“Not First Time Smart”: Reflections on a Modern Education System of Pimatisiwin in Northern Saskatchewan | Moch Nistam Ithinisowin: Pimatisiwin Mamitonethihtamowina Ote Kiwetinohk Saskatchewan


  • Josephine McKay Amisk Osakahikan (Beaver Lake), Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Signatories Treaty 6 Adhesion 1889; located on Treaty 10




Woodland Cree, Mitho Pimachesowin, Indigenous Education, Indigenous Knowledge, Pimatisiwin


When I was young, growing up in northeastern Saskatchewan, “not first time smart” was a phrase used by my Nimosom, my late grandfather, and it has stayed with me throughout my life. The lessons of this concept are two-fold. First, it instills in us values to respect the intelligence and wisdom of Kesayak, the aged elders, and to honour our First Nations heritage and where we come from. Second, it teaches us to be mindful of our families, our lands, our history, and our future. This article is a reflective criticism—through the lens of my experiences and my grandfather’s lessons of “not first time smart”—of the colonization of Indigenous Peoples by the government education and employment systems. In order to receive a modern education, Indigenous Peoples were, and some would argue continue to be, forced to compromise their distinct languages, cultures, and connections to the land. I argue that the only way that governments’ educational and employment systems can learn from the past is to remove all systemic barriers faced by Indigenous People. This article concludes with a personal reflection of how my late Nimosom’s lesson continues to influence my life towards a more positive pimatisiwin (life). This article is a chapter in the open textbook Indigenous Self-Determination through Mitho Pimachesowin (Ability to Make a Good Living), developed for the University of Saskatchewan course Indigenous Studies 410/810 and hosted by the Northern Review.

Author Biography

Josephine McKay, Amisk Osakahikan (Beaver Lake), Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Signatories Treaty 6 Adhesion 1889; located on Treaty 10

Josephine McKay, B.Comm, MBA, MNGD was an instructor at the University College of the North in Northern Manitoba and research associate with the Centre for Northern Governance & Development, University of Saskatchewan.





Mitho Pimachesowin through Education