Section 6: Promoting Systemic Change

Building a Community Within Your Institution

Being a part of a community of people who are committed to making change can be extraordinarily powerful – it’s also a great way to build relationships and experience connectedness across your institution.

Sharing with existing networks

You are likely already part of many communities in your institution and in your professional networks. Speaking up and sharing what you have learned from your own experiences in your existing communities can help to support Indigenization. The same is true, of course, for the opportunities you might have in working groups, committees, or governance bodies.

Connecting with others working toward Indigenization

You can also find others in your institution who are working toward Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation – building connections between your existing communities and creating new and different relationships. Many post-secondary institutions have Indigenous plans or strategic documents that describe their commitment to Indigenization. These plans vary widely from institution to institution, and some institutions are working on new or revised versions. There may be opportunities to get involved in this work where your perspective as a curriculum developer is important to share.

Your colleagues in your institution’s Indigenous education or student services unit can help you connect to others who are interested in Indigenization. Connecting with your Indigenous colleagues who work in these areas shows respect for their knowledge and they can be very important advisers. A simple online search of the keywords “Indigenous” and “your institution name” should lead you to contacts if you don’t know where to start, or contact your Human Resources office and inquire about the organization structure of your institution.

Just remember that Indigenous education and student services faculty and staff are still rare on most campuses, and their time and resources are in high demand. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t willing and available to help, but rather that you may need to make an appointment or reach out by email to arrange a connection first. Remember, too, that Indigenous faculty and staff who work in other units within the institution do their jobs just like their non-Indigenous colleagues, and they may or may not have additional time available to share their expertise about their knowledge and experiences as Indigenous people.

Engaging in university programming and events to support Indigenization

Indigenous education and student services offices are often located in or near dedicated gathering spaces that are the locus of a wide range of activities that are open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous institutional community members, although some may just be for Indigenous community members in respect of cultural protocols. Regular activities, such as Elders’ teas or drop-in hours, Indigenous book club meetings, film screenings and discussions, drumming circles, traditional craft workshops, speakers and presentations, Indigenous graduation recognition ceremonies, and community lunches or dinners, are offered at many campuses. There may also be chances to watch Indigenous artists at work or to contribute to community works such as button blankets or carvings. National Indigenous Day is observed on June 21 across Canada with events that often lead up to that date; World Indigenous Day is marked on August 9 each year by some institutions; and Louis Riel Day is on November 16. There are usually opportunities to participate or volunteer in activities around these days.

Many universities engage in relationship-building and community-learning activities with local Indigenous communities. You may want to find out about the opportunities and explore how you can get involved, either as a participant or a supporter to the organizers of these activities. The following is an example shared by Roberta Mason and Asma-na-hi Antoine from Royal Roads University.

Royal Roads University is very grateful for the opportunity to work with a Nuu-chah-nulth Elder who has the right to harvest eagle feathers. Indigenous Education and Student Services works with the Elder to arrange a culturally appropriate learning opportunity for participants, sharing some of the teachings of the eagle from the Elder’s community. Participants then help to respectfully remove and clean the eagle feathers. The feathers are used in institutional ceremonies as gifts, and they are sometimes shared with communities or local organizations.

Activities

Activity 1: Connecting with Your Institutional Indigenous Strategy and Services

Type: Individual

Find out what efforts your institution is making toward Indigenization and explore opportunities to support this work.

Activity 2: Forming a Discussion Group

Time: Ongoing

Type: Individual

Building a community of supportive and like-minded individuals can be very valuable as you work toward Indigenization. Some activities you can do are:

  • Make at least one professional networking connection to support you in this work.
  • Reflect or discuss with a colleague what your role in this work is and how you can best contribute.
  • Identify at least two other colleagues who are interested in this issue. Meet at least twice to share your ideas. Here are discussion points that might help get you started:
  • Tell me about your experience with Indigenization.
  • What has worked well for you?
  • What barriers have you experienced and how did you overcome them?
  • How could we work together to advance Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation in our institution?
  • How can we do our best to be respectful of our Indigenous colleagues and community members and follow appropriate protocols?

Activity 3: Sharing What You’ve Learned

Time: 30 – 60 min

Type: Individual, Self-reflection

Write an abstract for a conference presentation you might do based on what you have learned about Indigenization. Reflect on what you know that you would be confident in sharing with your professional colleagues or what questions you might pose in a panel session.

 

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Building a Community Within Your Institution by Asma-na-hi Antoine, Rachel Mason, Roberta Mason, Sophia Palahicky, and Carmen Rodriguez de France is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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