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Indigenous Student Voices, the TRC, and Decolonizing our Curricula

Education Webinar 2023

The Canadian Association of Sociology of Education (CASE) and Canadian Sociological Association (CSA) Sociology of Education Research Cluster are pleased to present this webinar.

Watch the recording

Webinar Moderator: Alana Butler, Queen’s University

Webinar Co-organizers: Cathlene Hillier (Crandall University), Alana Butler (Queen’s University), Ee-Seul Yoon (University of Manitoba), Danielle Lorenz (University of Alberta), Emerson LaCroix (University of Waterloo), Gus Riveros (University of Western Ontario), and Maria Brisbane (University of Waterloo)

Presentation #1: Amplifying Indigenous Student Voices in Educational Contexts

Dr. Emily Milne, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, MacEwan University

Supporting Indigenous students and including Indigenous perspectives and experiences in education are priority areas in Canadian education policy and practice. In the broader context of adult-driven education decision-making, Indigenous student voices can play a significant role in shaping educational processes and learning environments. This presentation shares research findings as well as project activities and learnings from two community-based participatory research projects. One project involved focus groups with 36 Indigenous students and one project involved engaging 39 Indigenous students through photovoice. Photovoice is an approach that uses photography to empower individuals to share knowledge, represent their community, and identify issues that are important to them. Projects took place in separate central Alberta school divisions. Findings from these projects can inform educational programs and practices as well as teacher professional learning and development. This presentation also considers actions taken to ensure that project activities were respectful and culturally responsive, reflected the needs/priorities of education stakeholders, and were meaningful/relevant to those involved.

Presentation #2: Policy, Programming, and the TRC: Curricular Reform for Reconciliation

Denae Bruce, Indigenous Instructional Support Teacher, Lloydminster Public School Division
Gemma Porter, Assistant Professor, St. Thomas University

To address the omission of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives from mainstream educational programming, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action (2015) demand curricular reform. Even before the TRC Calls to Action, provincial jurisdictions across the country have sought to address the omission and oftentimes harmful representations of Indigenous peoples within official course programming. State-sponsored initiatives, policies, and curricular reform intended to counteract the harmful and assimilationist nature of Western education predate the work of the TRC and have existed in some form in Canada since at least the 1980s. Despite these historic and recent efforts, there remains a divide between Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge as well as educational attainment for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

Given the continued shortcomings evident in educational policy and programming, the authors propose a discussion on the merits of locally developed curricular reform and programming in addressing the TRC Calls to Action and aims of decolonization with respect to official course programming. Specifically, the authors provide a brief discussion of the potential of localized programming through reflections on the development of one high school course: Indigenous Mentorship and consider the important lessons in bridging the divide between educational policy and the journey towards reconciliation in Canada. We hope that this curricular analysis will lead to targeted, research-based program improvements that provide greater culturally responsive and meaningful supports for Indigenous students.