Christina Hendricks, CTLT’s Academic Director, recently shared some reflections on what she has been learning in her role to support Indigenization as a leader on UBC-Vancouver campus through supporting and creating equitable spaces for Indigenous people, perspectives, and knowledges at UBC.
In Fall 2020 she participated in BCcampus Pulling Together Fall Indigenous Series, a six week workshop series on reconciliation and coming together in post-secondary education based on the BC Campus Pulling Together Guide for Leaders and Administrators.
Christina Hendricks is a Professor of Teaching in Philosophy and also the Academic Director of the CTLT, providing academic leadership to the unit in supporting teaching and learning across UBC Vancouver. The leadership team at the CTLT has begun planning to support UBC’s new Indigenous Strategic Plan, and Christina is working to learn more about decolonization and what she can do, personally and professionally, to be an effective ally in reconciliation.
The Guide presents Indigenization as a process, a journey, rather than an end point, which helped remind me that the work we are engaged in has gone on for some time and I am coming in partway through; I am deeply grateful to those who have done so much already and I have a lot to learn from them. It also helped me understand that this process takes time and the relationships we build and sustain along the way are as important as what we do and how we do it.
What motivates you to take part in more professional development to support Indigenization as a university leader?
Post-secondary institutions, like many organizations and institutions in Canada, have significant work to do to support reconciliation and Indigenous peoples’ human rights; the UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan provides a framework for this work, including responses to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.
As an academic leader I feel a strong sense of responsibility to help move this work forward at the institution. In my role, I see many connections between the work of the CTLT and the goals and actions in the UBC Indigenous Strategic Plan. I am deeply committed as an individual to doing what I can to learn and practice how to be a better ally and guest on the unceded territories on which I and my family live, learn, play, and work.
I recognize I have a lot to learn in order to fulfill my personal and professional commitments, and as such I seek out professional development opportunities where I can, while at the same time trying to be careful balance the need to learn with the risk of spending too much time in learning and thereby delaying action. An area that I am interested in learning more about is Indigenous leadership approaches, values, and practices. As participants in the Pulling Together Fall Indigenous Series we were able to witness and reflect on some of these, and it inspired me to want to learn more.
An area that I am interested in learning more about is Indigenous leadership approaches, values, and practices. As participants in the Pulling Together Fall Indigenous Series we were able to witness and reflect on some of these, and it inspired me to want to learn more.
How can others like you make more space for the flourishing of other Indigenous leaders?
One of the many topics of discussion that stood out for me was the idea of leading from behind, where Indigenous people guide the way, while non-Indigenous leaders work to support movement of the broader university community in that direction. We talked about this through the image of a canoe, where the allies are heavy pullers contributing to the canoe’s continual forward movement. This can include efforts such as ensuring there are adequate resources to get the work done, helping to support the learning of others (and oneself) needed to keep moving ahead, working to change policies and practices, and putting in the time and effort to take a much greater share of the burden of doing this work that Indigenous people have taken on for so long.
What is a particularly impactful lesson that you learned through engaging with the BC Campus Pulling Together Guide for Leaders and Administrators? What related learnings have been impactful that you can’t get from a published guide?
The Guide presents Indigenization as a process, a journey, rather than an end point, which helped remind me that the work we are engaged in has gone on for some time and I am coming in partway through; I am deeply grateful to those who have done so much already and I have a lot to learn from them. It also helped me understand that this process takes time and the relationships we build and sustain along the way are as important as what we do and how we do it. That is a deeply impactful lesson that we were able to experience firsthand as participants in the six weeks of the sessions, and that we are carrying through afterwards as a number of us are committed to continuing the relationships we built through future meetings.
Relatedly, though I had heard this before, the Guide and the workshops helped cement for me the importance of careful preparation before starting in on goals, actions, strategies, etc. A crucial aspect of such preparation is reflecting on our values, beliefs, and knowledge to better understand who and where we are in relation to the Indigenization journey. We can ask ourselves, e.g.: what do I understand already about colonial practices, past and present, and their impacts on Indigenous peoples in BC and Canada? Where might there be gaps in my understanding and how might I go about trying to fill those? What are some of my core values, and how might those connect me morally and emotionally to efforts to learn and do more?This can help clarify for the “why” of Indigenization work—what is my motivation for doing this work? How does it connect to my beliefs and values?
One thing that stood out from the discussions in the sessions is the power and impact of storytelling. One can read stories in texts, but hearing stories told in real time, by someone you have a relationship with (even for a short time such as in a six-week workshop series), can be even more powerful. For me, the stories connected me emotionally and personally to the topics we were discussing and helped to cement what I was learning more deeply in my memory. This is something I am going to take forward with me in my own teaching work, whether in classrooms, giving lectures, or facilitating workshops.
What is something you learned about Indigenization that is relevant more broadly to CTLT or to the UBC teaching and learning community?
We had a number of discussions in these sessions about how many people are concerned about making mistakes in what we say or do in this kind of work. I have made mistakes and likely will continue to do so (though hopefully fewer as time goes on); and a common theme in the sessions was to think of these as a normal part of learning. A mistake is a sign that something isn’t working and you need to learn from that and do something different in the future. One does need to pay attention and learn, and also work to repair relationships if harm has occurred. Still, we can come back afterwards and continue to work together, perhaps even in a better way. Fear of making mistakes can be paralyzing, and patience with ourselves and each other is important as we come to the journey with different levels of experience & knowledge, and yet it is going to take the work of many hands to keep moving.
A Note from Christina:
I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep and heartfelt gratitude to the facilitators of the Indigenous Fall Series, Jewell Gillies and Marlene Erickson, who generously gave their time to share their experience, knowledge, and stories and supported the participants as we began our journey as heavy pullers. And I also want to thank the other participants in the series; we spent a good deal of time talking together in small groups and these conversations, too, have been very impactful for my learning. Bios for Jewell and Marlene can be found here: https://bccampus.ca/2020/09/10/what-to-expect-from-the-indigenous-fall-series/