Indigenous Experiences with Canadian Education

Thursday May 19 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
Virtual Platform

Session Code: IND1
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Indigenous-Settler Relations and Decolonization
Session Categories: Regular Session

The deep inadequacies of Canadian educational institutions to sustain just, inclusive, and accepting environments, has become clear. Within the Canadian context, Indigenous students have been battling for decades to maintain their identity and gain power, access, and support. Research has demonstrated that Indigenous students are facing racism on both interpersonal and structural levels and experiencing high levels of burden both socially and academically. It is also indicated that social positioning and other intersecting factors of identity and place combine in the creation (and amplification) of their experiences with racism and discrimination. Despite continued issues with settler-colonialism and its accompanying racist ideologies, it is evident that Indigenous students in Canada continue to resist the ongoing attempts at subjugation – refusing to be eliminated. In wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, we stand on the cusp of significant potential systemic change within Canadian educational institutions. Tags: Canadian Sociology, Education, Equality and Inequality, Indigenous Studies, Race and Ethnicity

Organizer: Kerry A Bailey, University of Saskatchewan


Alexandre Da Costa, University of Alberta

Indigenisation and Possessive Whiteness in Teacher Education

Current institutional initiatives focused on Indigenisation, reconciliation, and decolonisation in higher education in Canada are diverse and result in varied outcomes in terms of addressing racism and colonialism. While many studies focus on explicit racism and/or colonialism denial and rejection of such topics among students, research on systemic racism, whiteness, and discourses of decolonisation illustrates the pernicious ways in which even proactive efforts by critically conscious people can be complicit in colonial rule. This paper advances analysis of Indigenisation in higher education through an examination of the experiences of critically-minded non-Indigenous pre-service teachers in one Canadian education program as they engage with calls to incorporate Indigenous histories and perspectives into their future teaching. The paper first situates current Indigenous-focused higher education efforts in a post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission conjuncture shaped by tensions between symbolic state gestures and demands for substantive material transformations when it comes to action to address the oppression of Indigenous people. Then, turning to the analysis of 17 in-depth interviews with non-Indigenous pre-service teachers about their experiences with Indigenisation, the paper examines the ways in which white possessive logics (Moreton-Robinson 2015) and the tenacious articulation of whiteness (Yancy 2008) structure education reforms, institutional practices, and white settler subjectivities. The analysis demonstrates the ways in which Indigenisation can at times disrupt whiteness and colonial institutional logics while at others unintentionally re-position non-Indigenous people in control of transformation in ways that extend settler futurity (Tuck and Gaztambide-Fernández 2013). 

Emily Milne, MacEwan University; Terry Wotherspoon, University of Saskatchewan

Do Cosmopolitan Orientations within Schools Advance or Inhibit the Achievement of Meaningful Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples?

Canadian school jurisdictions have taking steps to accommodate objectives to advance cosmopolitan education reflecting principles such as global citizenship, compassion, tolerance, responsibility, and respect within school curricula and educational practice. At the same time, a parallel set of reconciliation related educational reforms, aligned with the Calls to Action that accompanied the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report, have also gained urgency. Elements of reconciliation processes complement visions of cosmopolitanism, including objectives to foster dialogue and understanding between groups and advancements towards more holistic orientations to pedagogy and knowledge. However, conceptually and in practice, several tensions emerge, especially in a context in which educational priorities are contested. This presentation examines the question: What are points of connection and points of tension between schooling efforts to advance reconciliation and cosmopolitanism? To address this question, we present the perspectives of teachers who work with Indigenous students, drawn from interviews and focus groups conducted within one Alberta school division. Participants overwhelmingly agreed that schools should be educating students about Indigenous histories, cultures, and experiences, and many perceived that reconciliation-related schooling initiatives could support broader aims to teach students about acceptance, tolerance, understanding, empathy, and diversity. However, many participants also spoke about the need spend equal time dedicated to learning about different cultures and student backgrounds instead of focusing on Indigenous peoples’ experiences and histories. In this paper we explore the implications that these tensions and relationships may pose for the advancement of aims to foster meaningful reconciliation.