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Lillian Pitawanakwat



Lesson Plan Grade Level

Senior (Grades 10-12)

Time Required

3 – 4 hours

Key Concepts

  • Seven Grandfather Teachings
  • Value system


The Seven Grandfathers are traditional teachings given by the Creator to the Ojibwe to teach them what is important so that they know how to live. The Seven Grandfathers are traditional teachings on Love, Humility, Honesty, Courage, Wisdom, Generosity and Respect. Each of the Grandfathers is a lesson that is viewed as a gift of knowledge for the learning of values and for living by these values. Although each teaching represents a wealth of wisdom on its own, collectively they represent what was needed for community survival. The Ojibwe were taught that the Seven Grandfathers could not be used in isolation. To practice one without the other would amount to practicing the opposite of that teaching. Therefore, to not love is to be fearful; to not be humble is to be egotistical; to not be honest is to be dishonest; to not be courageous is to be cowardly

Central to this philosophy, or worldview, is the emphasis on the larger perspective, the effects on others, the family, the community, the region and the universe, as the Ojibwe (and other Aboriginal peoples) believe that all beings are connected, like links in a chain. A belief in the interdependence of all living things frames Aboriginal value systems. Animals are no less important than humans, and plants are no less important than animals. Water and wind, sun and moon and the changing of the seasons are all related to each other and to humans. We are all part of one great whole. As this awareness dictates a vision of the world as a whole, traditional Aboriginal thinking concludes that life forms maintain their health and balance through the focus on harmony as opposed to individual wants or needs. The Seven Grandfathers were designed to achieve harmony.

Learner Objectives


  • To identify the Seven Grandfather Teachings as understood by the Ojibwe
  • To develop understanding as to connection between the Seven Grandfather Teachings and Aboriginal worldview
  • To understand the significance of the term “grandfathers” as it relates to the teachings
  • To distinguish between communalism and individualism as they pertain to the contemporary thinking and their impacts on society


  • To be able to compare the Seven Grandfathers to their contrasting value opposites
  • To develop understanding of the terms “personal values”, “sacred”, “traditional”, “respect”, and “balance”
  • To appreciate the wisdom of the Seven Grandfathers as a model for balanced living today
  • To distinguish between personal, familial and societal values


  • To navigate the internet with control
  • To demonstrate visually and in writing examples of the Seven Grandfathers in practice

Subject Strand Links

  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Humanities
  • Philosophy


  1. Divide the class into equally sized groups. Give each group a box containing the following:
    • Food
    • Knife replica or a drawing of a knife
    • Blanket
    • Coat
    • Flashlight
    • Radio
  2. Propose the scenario in which the students must choose two objects from the box as a group to take with them to survive in the wilderness without any other objects. Have them discuss which objects to take and why. Which ones are not needed, and why?
  3. Have groups report their decisions to the class with their explanations. Ask them what they based their decisions on. What influenced their thinking? Did they stick to their original ideas or did they change their minds based on what others said? Offer that they based their values on the perceived importance or worth of the object to their survival. Have each group identify what was important to them when they chose their objects from the box, e.g., warmth, shelter, protection, nourishment, etc. Did everyone agree on what to take or was there disagreement?
  4. Now have each individual make a list of the following values: cleanliness, responsibility, punctuality, fairness, and courtesy. Have them rank order the importance of these values to them personally. Have them turn to a partner and compare notes. How many shared the same rank ordering? Each person may have a unique value system. Discuss as a class why people have different personal values. Discuss why values change from time to time, e.g., not being concerned about being late for school but making sure to be on time for a date.
  5. Now re-rank the values based on what they think their parents would choose. How do these values systems differ from theirs? As a family what values are important? What values are not important? What happens when a family does not share the same values?
  6. Explain that the class will learn about societal values now, ones that are accepted by a society, forming the basis of its cultural traditions, structures, practices, and laws. Societal values help to maintain the kind of society in which people want to live. At every time in history every community has developed its own value systems. Some have had major influences from other societies and others have not. What happens when different societies meet? What happens if their values conflict with each other? Discuss world conflict.
  7. Introduce Elder Lillian Pitawankwat, an Ojibwe who comes from Manitoulin Island in Ontario. Does anyone know where that is? Has anyone ever been there? She has traditional teachings based on Ojibwe beliefs to share with the class about Ojibwe societal values, called the Seven Grandfathers.
  8. Visit Four Directions homepage together as a class to:
    1. View location of Elder’s community on Turtle Island map. ***
    2. Read the Elder biography. Who can pronounce her name?
    3. Individually or in pairs have students listen to Lillian’s teachings on “The Seven Grandfather Teachings”
  9. Have students make a chart of the Seven Grandfather Teachings with the positive side of the societal values on one side and their corresponding opposites on the other side: Love/Fear; Humility/Ego; Honesty/Dishonesty; Courage/Cowardice; Wisdom/Ignorance; Generosity/Greed; Respect/Disrespect. Working in pairs, have them look up a dictionary definition of each of these terms and write them in their charts. Discuss why the Ojibwe refer to their values as grandfathers. What is the symbolism behind this term?
  10. Next have them provide a written hypothetical example of each of the Seven Grandfathers (values) and their opposites. Share the examples as a class.
  11. Read the summary above about the Seven Grandfathers. How would the Seven Grandfathers have impacted on the thinking and behaviour of Ojibwe who lived in communal society long ago? How does this compare to contemporary society’s emphasis on individualism? Provide examples of how society does or does not embrace these values today (Love, Humility, Honesty, Courage, Wisdom, Generosity and Respect). What would the world be like if everyone followed the Seven Grandfathers?
  12. Wrap up lesson with a selection of discussion topics and optional exercises below.

Discussion Topics:

  • “Historically, the minds of the American Indian and the Euro-American are very different due to their evolution in two separate parts of the world. Developing in opposite hemispheres, the American Indian mind and the Euro-American mind are naturally set and steeped in incongruent values that distinguish their separateness….the Indian mind and the Euro-American minds are polar opposites, and that due to cultural developments in different parts of the world, the two races advanced their thinking by developing separate sets of values that remain incongruent in the context of historical Indian-White relations. Geographic distance assisted in creating the polarity of these two opposites. The great length of time before their contact with each other had also caused such a separate development of mind sets……As a result of different hemispheric orientation of the thinking mind, and primarily due to cultural influences and fundamental needs, the brain of the American Indian developed with an orientation to “circular thought” and the brain of the Euro-American developed with an orientation to “linear thought.” (Donald Fixico, The American Indian Mind in a Linear World, 2003). What does Fixico mean by “circular thought” and “linear thought”? How would such contrasting perspectives influence the way Indian people live versus Euro-Americans? What differences exist in the values and behaviour of these two cultures?
  • The traditional Aboriginal worldview is based on a philosophy in which everything in life is connected and influences everyone and everything else. Therefore, just as when you drop a stone into a pond it has a rippling effect, your words and your actions (or inactions) impact on others and the world around you. Discuss the advanced intellect behind the Aboriginal philosophy which values community over individualism.

Optional Exercises:

  • Conduct a research project on how the relationship between First Nations and non-First Nations people in this country developed. Identify the values that motivated the actions of the European settlers. What were the prevailing attitudes of the Europeans? How did the attitude of superiority and the desire for power and control motivate the actions of the European settlers? To what extent do First Nations continue to resist this oppression?
  • Interview a grandparent or other elderly person about what life was like when they were young and how people treated each other. Record the interview with a tape recorder. Play back the tape and make notes on all the values the elder mentions. Write a report on the interview to summarize the elder’s main points while also comparing their views to yours. Is society pretty much as they described it from long ago? What things are the same? What things are different? Why do you think things have changed? What could we learn from the elder’s life experience?
  • Reflect on your self-concept in a journal. Write about the values that you share with your friends. What are the things you have in common that makes you feel comfortable with them? Now compare this feeling of comfort to being uncomfortable with someone you do not get along with. Why don’t you get along with this person? What differences in values do you have? Why do you think you have different values?
  • Choose a song that appeals to you and that refers to one of the Seven Grandfathers. Type the lyrics and decorate on a poster with symbols to represent the songwriter’s message. Present your interpretation of the song to the class.
  • Work in groups to identify someone living or dead who exemplifies one of the Seven Grandfathers. Conduct research on the life of this person to reflect what he or she said and did in keeping with this value. How could society learn to be more like this person? Present to class.
  • Do internet research on your community. What is the credo of your city or town? What is the official emblem? What does it represent? Visit City Hall or other municipal or local government office to meet with your representative (City Councillor, Band Councillor, etc.). Ask the representative what he/she values. What does he/she want for the community? What is he/she doing to help the community? What can students do to participate?
  • Start a community service school project with the help of the local government eg. Cleaning litter from a park or beach; visiting elderly in nursing homes; volunteering at an animal shelter or drop-in centre; raising money for a hospital or school; working with the early childhood educators at a daycare. Set a long term goal and mark the progress for all to see. Celebrate the contributions made at the end of the year.
  • Design a symbol or figure to represent one of the Seven Grandfathers. Using either clay, stone, or some other material, construct a sculpture or other three-dimensional form. Invite parents and community leaders to a showing of the art.
  • Invite a youth who has been recognized as a role model to speak to the school (see links below)


  • Personal Values
  • Family Values
  • Societal Values
  • Conflict
  • Love
  • Fear
  • Humility
  • Ego
  • Honesty
  • Dishonesty
  • Courage
  • Cowardice
  • Wisdom
  • Ignorance
  • Generosity
  • Greed
  • Respect
  • Disrespect
  • Communalism
  • Individualism
  • Philosophy

Materials Required

Coats, blankets, flashlights, drawings of knives, food, radios


  • Teacher evaluation of writing exercises for spelling, grammar, punctuation, content, style, creativity, and sentence structure.
  • Self evaluation of success with community service projects. What did I learn from this experience? Was it worthwhile? How does my community benefit from what I’ve done?
  • Peer evaluation of presentations and artistic creations. Were they educational? In what ways? How do these representations make you think of these values differently?

Additional Resources

  • To hear the pronunciation of the Seven Grandfathers in Ojibwe
  • National Aboriginal Role Model Program
  • National Metis Youth Role Model Program
  • National Aboriginal Achievement Awards recipients
  • Benton-Banai, Edward. The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway. Hayward, WI: Indian Country Communications, 1988. 114 pages. ISBN: 1-893487-00-8. Grade 5 and up. The classic book about Ojibway traditional teachings, written for children and adults, provides readers with an accurate account of Ojibway culture, history, and worldview based on the oral teachings. Major topics include Creation, the four directions, the pipe, the Midewiwin and Sweat Lodge, the Seven Fires prophesy, and the Seven Grandfathers Teaching, values and beliefs, and the role of Elders. Students in elementary and secondary school will find The Mishomis Book a useful text for Native Studies; college and university courses in Native Studies will also appreciate the traditional teachings contained within this important work