Book Review: WAYI WAH! by Jo Chrona

Jo Chrona is an educator, philosopher and Two-Spirited woman of RTs’msyen and European Heritage, and this book is the latest in her efforts and passion for creating systemic change to build a truly inclusive experience for all learners. In this way, the book focusses on Indigenous Knowlege (IK) through a larger lens of anti-racist education.

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The very structure of the book is a powerful reflection of Jo Chrona’s approach to education and system change. They begin by asking the reader to situate themselves (“Where do we Begin”) and the context in which the reader must become aware of; Then the author starts big (“Indigenous Education is not Multicultural Education”) to help the reader understand the unique situation of IK in Canadian education systems, and then moves to empower the reader to take ethical and responsible action towards inclusive and anti-racist education (“Yes, You Have a Role”); once they have established this foundation, the reader is prepared for, what I found to be, a healthy, provocative, challenging and supportive read that moves through:

– First Peoples Principles of Learning
– Authentic Indigenous Resources
– A Story of One System
– Now What?

It is in the latter half of the book that I found the most value, but would also argue it is the setting of the context, understanding and situation that helped me get there.

You would be interested in this book if you wanted to:
(1) Learn about IK and First People’s Principles of Learning (FPPL)
(2) Deepen your understanding of why FPPL are essential to a fulsome education in Canada
(3) Extend your ability to question your approaches / pedagogies in order to make them more inclusive
(4) Build better understanding as a non-Indigenous educator of how to take actionable steps towards Reconciliation and Anti-Racist Education

Reading as a Reflective Action:

Each part of this book is structured in a way that promotes reflection. In each part, the author includes their own personal learnings and reflections, and readily points out the missteps and mistakes along their journey.

As well, each part has reflective questions pointed at the reader; and, what I found to be valuable as well, is the inclusion of educators’ responses to these questions. It allowed me to validate, question further, and interrogate my own responses to these questions.

The author provides much more in each section: “Taking Action”  provides provocations for self-knowledge building, and how to bring the learning to others, be it to colleagues and / or students. Excellent resources abound as well: Videos, articles and other sources are provided to deepen and extend the learning.

Understanding Resistance to IK & FPPL:

For example, one of the most impactful take-aways of this book for me, is to read about the author’s experience with those educators who question the integration and prioritization of IK and FPPL in the curriculum. At a conference, they were chatting with an educator who ‘ seemed to be trying to find a way to ask why our school would be focussing on the FLLS when some of the perspectives contained within them were also held by other peoples around the world.”

I acknowledged that, yes, this was true; there are other peoples who have similar value systems and ways of understanding the world. But we are not there – we are here, and learning about the FPPL is only one step. If we do not do this work here, we will continue to exist as a country where the majority of non-Indigenous Canadians have no knowledge and understanding of Indigenous Peoples and culture in this very land. (Chrona, 176)

And at another interaction, where educators reject the integration of IK: “I was talking with a school district educator whose role was to provide professional learning support to science teachers in the district… “What do you mean by Indigenous Knowledge in Science? Science is Science. There is no such thing as Indigenous Knowledge in Science…If there is, what is it?”

[Their reaction] spoke to a significant blind spot – a perception that this educator knew everything she needed to know…I responded  to her questions by letting her know that there are IK in science, but not compartmentalized in ways that science is in Euro-Western education systems. (Chrona, 148)

These are powerful stories of different ways educators can resist IK and FPPL integration. And this is really brought home later in a reflection question that asks:

What happens when we think
we do not have anything new
to learn in our work?


A great chunk of this book is dedicated to the understanding of, exploration and learning ways to integrate the First Peoples Principles of Learning. If you’ve read my book reviews of “Resurgence” and “Potlatch as Pedagogy” you will see the resonance.

HERE is an excellent example of a BC school,
Chartwell-Elementary, that demonstrates how
to integrate FPPL and IK into the earning.

First develop in 2006-2007, the FPPL identifies common elements in Indigenous knowledge of teaching and learning wihtin the varied Indigenous communities in BC. They are articulated below:

  • Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
  • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
  • Learning involves recognizing the consequences of one‘s actions.
  • Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.
  • Learning recognizes the role of Indigenous knowledge.
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
  • Learning involves patience and time.
  • Learning requires exploration of one‘s identity.
  • Learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations

They represent an attempt to identify common elements in the varied teaching and learning approaches that prevail within particular First Nations societies. It must be recognized that they do not capture the full reality of the approach used in any single First Peoples’ society. (FSNA:

Chrona goes into great detail with each one, providing her own insights, reflections, and questions for each, as well as stories about how they have grown themselves in the integration of the IK into their own practice. For me, this was the real value of the book, and I can highly recommend it to any educators seeking to further their integration of IK into their teaching and learning; any educator working towards a more inclusive classroom and school.

Here is a fantastic video to explore and be introduced to FPPL:

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