Pedagogy of Peace

Lindsay (Kawennenha:wi) Brant, M.Ed.

Educational Developer, Indigenous Pedagogies and Ways of Knowing, Queen’s University

Video Description

This video is a digitally illustrated and narrated explanation of the Pedagogy of Peace Indigenous Curriculum Framework developed by Lindsay Brant and Lindsay Morcom at Queen's University. The video was created by Janelle Lee in consultation with Lindsay Brant. It describes the framework, depicts how it is grounded in both Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe worldviews, and highlights the possibilities for transforming teaching, learning, research, and leadership in higher education and beyond through the application of it.

"green tree of peace"Introduction

The Pedagogy of Peace is a purposeful teaching and learning model that builds upon the three core teachings of the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace, which are peace, strength, and a good mind. This is for educators who are looking for ways to take a learner-centred approach to teaching and learning, through using compassionate educational frameworks and techniques to lead all learners through their learning journey with integrity, optimism, loving kindness, and support. It is a holistic model of teaching and learning, and also provides a framework that supports personal and professional growth, balance, and a growth mindset approach to both educational and life journeys. This approach infuses knowledge of cultural teachings, Indigenous Ways of Knowing, holistic well-being awareness and trauma-informed care, to create a compassionate approach that educators can adopt/adapt, and model in order to create inclusive learning environments and classroom communities for all students.

View webinar recorded April 8, 2020: "Moving from Patchwork Pandemic Pedagogy to the Pedagogy of Peace" 

View webinar recorded March 8, 2022: The Pedagogy of Peace: A Model for Decolonizing and Indigenizing Teaching and Learning Practices

 Pedagogy of Peace Indigenous Curriculum Framework (PDF, 273KB)


The Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace

The Great Law of Peace is a political structure that brought together the original five nations.- Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca - to end their years of warring and form the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. The Great Law of Peace provides the guidelines for a political, social, cultural and spiritual order for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Originally 5 Nations, and now 6 as the Tuscarora later joined) and its peoples. It guides the Haudenosaunee peoples and offers a way of being/living and conducting our lives here on Turtle Island (North America). 

When Canada and the United States of America were being formed as countries and their political structures being created, the founding fathers found inspiration in the Great Peace, drawing upon the ideas of representational government and of the division of governing bodies that the Haudenosaunee had so clearly laid out for themselves.

The Tree of Peace

The Tree of Peace is a Great White Pine Tree that was chosen by The Peacemaker to symbolize the Great Peace. It represents the unity of the confederacy that would be felt if the nations accepted the Great Law of Peace and took shelter together under and around that tree. This particular type of tree was chosen because it was tall with long branches that would cover the nations of the Confederacy. It had long and deep roots that would extend in the four directions to reach out to other nations that would hear the message of peace and want to follow those roots to join and seek shelter under the tree. The idea behind this was for the peoples to be encircled by support of the Confederacy and accept the message of peace into their hearts, minds, bodies and spirits. An Eagle perches at the top of the tree to act as a Guardian and Protector and to warn the nations of anything that might be coming to endanger or threaten that peace. It was also said that an Iroquoian war club or hatchet was buried underneath the tree to represent that the warring that had been going on between the nations had ended, and all who took shelter under the tree had agreed to accept that message of peace and join together to form that Confederacy.

Four Directions Teachings

The concept of the Four Directions is a framework of understanding that many Indigenous groups have within their cultural understanding and ways of knowing in some form or another. For Haudenosaunee peoples the concept of the four directions are representative of the four cardinal directions, four winds, four seasons, four stages of life, and our ceremonial calendar goes by the seasons/moons/time of year, etc. The four directions also represent the four aspects of being: emotional, spiritual, physical and mental. In the ways in which I’ve been taught by my Elders the emotional aspect of being is yellow and sits in the East direction, spirituality is red and is in the South, physical is Black and is in the West, and mental is White and in the North. We often talk about the 4 directions in our stories, cultural and ceremonial practices. The Medicine Wheel framework is an Anishinaabe tradition. We didn’t have a visually depicted wheel in the form of a Medicine Wheel as Haudenosaunee peoples originally.

3 Core Values: Peace, Strength and A Good Mind

There are three core values contained within The Great Law of Peace, which are; Peace, Strength and A Good Mind. These are values that guide Haudenosaunee cultural, spiritual and political beliefs and help to illustrate how each individual person should endeavour to live their lives according to these values, but also that communities and nations would be strengthened by following this approach communally, spiritually, and politically.

"blue tree of peace"Peace – Skennen

A sense of peace comes from training yourself to be balanced in all four directions or ways of being/feeling/thinking which means grounding yourself emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally. You can do this by being in connection with yourself, your family, your community, your nation, etc. You can also find peace by living and connecting or relating to things such as Creation, or the Natural World, Land, Places/Spaces, Ceremony, Ancestors, and more.

"red tree of peace"Strength - Kahsatstenhsera

Individual and collective strength can come from many places, internal strength, ancestral strength through memory, connection, stories, culture, ceremony, and strength. There is an emphasis on strength, empowerment, and humility through thinking 7 generations ahead to ensure we take only what we need and leave enough for those coming up after us.

"green tree of peace"A Good Mind – Kanikonhriyo

You can develop a good mind by getting to know yourself and doing any healing work you need to do to help support and strength your holistic wellbeing. You can also develop a good mind in relation to or connection with your family, community, and relying upon your cultural teachings, ancestral knowledge, and other interconnected relationships with land, Creation and Creator.


Indigenous Ways of Knowing


The concept of self-in-relation is a values-based leadership and sharing approach where you lead with positivity, humility, laughter, and a commitment to relationship building and maintaining peaceful/respectful dialogue with yourself/others/land/environment, and more. The main values of relationship building are consensus, or allowing others to speak and be heard, reciprocity, respect, and expressing deep care and concern for each other.

Land Based Learning

You can learn so much on the land. The land, our environment and Creation can teach us many things. You can learn in relation to land and the natural world through active learning. Learning by doing and experiencing things like building, getting to know plants, walking, hiking and being connected to water, land, trees, etc. You can also receive lessons from the land by listening and engaging with nature in ways where warnings or lessons might come to you based on your actions and how the environment reacts. It is a type of responsive or reactive learning that occurs when you tune in deeply, connect, and listen to understand.

Leading in Circles – A Circular Educational Leadership Model

Many Indigenous peoples and/or groups make use of sharing circles, talking or healing circles as a way to support their families, communities and nations. In these circles, everyone is equal. All are given a voice; all are given the opportunity to speak and be heard. There is a lot of support, sharing and reciprocity in this approach as well. It balances the power within the space, and within the hierarchy of those in the circle. In circle, the concept of "hierarchy" is effectively erased as all are viewed as equal in their powers and abilities to both teach and learn. In Haudenosaunee cultural, political, and spiritual structures women take the lead on many things. Clan Mothers are appointed, and they take the lead on many issues that might affect their specific Clan. The Haudenosaunee nations are matrilineal societies, so women take care of such things as the lineage, advising the leadership on important decisions, naming ceremonies and more.

Women often lead in circle, with the Elders or more experienced knowledge holders keeping a watch in the circle and observing to see when the younger ones are capable of taking on new responsibilities within ceremony and communities.

You can model this circle approach to teaching and learning by facilitating talking/sharing circles in your courses as a way of engaging in dialogue and connecting with your students. It creates an inclusive, balanced and safe classroom community where connection, sharing, respect, and reciprocity are valued and encouraged.

These are just a few examples of Indigenous Ways of Knowing, for more in-depth information about Indigenous Ways of Knowing you can check out the following webinar recordings: 

Additional Resources

The Great Law of Peace

Mohawk Culture on Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte website

History of Tyendinaga

Book Resources:

Circle Works Transforming Eurocentric Consciousness by Fyre Jean-Graveline 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire 

External Training Available:

Mental Health First Aid Course – Mental Health Commission of Canada – Indigenous trauma-informed care first-aid training.

International Institute for Restorative Practices, Certificate, Facilitating Restorative Conferences (Conflict management and resolution using a justice circle framework).