indigenous community had to be evacuated.

Dale believes that the best way to address the injustices of the present situation is through better education for young people. And that’s why he helped found the Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf Education and spent so much time raising money to bring workshops that build skills developed in Waldorf settings, and to raise awareness about the potential for the development of Steiner’s methods and techniques for use in Indigenous contexts.

Like Douglas Cardinal, Dale was another Indigenous person from Alberta, who managed to overcome the challenges of his life situation and achieve something in the wider world. In Douglas’ case, that was becoming a world-renown Indigenous architect. Douglas Cardinal first discovered Rudolf Steiner’s architecture through a professor he had at the University of Texas. While Dale is Cree from northern Alberta, Douglas is Blackfoot from southern Alberta.

How did Dale Connect with Waldorf?

While he was working on his masters degree a few years ago at university, Dale’s computer broke, and he went to his band to ask for assistance to get a new one. Someone there decided that Dale should attend a week-long workshop on Waldorf Indigenous Education that was just then being given by James Brian at Enoch Cree Nation, just west of Edmonton.

So Dale went. He arrived a day after the start of the program. He soon recognized that Waldorf was the key he had been looking for, and he realized he needed to utilize these new insights into the capping paper he had been working on for his masters degree. That was the turning point and the start of his involvement with Waldorf, back in August of 2013. Dale was amazed to realize that Waldorf had been around for more than 90 years and he was only hearing about it for the first time.

Introducing Waldorf to Indigenous Communities

Dale has introduced Waldorf to five or six bands but he says it’s like fighting the provinces or the federal government. He has had trouble getting many Indigenous leaders to take interest. He says that because of how the leadership of the bands was set up by the Indian Act, those who end up in charge are often more concerned with feathering their own nests, than in promoting understanding of treaties and the welfare of the band. But in spite of obstacles like these, Dale perseveres, and has increasingly been called upon by school boards to help design curricula related to Indigenous ways of being-in-the-world.

Recently Married

In March 31st of this year, Dale married an Nova Scotian woman, Dr. Claire Poirier, who was recently awarded her Ph.D. in anthropology with distinction. He says she has studied in Indigenous communities as part of her field work, and as an ethnographer.

And just recently, they have had a new baby. His name is Lazlo, born May 22, 2018. Dale is currently working on his Ph.D., while also doing a lot of volunteer work on behalf of the Douglas Cardinal Foundation to help promote Indigenous Waldorf education wherever he can. Dale also participated in last summer’s AWSNA (Association of Waldorf Schools of North America) conference in Bethesda, Maryland where he presented on Indigenous nehiyaw Steiner possibilities and joined with others to form a committee to promote social justice for all peoples, and sang in the Cree language for all the delegates.

Waldorf Teacher Development Conference Nov 9th & 10th

Dale Saddleback will bring his wealth of knowledge and experience of Indigenous ways and culture to the RSCT’s Waldorf Development Conference November 9th and 10th at the RSCT in Thornhill, where he will be addressing the question of how to introduce teaching on Indigenous topics into the Waldorf curriculum. Don’t miss this opportunity. 

Register now using the online forms at this link. 

Lead photo of Dale was taken at last year’s AWSNA conference in Bethesda, Maryland.

Indigenous Waldorf Week — Day Five

At the end of Friday’s Indigenous Waldorf Week, RSCT Executive Director James Brian presented a certificate of affiliation to representatives of the Everlasting Tree School, on behalf of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). This confirms the school’s status with AWSNA as a regisitered initiative. L-R in photo: Chandra Maracle, James Brian, Amy Bomberry, Kathy Smith, and Sean Thompson.

Notes and report by Joaquin Munoz


The end of a thing is always the hardest part. Being in such close contact with folks, learning, thinking, growing and changing with people is a process that is never direct, always dynamic, and fluid. So it is always hard when it comes to an end, because it feels scary and empty. Now that a teacher is not nearby to direct us, where should we go? What will be do? The sense of community that was build might feel like it is gone. What is powerful about this week is the sense of mission and commitment going forward. So many powerful ideas were presented to us and so many tools were given as a way to further our own investigations.

In fact, what may be an even bigger gift than the information about Haudenosaunee language, culture and history given to us, is that we now have a powerful framework by which to learn about all indigenous languages, cultures and histories. If we borrow from the Thanksgiving Address shared by Sean Thompson on the very first day, we now have a way to envision a path forward. We know then, that every culture has words, phrases and beliefs about what it means to approach the world and make sense of it. From the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, we know that there are words and phrases to represent winds, birds, animals, people, trees, plants and relationships. Knowing the word is not sufficient, however. One must learn the meaning, the significance and the symbolism of each one.

Thus, we can begin a study of the language, history or culture of the peoples around us by attempting to learn more of their worldview, their knowledge, and the way they understand knowledge. And what we immediately must see is the complexity of the worldview. It is in this complexity that we must enter, and learn from, with the greatest respect.

The Danger of a Single Story

In her TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story” Chimamanda Adiche describes the challenge of overcoming our biases and stereotypes when we observe others. She reminds all of us that every single person is a complex and complicated individual with amazing experiences and unique perspectives. There is a danger in operating solely from a belief in a single way a person is or can be. Assuming that anyone can only be one way reduces their complexity, and takes away a part of their humanity.

As we learned this week it is absolutely essential that we carefully study, and work to understand the experiences of Indigenous folks around us. We cannot reduce people to simple stereotypes, to single stories, but rather, we must learn of the complexity of their experience, and appreciate this. In this way, we can come to truly appreciate a group of people.

“It Wasn’t False, But It Could Have Been a Little Bit Truer”

During the week, one of the most profound statements came during a story. When asked about a book on Haudenosaunee culture, Chandra Maracle assessed it, saying “it’s not false, but it could have been truer.” This line is crucial, in that it presents educators with a special challenge. It challenges us to work to understand the complexity of people, and to know more about their history, language and culture. It challenges us to continuously seek to learn and understand the cultures around us, to not reduce them to single stories for the sake of convenience or efficiency. The statement reminds us that we are constantly working to develop our knowledge, and that it is not an endpoint. Rather, it is a continuous path and destination. It is the continuous work of trying to learn about, and understand another culture’s worldview.

“There Needs to be Real Truth to Get Real Reconciliation”

All of this is to say that our learning and understanding this week is meant to serve as one step on our path. This week is not the end of what we are called upon to do. It is only the beginning of our task. This work represents the start of learning, engaging and developing our awareness around the experiences of the Indigenous people around us, as way to contribute to the one of the most important tasks of all: truth, reconciliation, and healing. In order to get to the reconciliation and healing, we must have the real truth, as Amy Bomberry said. It is in this work that healing can happen for all people.

It is in this task that we must make a commitment. It is central to the commitments we promise to hold, symbolized by the Wampum belt. It is central to the relationships we created this week. And in these relationships, the ending no longer has to be the hardest part, because we know it is only the first step of a greater work to be done.

Group photo of Indigenous Waldorf Week participants at the RSCT Summer Festival of Arts and Education, July 2018.

Indigenous Waldorf Week — Day Four

Sharing commitments around the pine tree in the TWS forest playground.

Notes and report by Joaquin Munoz


Today, we were given a profound gift by our Haudenosaunee teachers today that constituted a mental and spiritual reminder to all of us: we were gifted the reminder of our relationships to each other, and the work that must be done to keep them alive and healthy. We were reminded of the important historic ties we have towards each other, and the responsibility this places on us today as people, both Indigenous and others.

This reminder of relationship began today with our homework, where we discussed our own research on the Indigenous peoples on the lands where we come from. For me, this required a review of the Anishinaabe and Lakotah peoples of Minnesota. We were also asked to explore resources for learning about the peoples of our regions, and this showed me the various bookstores, galleries, the Minneapolis American Indian Center, and other spaces to learn about the experiences of these tribes.

From a practical standpoint, this useful for teachers to know, but it spoke much more deeply to the lesson we have been receiving all week long: of the need for us to learn about, and build relationships with the people around us.  This lesson of relationship was then imparted deeply in the discussion of the Wampum belt history of the Haudenosaunee. What became evident was the deep, personal and powerful meaning these sacred symbols represent.

The Meaning of Law

Along with the profundity of relationships and responsibilities was considering the nature of law. In Western views, law often connotes restriction, confinement, or punishment. It was incredible to hear of the Wampum which represented the Great Law. While responsible for delineating behavior, the Great Law needs to be read with a different lens.

“Law” Sean Thompson told us, “is the great, large goodness and right-ness.” And fundamental to the large goodness and right-ness is the connection and relationships shared by people. Like the Wampum belt that represents it, it is the path, the way.

Passing around a wampum belt during Thursday’s class.

Wampum Belts as Sacred Ties

In learning the history of the beads, belts, ties and colors, we learned of their significance as markers of relationship and responsibility. It was interesting to see and hear the stories of the various belts, and how they represented relationship between Haudenosaunee, members of the Six Nations, and to relationships with non-Natives, including the Dutch, French and British.

What is amazing about these representations is the significance of each color, each design, each bead, all of it. Each one represented a powerful reminder to parties connected to it of the supreme responsibility for maintaining the relationship it represented. This is not a call for perfect, pristine harmony and peace; it is a call to remember the connection forged by the relationship and value it. To think and consider the connection and relationship above anything that might be gained from desecrating the relationship.

And we were taught that, far from demonstrating a doctrine of separation, as in the one shown above, the belts demonstrate connection, friendship, and relationship. They a built in peace and reciprocity. They allow for, and even value, the diversity and difference in the lives of people, but still call on them to remember the connection, the relationship, and the respect.

An Invitation to Renew

While the Great Law implores us to build, cultivate and protect the relationships we share, these are not simple, or organic occurrences. The relationships we build must be taken care of. The require attention, care and conscious actions to keep healthy.

As we were told by Chandra Maracle, the single arrow can easily be broken, but the arrows bundled together are unbreakable. But the arrows must be kept together. And that means that the relationship must be looked after. It must be refreshed; it must be polished.

The most powerful symbol of this was shared with us at the end of our session, of the 50 Chiefs of the Confederacy, linking arms, around the great White Pine, to signify their connection and commitment to each other, and the protection of the Everlasting Tree.

This symbolizes, to me, a completely different view of humanity and reality; it symbolizes a deep, deep commitment to those who surround you, and a commitment to the connections we share. It symbolizes the need to view each other as legitimate people, with legitimate ideas and actions, and it symbolizes that I assume the same about you. It does not value supremacy, control or hierarchy. It values connection and togetherness. It reminds us that the Great Law is the Great Good. And that we must work together to acknowledge it, and each other.

It is part of the Original Instructions.

It is part of the Sacred Thing That Happened When We Were Given the Great Law.

It is a part of What We Must Remember.

It is part of What We Must Not Forget.

It is part of Living in the Shade of the Great Tree.

It is part of the Law That Is In The Seed.

(inspired by “The Law is in the Seed by Alex Jacobs).

This week has helped to inspire me to remember these connections, these relationships, and to work to keep them alive and strong.

Indigenous Waldorf Week — Day Three

Day Three activity. It’s not all sitting and listening at Indigenous Waldorf Week.

Notes and report by Joaquin Munoz


We have been given so much by our Haudenosaunee instructors at the Indigenous Waldorf Week. It would be impossible to calculate the amount of content, history, language and perspective we have received listening to their stories, teachings and reflections.

Many of my colleagues have remarked how grateful they are to hear so much Mohawk speech and song. Many talk of how they are deeply inspired and touched by the materials they have seen, and want very much to know more about Indigenous people in their own communities.

The Gesture of Gratitude

Many people feel that the greatest force permeating this week is one of gratitude, of thanks. The gesture that has been brought to us by our Haudenosaunee teachers asks us to consider the notion of gratitude from a refreshed, and powerful perspective. From the very beginning of our week, we were immersed in a Mohawk way of thanks, of gratitude.

On the very first day, listening to the Thanksgiving Address in Mohawk language, with only pictures to orient our thinking, we were challenged to determine the significance of all we had heard and seen. As non-speaker, it was evident to me that what we had witnessed was important, and profound, but my first interpretation was not one of gratitude; I assumed that what I had seen and heard was a telling of the creation of the universe.

Recognizing a Need that has been Dormant

It was only after hearing the interpretation and translation from Amy Bomberry, Chandra Maracel and Sean Thompson that I understood the significance of what I had just heard, and perhaps more important, recognized a need in myself that is dormant. The need to have gratitude, the need to revere.

We were taught, for example, that students at Everlasting Tree are given the Thanksgiving Address throughout their entire schooling life. First they are shown, then they are taught, and then they make it their own. The idea of teaching, on a daily basis, the action of gratitude is such a powerful and profound notion.

The gesture that has been brought to us by our Haudenosaunee teachers asks us to consider the notion of gratitude from a refreshed, and powerful perspective.

The Waldorf Connection

This idea is one that is not foreign to Waldorf education. It is one that Waldorf education is absolutely in connection to. Consider, for example, one of the most used verses in Waldorf schools, “The sun with loving light,” which reminds us that, “in sunlight shining clear I revere.” Revere, to “to regard with respect tinged with awe.” To be aware. To venerate. We later say that from the sun, we receive “light and strength” and in return, we offer “love and thanks.”



What is different, and I argue, of supreme importance in the learning we have received this week comes from the depth and breadth of gratitude offered, and the constant reminder it engenders in us. The exercise of engaging in thanks, with “one mind” towards so many things, from the winds to the sun, moon and stars, from the insects to the water and fish, we are implored to remember all of the things around us that require our respect and reverence.

Deliberate Practice

If this is offered every day as a deliberate practice, I wonder how the treatment of each of these beings would change. As Chandra pointed out to us on the second day, our actions can become destructive when we do not live with this gratitude in mind. To have gratitude towards all things would no doubt cause us to treat things in a very different way, and with a very different feeling.

Our second and third days of engaging with the Thanksgiving Address, we were challenged to think more deeply about the importance of relationship implied within it. Not only did we think about the gratitude we had for each element, being or creature, we then thought about how these beings all interconnected and impacted each other in a web of reality and relationship.

Seeing the Connections between Beings

Much like the web we built with Amy on the first day, our engagement with the Thanksgiving Address challenged us to see the connections between all of these beings, and perhaps, as important, to envision the connections we could not see. To ask ourselves “what do all of these things need from each other, and what do they need from us?” This gratitude calls on us to revere what we see, and what we don’t see.

To give gratitude to the people around us, but to equally give gratitude to the ancestors who came long before us, and to those to come. We may give gratitude to the plants that nourish us, but do we remember to thank the insects that work diligently to help make fruits and vegetables a viable food for us?

Our engagement with the Thanksgiving Address challenged us to see the connections between all of these beings, and perhaps, as important, to envision the connections we could not see

What all of this has challenged in me, and others I have heard, is the degree to which I offer gratitude to all things. As I sit here writing, drinking my iced coffee, it occurred to me that I did not stop to consider the water that went into making this, the coffee beans that grew on a plant, the person who made this for me to nourish myself and enjoy.

The idea of a daily action of gratitude, and a method for offering gratitude to all that is, is one that many have said will become central to their daily practice. I for one am deeply humbled and grateful to have received this learning, that I am approach the world with more gratitude, awareness and consciousness.

Thanksgiving Address

Indigenous Waldorf Week at RSCT — Day Two


Students take part in a Haudenosaunee round dance together during Indigenous Week studies at the RSCT

Notes and report by Joaquin Munoz

Adrienne Keene, professor of education at Brown University, and the author of the critically acclaimed blog “Native Appropriations” ( wrote  a critique of the famous Coachella, a multi-day music, art and lifestyle festival held yearly in California.

Coachella has been under close scrutiny by Indigenous people, and people of color in general, for many years. This critique comes largely from the observation that many concert attendees, largely white, will often utilize pieces of regalia, religious material culture, and essential pieces of traditional clothing as parts of costumes or festival wear, with little no knowledge or respect for the origin or significance of the item they are using.

Culturally Appropriate or Cultural Appropriation?

Keene writes specifically of seeing young white men and women attending the festival in feathered headdresses, and the pain and distress this causes. She reminds us that “eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned” and are not used as simple “festival wear.”

The danger of using other culture’s sacred symbols, artifacts and material culture is a dehumanizing act. “When you can’t see the humanity in people who are different from you, you find no fault in treating their sacred cultural symbols as something to be worn and discarded” Jessica Andrews writes.

Herein lies another important question to ask as we engage in discussions, interactions and connections in the Indigenous Waldorf Week here in Toronto: a question of what, if anything, can non-Native folks incorporate into their classrooms. It is here that we enter the territory of cultural appropriation.

Like many terms, this one has come to be used in so many situations, and by so many different groups, that it is difficult to pin down exactly what it is, and, for the purposes of work as Waldorf educators, knowledge of when one is perpetrating it.

A simple definition of cultural appropriation would be the one Maisha Z. Johnson uses, where she notes that cultural appropriation looks like “taking from a marginalized group without permission, and usually without respect for or knowledge about their culture.” This definition is useful, in that it points out the problem of a lack of permission, the lack of respect, and the lack of knowledge.


If we add to this the problem of intending to honor, support or appreciate a culture, but in actuality, the impact hurts them, we are coming closer to the heart of cultural appropriation. With too little knowledge, respect, or permission, we can be hurting people way more than helping them. And it is important to remember that members of the culture get to make that call.

When cultural appreciation actually enacts an erasing or dehumaninizing of people, we must listen to them when they tell us so. Cultural appropriation is a problem of a lack of permission, the lack of respect, and the lack of knowledge. It is here that we can begin to question ourselves and our learning at the Indigenous Waldorf Week.

We have learned that parts of what we have been taught by our amazing instructors might be used at various times, and with various groups of children, not just Native youth. Bringing parts of Haudenosaunee culture to non-Native children can help to raise their awareness of history, culture and contributions of peoples different from them.

What Can We Bring to Non-Indigenous Children?

Issues of cultural appropriation may arise when we consider introducing, sharing and teaching about the experiences of other cultures, which can include bringing stories, songs, dances or other parts of culture to youth, especially for non-Native teachers. The question has arisen multiple times in our class discussion as to what can be brought to children, but does not become an act of cultural appropriation.

There are few things we can ask ourselves to think about whether or not our actions are cultural appropriation.

1) Am I doing sufficient research about the culture I am examining? This includes, to the best of your ability, talking to folks from the culture and not just relying on books about them, since these are often not written by the people themselves

2) Am I possibly using a sacred symbol? Do I know enough about the culture to know if I am using a sacred symbol in an inappropriate way? And if I don’t know, how can I figure this out?

3) Am I robbing from a culture? Put another way, am I gaining some benefit out of what I am doing that does not benefit the culture itself? When I use material culture from another group, am I making sure that the culture I am working with benefits in some way?

4) Am I mocking a culture? Is what I am doing a legitimate practice, that I am allowed to use, or am I using a caricature or stereotype of the culture as a representation? Many songs, thought to be written by Indigenous people, for example, are in fact, not. And if you are in doubt, it is best to leave it out.

5) Am I listening when someone from the culture gives me feedback about what I am doing?

Sense of Gratitude

All of this leads us back to key points given to us by our Haudenosaunee teachers: the significance of acting with gratitude towards our relationships. If we have a relationship with folks and truly wish to honor it with gratitude, we will not dehumanize people.

We will be thoughtful, respectful and careful with our actions. Do we have permission to use things, are we using them in the way we they were given to us? And are using them with a proper sense of gratitude for who gave them? Are we honoring our relationships? Are we seeking to learn and understand? Are we seeking to live in a “good way?” All of these questions help us to know and see the way forward as we think about our work with children.

Indigenous Waldorf Week at RSCT — Day One


Photo above: Teachers for Indigenous Waldorf Week at the RSCT: Amy Bomberry, Sean Thompson, and Chandra Maracle.

Notes and report by Joaquin Munoz

Many things about this morning were incredible. Being able to see Haudenosaunee folks, speaking their language, telling their stories, describing their lives, and teaching, is a powerful testament to the resilience of indigenous folks.

From Trauma to Resilience

Sean Thompson may have provided the best frame for this, telling us that if there is a thing like “intergenerational trauma” then there must also be something like “intergenerational resilience.”

When we speak of resilience, we are considering the practices and methods which support the strength and well-being of peoples, that they can persevere in the face of trauma, aggression and oppression, to succeed in the fulfillment of their own potential and special gifts.

The Fullest Manifestation of Themselves

These processes are not meant to make students successful in the traditional sense of the word, like good grades, good attendance, and behaviors that are deemed appropriate in school. 1 Rather, these resiliency practices are designed to support people in connecting to themselves, and to their culture, in order to develop into their fullest manifestation of themselves.

As Dr. Martin Brokenleg (Rosebud Souix) notes, resiliency contributes to the development of “respectful, responsible children” who are able to address and resolve issues of trauma.

When we speak of resilience, we are considering the practices and methods which support the strength and well-being of peoples, that they can persevere in the face of trauma, aggression and oppression, to succeed in the fulfillment of their own potential and special gifts.

Part of what we are seeing in the work of folks like Amy Bomberry, Sean Thompson, Chandra Maracle and others is an incredible act of resilience.

Protocols of Ceremony and Story

The maintenance of their language and cultural practices, exhibited in the offering of the Thanksgiving Address, for example, demonstrates a powerful connection to language, to “protocols” of ceremony and story, as Amy noted, and to the power of tradition.

What is so very intriguing about their work is its connection to Waldorf-education and Anthroposophy, a Germanic education reform and spiritual movement established in the early 1900s by Rudolf Steiner.

Their approach is unique in that it considers the potential for engagement and confluence between aspects of Waldorf education and their own Haudenosaunee based educational philosophy and practice. It is around these questions of confluence that the richest discussions can be had.

Part of what is interesting about the discussions we have had thus far is the summed up in a quote from Sean, which he is reported to have said after spending time at the Everlasting Tree School, and prior to his completion of Waldorf teacher training: “there’s something going on here, I can feel it in my heart.”

Blend of Thought

It is here that Waldorf education and Indigenous education practitioners and theorists can have some important conversations. How can Haudenosaunee and anthroposophy have a “blend of thought” as Chandra put it? Notice, as we consider this question through the lens of resilience, that we ask how, not “if.”

Because there are many that might criticize or critique these conversations, stating that Waldorf education is not appropriate for Indigenous peoples because it is European. Resiliency maintains that people are able to enact practices to support their academic and social success in school, the health of their family and friend relationships, and healthy community interactions, according to Brokenleg.

Nowhere does this maintain that it must occur through a particular approach or modality. Thus, rather than being a rejection of traditional ideals and beliefs in favour of European norms and sensibilities, the work of Everlasting Tree demonstrates the work of blending and confluence of different approaches. This was evident in the descriptions of relationship, and its importance in Haudenosaunee culture and tradition.

The Relationship of the Adult to the Child

Paramount to this is the significance of the relationship of the adult to the child as being a spiritual bond. The “spiritual life” of a child is seen as central here, as evidenced by the practice of “introducing children to the world.” Thus, children are perceived to be functional people, with particular needs to be attended to. The children are taught that “all of the things in the world are here for you. All of the people and beings are here on this earth to help you” as Amy noted.

The children are taught that “all of the things in the world are here for you. All of the people and beings are here on this earth to help you.”

These sessions at Rudolf Steiner Centre will no doubt help to enliven great learning and thinking amongst the participants, and will also help us to consider the new movements and impulses of Waldorf education.

The Everlasting Tree School offers an incredible example of meeting the future with impulses from tradition, from new movements, and from a desire to develop strong, resilient Indigenous children. It is a blessing to attend these sessions and be a part of the rich, beautiful learning here.

1 Though undoubtedly, these effects are often the side effects of

Indigenous Architect Douglas Cardinal Represents Canada at Venice Bienale with “Unceded”

Douglas Cardinal speaks at the opening of the “Unceded” exhibit at the Venice Bienale.

James Brian and Julian Mulock of the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto (RSCT) were in Venice with Canadian Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal May 24th for the official opening of Canada’s Exhibit at the 2018 Venice Bienale in Italy. The Venice Bienale is an international art exhibition held every other year in Venice, Italy. The theme for the 2018 Venice Bienale is architecture.


Douglas Cardinal’s concept for Canada’s exhibit, titled “Unceded – Voices of the Land”, was chosen as the winner in a competition with twenty other competing bids, to represent Canada at the 2018 Venice Bienale. The “Unceded” exhibit includes contributions from eighteen indigenous architects, all from “Turtle Island”, which is the original name for what is now known as North America.


Ancient and Modern

Director and CEO of the Canada Council, Simone Brault, who opened the show, said he found it significant that in this exhibit we have one of the most ancient cultures, expressed through the most modern technologies. The exhibit includes no traditional architectural models, but rather a blend of audio-visual presentations from the participating architects. A film, titled “Road to Venice”, based on the Douglas Cardinal’s exhibit, is now being made, for wider circulation. Unceded was supported by a $500,000 grant from the Canada Council.


Everyone was there for the Opening

The opening ceremonies for Unceded featured the Red Sky (aboriginal) Dancers from Canada. Ontario Lt. Governor Elizabeth Dowdswell was on hand to represent the province (Douglas Cardinal is based in Ottawa). All of the eighteen participating Indigenous architects were also on hand for the opening of the show, along with six women elders from across Canada. Eight Indigenous architecture students from Turtle Island will also participate in the exhibit. According to Mark O’Neill, president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History, Douglas Cardinal’s “Unceded” is the most important Canadian exhibition exported abroad from Canada in the last 100 years.

Douglas Cardinal receives a ceremonial headdress from one of the six elders present.

The World Takes Note

A news conference in Venice, preceding the opening was attended by journalists from the CBC, The Guardian, and the Wall Street Journal, among others. The Toronto Star ran a big story about the event and the Walrus magazine, one of the project’s media sponsors, ran a full page ad for the Unceded exhibit.

In 2017, Douglas Cardinal’s Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa was chosen by the Huffington Post as the fifth most beautiful building in the world. Also noted were Gaudi’s Casa Mila, the Sydney Opera House, and the Pantheon in Rome.

A Few of Douglas Cardinal’s Other Buildings

Douglas Cardinal was also the architect for the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. (2004), and closer to home, the York Administrative Centre and Newmarket Town Hall on Eagle St. and Yonge St., just an hour north of Toronto. Douglas Cardinal’s architecture was inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s concepts of organic architecture, which Douglas first encountered as an architecture student in Texas. (Rudolf Steiner also inspired Waldorf education, thus the indigenous Waldorf connection).

James Brian as the Bridge

The RSCT and Waldorf connection with Douglas Cardinal and the Venice exhibit is through James Brian’s dual role as both Executive Director of the RSCT and as President of the Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf Education. This Foundation helps sponsor teachers at Indigenous schools who wish to attend professional development programs at the RSCT in Waldorf education, and also provides on-site courses and other support for the development of Indigenous Waldorf schools across Canada.

James Brian, Douglas Cardinal, Idoia Cardinal and Marie-France Bertrand in Venice

There has been considerable interest in Waldorf education among Indigenous people in Canada, and this trend has been encouraged and supported by the Foundation.

Julian Mulock and the other Canadians

Artist and RSCT teacher Julian Mulock was there because he is interested in working to support Indigenous Waldorf education. Julian was accompanied by his artist wife Andrea. And James was there with his friend Marie-France Bertrand who is based in Ottawa and handles financial logistics and fundraising for the Douglas Cardinal Foundation. Poet Farrel was there from the Foundation’s fundraising team. Douglas Cardinal’s wife Idoia, was also there for the opening. James says they didn’t have time to go on a gondola ride, but they did dine at a place where the legendary explorer Marco Polo used to live.

Julian, Andrea, Marie-France and James, not going for a gondola ride in Venice.

Indigenous Waldorf in Canada

As part of their July 9-27 Summer Festival, the RSCT will be hosting the first ever week-long course in Indigenous Waldorf education, which will be led by Everlasting Tree School co-founders, Amy Bomberry and Chandra Maracle, along with Sean Thompson, an Indigenous Waldorf teacher, also from the Everlasting Tree School near Brantford.

This past year, Sean has been deepening his knowledge of Waldorf by participating as a student in the full-time Professional Development for Waldorf Teachers program at the RSCT. At his graduation, Sean spoke of his hope that Waldorf education could help to heal some of the wounds from the residential schools.

Recently the Douglas Cardinal Foundation has been awarded a grant from the National Indian Brotherhood to host a conference on the Akwesasne reserve from August 1-3 titled “We will gather our minds”. Funds are being sought for a purpose built Indigenous Waldorf School to be designed by Douglas Cardinal and built on the Akwesasne reserve.


May 6 Launch a Success – Thank You!

On May 6, the launch of the Douglas Cardinal Foundation for Indigenous Waldorf Education was held at the Douglas Cardinal Salon at the Museum of Canadian History.

Over 100 people attended the event and created a joyous, upbeat energy.

See photos of the event here:May 6, 2017, Launch Photos

After meeting and greeting, the guests assembled in the “Round Space” just off the Great Hall.

Albert Dumont welcomed us to Algonquin territory and opened with the prayer of thanks.

Teioswathe, a singer from Akwesasne, moved all present with songs in Mohawk and English.

Idoia Cardinal, who facilitated the event in her engaging way, started by introducing her husband, Douglas Cardinal, whose two children had attended the Waldorf school in Ottawa. He spoke of the alignment of Indigenous values and Waldorf education and how it could be of benefit to indigenous education.

Mimie Neacappo, East James Bay Cree, and her husband Ray Soosay, from Alexander Cree Nation, spoke of the positive role Waldorf education had played in the development of their two children.

Sean Thompson, a teacher at the Everlasting Tree School, a Mohawk language Waldorf school, the first in Canada, spoke of his path to becoming a Waldorf teacher.

Jonathan Snow brought greetings and words of support from the Toronto Waldorf School.

James Brian thanked all who had made the foundation possible including the persons who had established Waldorf education in Canada 50 years ago.

$7000 was raised in donations plus another $1,000 online from those who could not attend the event.

A warm thank you to all who supported the event through their presence, either online or in person, and to all those who donated so generously to the foundation!

Our work is just beginning and we are hoping to train Indigenous teachers. With the money amassed, the foundation is able to send 4 teachers from The Everlasting Tree School, the only Indigenous Waldorf school is Canada to the Summer Festival at the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto this summer.

Your support is needed to send more teachers so that Indigenous children can relate to their education in a healing manner. Please feel free to donate through our website at