Indigenizing Education

Indigenizing Education

Indigenizing? Reconciling? What do these words mean to me and what do they mean to you? Dr. Niigaan Sinclair, Associate Professor of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba, issued this challenge to participants in his workshop last week. Along with campus instructors from Aurora College’s Developmental Studies program, Kathryn and I spent two days examining the concept of Indigenizing education.

Dr. Angela James started with an overview of the work of the Indigenous Languages Secretariat in the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment. She outlined the importance of the Dene Kede and Inuuqatigiit curricula as foundational curricula—the first curricula to bring together Indigenous educators and Elders as leaders in a curriculum development process. She then talked about the new Indigenous Languages Education policy and handbook, the Indigenous languages curriculum, and her thoughts on Indigenizing.

Throughout the two days, Dr. Sinclair provided short scenarios of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada as an ongoing backdrop to help participants understand the topic. Through storytelling, he truly brought out the meaning, as he led discussions on what Indigenization is and ways to implement the concept into the work of the college. In particular, he outlined five principles of Indigenization.

  • Indigenization covers every subject and every area of education, whether it’s dentistry, trades, or social sciences.
  • Indigenization includes the community. In other words, it includes everyone who is part of the education system.
  • Indigenization includes all human experiences. He specifically mentioned “mystery” or spirituality.
  • Indigenization is more process-driven than product-driven.
  • Indigenization is about the future, not the past. Too often, we stereotype Indigenous people with the past, when they have moved on and adapted to the present and are preparing for what comes next.

This workshop reinforced ideas that were already part of practice on each campus and stimulated people to come up with new ways of thinking about Indigenizing. By the end of the second day, each of the three campuses had developed a rough draft of a strategy—for one year, three years and five years—on how to improve Indigenous education on their campus. Everyone left the workshop more knowledgeable, challenged, and eager to move forward with new ideas.

  • Helen Balanoff, Project Manager

Submitted by Dan Brown (not verified) on Thu, 11/14/2019 - 11:08


At long last, an Indigenous speaker who delivered a pathway for what Indigenization of academia should look like. Learned a lot about Aboriginal law, practices, pedagogy, and the importance of relationships. Well done Dr. Sinclair.

Submitted by Helen Balanoff (not verified) on Fri, 11/15/2019 - 12:55


Yes, it was a great workshop. I think we all left feeling more knowledgeable, with a picture of things we could do individually and collectively, to support Indigenization at the post-secondary level, and also empowered to move forward. I thoroughly enjoyed the two days.


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