Indigenization initiatives in higher education have gained attention and traction in the last decade, especially since the launch and work of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); public invitations to engage with community, regional, and national events; and the release of the TRC final report and calls to action. The TRC’s findings and recommendations that call for ongoing efforts to take action and effect systemic change around reconciliation provide context and grounding for our work within CTLT Indigenous Initiatives.
CTLT Indigenous Initiatives provided campus-wide pedagogical support for the Our Truth campaign in September 2013 when all UBC classes were suspended so that faculty, staff, and students could attend the TRC National Event in Vancouver. The Our Truth campaign was in some ways a turning point that introduced us to many members of UBC’s teaching and learning community whose primary question was Where do I begin? Building off this experience, we approach our work by meeting those who come to us for pedagogical support where they are, acknowledging the contexts of our different lived experiences and disciplinary backgrounds, and encouraging shifts toward practices that radically unsettle colonial assumptions and seek to respectfully centre Indigenous perspectives, protocols, and knowledges.
We recognize that our work to support Indigenous engagement in teaching and learning at UBC would not be possible without a long history of relationship-building between Indigenous communities and the university that continues to this day; nor would it be possible without the intellectual and political trails blazed by, and ongoing work of, Indigenous writers, thinkers, activists, leaders, and scholars; nor would it be possible without decades of groundwork of many faculty, staff, students, and community members who have made and continue to make key interventions towards institutional change.
Our approach within CTLT Indigenous Initiatives is guided by the specific histories, location, and relationships where our work and learning take place. In particular, we approach our work holding at the forefront of our minds one of the recommendations from Lao and Musqueam Indian Band’s Connecting Communities (2015, p. 25):
CONTINUE EDUCATING PEOPLE AT UBC ABOUT MUSQUEAM: As emphasized in this report, an understanding of Canada’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples is key to a healthy relationship. However, many staff and students are not aware of this history, nor Musqueam’s presence. Especially with many people from abroad who may not be familiar with this history, it is important for UBC to continue to inform and educate people in partnership with Musqueam. Ongoing discussions on changes to curriculum to include Indigenous peoples are an example of hard work already being done on this front. This duty to inform and educate is the responsibility of all units at UBC, not just Musqueam.
Working with Musqueam, two principles we hold up in our educational development work are, transformation and reciprocity, as discussed by Musqueam community member Wayne Point and elder Larry Grant in the həm̓ləsəm̓ House at UBC video, produced as part of the Power of a Name educational resources.
In responding to requests and demands to support the Indigenization of curriculum, we have approached this with an iterative and exploratory approach. As a team of educational consultants coming to this work from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary perspectives, we begin by acknowledging that we are not the experts, but our role is to facilitate, support, and share resources. We recognize the limitations of our knowledge and model humility and vulnerability within our work. Acknowledging positionality and place are key themes in our work and we attempt to also model risk-taking and accepting discomfort as part of the process.
Lao, A. and Musqueam Indian Band (2015). Connecting Communities: Principles for Musqueam-UBC Collaboration. Vancouver: UBC Sustainability Scholars Projects. Retrieved from: https://sustain.ubc.ca/sites/sustain.ubc.ca/files/Sustainability%20Scholars/2015%20SS%20Projects/2015%20Executive%20Summaries/UBC-Musqueam%20Collaboration%20-%20UBC%20Sustainability%20Scholars%202015.pdf