Section 1: Understanding Decolonization, Indigenization, and Reconciliation
Moving forward means ongoing self-reflection and assessment of one’s own individual roles and responsibilities to supporting Indigenous students, and the following sections will guide you through this process. Moving forward also must come with clear financial and human resources support to provide ongoing professional development opportunities and targeted hiring practices.
When surveyed, BC Aboriginal post-secondary coordinators indicated that hiring Indigenous people in student services and other front-line services as the most supportive way to help with Indigenization in an institution.
Front-line services also require a way to transform institutional culture so the values of Indigenization continue. Too often, champions who initiate Indigenized practices and relationships are recognized as innovators to the department and institution; very rarely do these practices and relationships become common procedure or guiding policy. When the champion retires or changes jobs, the practice and relationship ceases. Staff engaging in this decolonizing, Indigenizing, and reconciliation practice need to be supported in their intentions, and they need to have space and time to discuss the challenges and celebrate areas of growth and success.
Becoming an ally
Acknowledging the overt and systemic forms of racism and discrimination within public post-secondary institutions is a core part of decolonization. It’s also important to understand that by shifting individual mindsets and practices, we can make structural changes in institutional cultures, policies, and programs, thus Indigenizing the institution and ourselves. Becoming an ally is an important practice that addresses how to do this.
An ally is someone from a privileged group who is aware of how oppression works and struggles alongside members of an oppressed group to take action to end oppression. Anne Bishop explains:
Allies are people who recognize the unearned privilege they receive from society’s patterns of injustice and take responsibility for changing these patterns. Allies include men who work to end sexism, white people who work to end racism, heterosexual people who work to end heterosexism, able-bodied people who work to end ableism, and so on. Part of becoming an ally is also recognizing one’s own experience of oppression. For example, a white woman can learn from her experience of sexism and apply it in becoming an ally to people of colour, or a person who grew up in poverty can learn from that experience how to respect others’ feelings of helplessness because of a disability.
If you are a non-Indigenous person engaged in the work of Indigenization, you can better understand your role in this movement as being an ally to Indigenous people. An ally:
- does not put their own needs, interests, and goals ahead of the Indigenous people they are working with.
- has self-awareness of their own identity, privilege, and role in challenging oppression.
- is engaged in continual learning and reflection about Indigenous cultures and history.