Multiple Perspectives

A key concept in the Social Studies program is "multiple perspectives". Multiple perspectives are all about the idea that the many ways of looking at issues depend on a person's or group's own experience.

What does looking at issues from "multiple perspectives" mean exactly?

Well, the following story, The Elephant and the Blind Man, may help to explain. This familiar fable from a passage in the Udana, a Hindu scripture, demonstrates what is known as Anekantvad, or "the manysidedness of things". Click the tab below to see what the fable tells us about multiple perspectives.

The Elephant and the Blind Men

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them there was an elephant in the village. They had no idea what an elephant was, so they decided to investigate.

The first man touched the elephant's leg. "Hey, the elephant is a pillar."

"Oh, no! It is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail.

"Oh, no! It is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

"It is like a big hand fan," said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the side of the elephant.

"It is like a solid pipe," said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant, and each man insisted that he was right. They argued until a wise man stopped by and asked them what the matter was. They told him they could not agree about what the elephant was like.

The wise man told them that they were all right because each one had encountered a different part of the elephant. But they were all partly wrong because they had not touched every part of the elephant.


The moral of the story is that there is some truth in what each person sees. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes only part of the truth because we may have different viewpoints. Rather than arguing, we should realize that each person has his or her own perspective or point of view based on experience and understanding.

Digging Deeper

Canada is a nation of people from many backgrounds, which include Aboriginal, Francophone, Métis, British, Scottish, German, Ukrainian, Chinese, and other immigrant groups who chose Canada as their home. All have contributed to Canada's evolving identity, and by learning to understand how those of various backgrounds view their identity, we may be able to build a more tolerant society.

In the past, Alberta's Social Studies program focused primarily on the experiences of white immigrants to Canada. However, many people were already living in Canada when the first white man arrived. The First Nations people of Canada are an essential part of Canadian society. In addition, the French people form an important part of our heritage. More recent immigrants to Canada have also made many contributions. Together, all these cultural groups have created the diverse nation we know as Canada, and our study in Social Studies 20-2 looks at issues from many viewpoints.

The FNMI icon accompanies information about the viewpoints of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit citizens of Canada. First Nations refers to the groups of people who lived in Canada prior to the arrival of the European settlers.

Canada's Aboriginal peoples include First Nations tribes such as the agricultural Iroquois of Eastern Canada, nomadic Plains Indians such as the Blackfoot and the Woodland Cree of Northern Alberta, the Coastal Indians such as the Haida, as well as the Inuit of the Far North. Keep in mind that the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are not one group with one viewpoint. The Métis are the descendents of a blending of Aboriginal people and the first white settlers and adventurers. Canada's Aboriginal peoples each have their own distinct viewpoints, values, languages, customs, and traditions. This Social Studies resource cannot show every viewpoint, but it looks at various perspectives.

Note the elements of the FNMI icon:
First Nations: The tipi (also spelled teepee) is the traditional dwelling of the nomadic Plains Indian. The tall cone shape allowed light to fill the interior that provided a space for the spirit to soar. The circular floor plan represented the cycles of nature: the earth, the sky, the seasons, and life itself. The women of the tribe made, owned, and erected the tipis.

Métis: The Métis Nation flag symbolizes the emergence of a new nation of distinct Aboriginal people. It was first flown in 1816—the first Aboriginal flag in Canada.

The flag bears the infinity symbol (a horizontal figure eight) that represents the coming together of two distinct and vibrant cultures, those of Europeans and Indigenous North Americans, to produce a distinctly new culture, the Métis. The sky blue background of the flag suggests that the Métis people will exist forever.


Inukshuk means "in the image of man". These large stone figures in the general shape of a person were built in the far north as guideposts for travelers. They are unique to the Canadian Arctic and represent leadership and interdependence. The raised arms of the Inukshuk remind people that they choose the directions they take in their lives.
Blackfoot Teepee
The first French settlers in Alberta made many contributions to our society. This icon accompanies information about the viewpoints of Francophone Canadians.

The Franco-Albertan flag: The Franco-Albertan is blue and white with narrow diagonal stripes of white and blue. A white fleur de lis, a symbol of the French people, is set in the upper left corner, and a wild rose, an Albertan symbol, is in red and white in the lower right corner. Blue is the main colour of the flag of Alberta and represents the home province of the community. White is for the French-speaking population and commemorates the mainly white flags of the first French in America. The narrow middle stripes are symbols of the rivers and trails used by the first settlers, missionaries, and explorers. Blue, white, and red are the colours of the French and Acadian flags.

What is your perspective?

During this course, you may have different views or different backgrounds you wish to discuss. Please share your views either in the course Forums area or by contacting your teacher directly.