Indigenzing/Decolonizing Canadian Educational Institutions I

Thursday Jun 06 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm
ANGU 435

Session Code: ISD1a
Session Format: Regular
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Indigenous Settler Relations and Decolonization
Session Categories: Regular Session

In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Calls to Action, various actors with a variety of interests and objectives are seeking to indigenize or decolonize Canadian educational institutions at all levels. This session seeks papers that critically analyze the various opportunities, challenges, dilemmas, and contradictions inherent in this process and/or propose strategies to improve its outcomes. Papers may address a wide range of issues and concerns including curricula, pedagogy, educational administration, policy formation, and means of negotiating and achieving respectful balance between Indigenous and settler voices in the academy and elsewhere. While the main focus is on Canada, papers that draw on indigenization/decolonization processes in educational institutions in other countries are also welcome. Tags: Canadian Sociology, Education, Equality, Indigenous Studies, Organizations

Organizers: Claire Polster, University of Regina, Mary Ellen Donnan, Bishops University, Danielle Lorenz, University of Alberta


Claire Polster, University of Regina

The Implications of University Corporatization for the Indigenization Project

This paper seeks to highlight an important but neglected dimension of the discussion about Indigenizing Canadas universities, namely the implications of university corporatization for the Indigenization project. Specifically, I argue that unless university corporatization is taken into account and addressed, the potential success and benefits associated with Indigenization will be significantly curtailed. This is because, in many ways, the practices and objectives of the corporate university (including the growing use of various performance metrics and the mounting pressures on academics to compete for resources and stardom) are antithetical to the aims of the Indigenization project and to the reconciliation that both supports and grows from them. On a more positive note, I argue that attending to how corporatization constrains Indigenization can help forge an alliance between supporters of this project and anti-corporatization activists aimed at undoing those same university relations and structures that impede the realization of their respective aims. I close with some reflections on how to build a mutually supportive and beneficial alliance in which the objectives of neither party are coopted or colonized by the others.

Kerry A Bailey, McMaster University

Decolonizing Universities: Indigenous Students' Perspectives and Experiences

With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action, many universities have responded by beginning to take steps towards decolonizing/Indigenizing their institutions.  Although implementation of changes has varied greatly between universities, from the inclusion of land acknowledgements to the incorporation of mandatory Indigenous studies courses, movement has begun.  However, Indigenous students continue to face racism and discrimination within the university environment.  Some of the new policies and changes have, in fact, facilitated further complications for these students navigating their university careers.  In achieving a balance between Indigenous and settler voices in the academy, it is imperative to recognize and listen to the voices of Indigenous students.  Drawing on 25 open-ended interviews with Indigenous students at three Ontario universities between 2016 and 2018, the current study explores the implementation of new university policies/actions from the student perspective – Is there agreement with how changes are being implemented? What are the main concerns?  Have positive changes in learning opportunities and experiences been perceived? Have encounters with either social or structural racism decreased as a result? And what more needs to be done?  The data gathered indicates that there is much more work required to create positive environments for Indigenous students to feel safe and confident in pursuing their academic goals. As we move into this critical time of adjustment within the post-secondary education system, we must be acutely aware and responsive to how these changes impact Indigenous students within the Canadian university system.

Avril Aitken, Bishop's University; Mary Ellen Donnan, Bishops University; Jean Manore, Bishop's University

Consciously adjusting the volume of the settler's voice

The recent efforts of universities to include, embrace, and teach Indigenous knowledge and cultures is replete with challenges and opportunities.  Indigenous scholars, currently under-represented in the Academy, are being asked to undertake the work of improving Canadians’ knowledge of Indigenous cultures but it is perhaps too great a task to lay on the shoulders of this minority.  However, settler academics supporting efforts of decolonization inevitably bring their own interpretive lenses distinct from perspectives more steeped in Indigenous cultural experience.  This paper examines the dilemmas, challenges and strategies for negotiating and achieving respectful balance between Indigenous and settler voices in the academy’s efforts to decolonize, by focusing on the efforts, perspectives and activities of a small liberal arts institution, Bishop’s University, located in Sherbrooke, Quebec and on the traditional, unceded Abenaki territory.  Three settler scholars from three departments, Sociology, History and Education, designed a study to look at their university’s potential to de-colonize and Indigenize their institution, with the underlying questions:  Is Indigenization an extended reach for our institution and, how might the existing institutional interest in disrupting colonial patterns and building less-oppressive ones be transformed into real or substantive change?  By analyzing the data, the paper will present answers to those questions and also suggest ways of further de-colonizing the institution through the paradigm of the 5 ‘R’s: Responsibility, Reciprocity, Respect, Relevance and Relationships, as outlined by Kirkness, V. and Barnhardt, R. (1991), Celia Haig Brown, n.d. and Sandra Styres, (2017).