Section 1: Setting the Context
Since “The Green Report” was published in 1990 (British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education Department, 1990), public post-secondary institutions in B.C. have tried to provide Indigenous space and voice and increase Indigenous learner success. The recommendations in the report have shaped current educational policy and created a foundation for dialogue and processes to emerge. These processes or approaches are Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation, and each holds various levels of importance in institutions due to relationships and partnerships with First Nations and Métis educational authorities and communities. These processes directly impact, inform, and guide how research can become a reciprocal and relational process. There has also been an increase in Indigenous graduates with bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Many of these graduates give back by either leading community-based research, becoming instructors in post-secondary institutions, or taking on educational leadership roles in institutions. Their ability to build a bridge between Indigenous communities and public post-secondary institutions makes them leading voices that support and guide Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation.
Indigenization involves the meaningful inclusion of Indigenous voice and perspective at various levels of the institution and provides space for Indigenous pedagogy to occur in the classroom. Indigenization is strengths based and acknowledges that both Indigenous and Western knowledge and perspectives are valid, authentic, and complementary. Indigenization works in a collaborative environment and acknowledges that there can be multiple approaches to support learner success. Institutions are exploring how to bring Indigenous epistemologies and pedagogies into practice to benefit all learners, not only Indigenous learners. Indigenization occurs in phases, best described by David Newhouse, an Onondaga scholar, at a 2015 SFU-UBC Graduate Student Symposium as follows:
- Being physically represented (e.g., artwork, signage, culturally relevant spaces)
- Bringing Indigenous culture into institutions and ensuring representation (e.g., welcoming and graduation ceremonies, cultural events, advisories, strategic plans, educational partnerships)
- Building a space for Indigenous knowledge to be part of the institution (e.g., territorial acknowledgements, educational plans, culturally relevant curricula and pedagogical practice, co-delivery of programs and services in First Nations communities and urban Indigenous organizations)
The process of decolonization entails remembrance. … Remembering is an obligatory ingredient for the completion of the past in a manner that is respectful and honours the losses as we honour the strength of the ancestors and acknowledge their gifts to our present generation. Remembering means drawing on the strengths of my own past from which I can carve a future. It is the past that carries us into the future and contributes to the journey of the present. As human beings, we Siksikaitsitapi see ourselves as cosmic, because we are interconnected, related to all of the time and to all that there is.
– Betty Bastien, 2004, p. 47
Decolonization recognizes the power imbalances and the harm of normalizing Western knowledge in education as the only way of knowing and seeing all other knowledge systems and practices as lesser and invalid. Decolonizing practice is social-justice focused and strives to create places of truth-telling, revealing places of discomfort and challenging the status quo (Corntassel, 2011; Tuck & Yang, 2012). It does not mean we place ourselves into binary positions, but instead that we create spaces where similarities and differences can be explored and understood (Battiste, 2005). Decolonizing practice is not only for non-Indigenous researchers and educators to identify and challenge racist and unjust process and practice; it also requires vigilance from Indigenous communities to ensure Indigenous knowledge and practice are recognized, validated, and protected.
This process has gained prominence due to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s work to redress the legacy of residential schools. The 94 Calls to Action [PDF]. provide specific recommendations on ways to transform and change education and research; many post-secondary institutions are currently creating ways to address these calls to action. Reconciliation requires both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to identify, recognize, acknowledge, and accept their respective responsibilities to change relationships, build common understanding, and make genuine, long-lasting change to Canadian society.