Towards a More Comprehensive Approach to Indigenous Education

Dear members of the University community / Boozhoo / Aanii / Kwe kwe,

It has been an exciting and busy Fall with regards to Laurentian’s unique Purpose which includes offering a comprehensive approach to Indigenous education.

Last month, we welcomed 240 participants from across Canada and as far away as Alaska, New Mexico and New Zealand to a three-day multi-disciplinary Indigenous conference entitled MAAMWIZING 
Indigeneity in the Academy - L’université à l’heure de la réconciliation. The conference tackled three themes: 1) Diversity in Universities: Equity in Hiring, Tenure, Promotion and Leadership; 2) Ways of Knowing: The Place of Indigenous Knowledge in the University Curriculum; and 3) Decolonizing Universities: New Pedagogies, Resistance and Reconciliation. The conference included four keynotes, over 100 presentations, an Art Market, a Book sale, a special Presidents’ panel and a book launch.

Key messages from the discussions included the:

• Impact of colonization on Indigenous peoples which must be recognized/understood by those working in the academy;
• Importance of land, languages and culture;
• Need for pedagogical practices to consider safety in the classroom;
• Importance of Indigenous support services and spaces where Indigenous students can connect;
• Policy changes and hiring practices required to ensure the inclusion of Indigenous peoples at all levels, including the senior administration;
• Safety of Indigenous peoples working in the academy;
• Development of appropriate research ethics policies; and
• Development of strategic plans with a strong Indigenous focus.

Chi-Miigwech to the organizing committee: Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek, Dr. Michelle Coupal, Dr. Elizabeth Dawes, Dr. Taima Moeke-Pickering, Shelly Moore-Frappier, Dr. Celeste Pedri-Spade and Dr. Brock Pitawanakwat. Special thank you to members of the Social Media Committee, Logistics Committee and Abstract Reviews Committee as well as the many student volunteers who assisted with making the conference a success.

A special one-day pre-conference was also part of the experience. Participants from French-language school boards attended a workshop entitled Des pédagogies vers la réconciliation. Eighty-six kindergarten to grade 12 teachers from Ontario’s 12 French-language school boards gathered to participate in a day-long professional development workshop. Miigwech to Émilie Bourgeault-Tassé, Dr. Lace Marie Brodgen, Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek, Dr. Elizabeth Dawes and Sylvie Landry for organizing.

Just two weeks later, Member of Parliament Marc Serré announced federal government funding to support a new Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health. Dr. Jennifer Walker has been appointed as Laurentian University’s first Indigenous Canada Research Chair, specializing in Indigenous Health. Her collaborative research with First Nations, Métis communities and organizations will use Indigenous-identified population level data on health conditions and services across the life span, with a focus on chronic illness and older populations. This research will help play an important role in well informed policy planning. Dr. Walker also had the opportunity to present her research program at the December meeting of Senate.

On December 2nd, we also emphasized our new Maamwizing Indigenous Research Institute with a primary focus on pursuing and promoting social and cultural Indigenous research through collaboration and working with community partners. The word “maamwizing” means “coming together” or “collaborating together” in Anishinaabe.

Finally, we announced the new Advancing Indigenous Research (AIR) Fund to accelerate Indigenous-specific research. The AIR Fund will consist of annual funds totalling $100,000 to specifically support Indigenous research to understand the knowledge of Indigenous peoples, foster meaningful and longstanding relations, and explore solutions to the unique challenges faced by Indigenous peoples.

So what’s next?

The construction of the new Indigenous Sharing and Learning centre (ISLC) is almost finished. It will be home to Indigenous Student Affairs who will continue to provide a full range of academic, social, and cultural supports to Indigenous students. The 7,500 square foot Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre will be a “home away from home” for Indigenous learners. The Centre will become a space to nurture and advance Indigenous knowledge and scholarship. It will include space for seminars, individual study space, lounge space, a traditional resource area, a kitchen and a large circular space that will host gatherings and public events. Look for the grand opening in the new year!

As always, I welcome comments on the blog or any other matter: you can reach me at dominicgiroux@laurentian.ca, or can join the 12,200 people who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.

Merci, Thank you, Miigwech.

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