Understanding Indigenization

Activity 1

How does your personal and academic background and identity impact your knowledge and experience of Indigenous Peoples?

My knowledge and experience of Indigenous Peoples is limited by my personal and academic background. My high school and first undergrad degree were very white and homogeneous, at private religious schools. Following that, my second undergrad and first grad degree were both at much more diverse schools with more intentionality about indigenization, but still relatively little compared to most schools today.

What is your current relationship to Indigenous Peoples?

I am a descendent of European settlers and live, work, and learn on unceded Indigenous land.

What changes do you want to make in my relationship to Indigenous Peoples?

I feel compelled to work towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and to use my privilege to empower the Indigenous People around me.

As a curriculum developer, how do you view your role in Indigenization?

See my previous answer.

Indigenization, Decolonization, and Reconciliation


a process of naturalizing Indigenous knowledge systems and making them evident to transform spaces, places, and hearts. In the context of post-secondary education, this involves bringing Indigenous knowledge and approaches together with Western knowledge systems. This benefits not only Indigenous students but all students, teachers, and community members involved or impacted by Indigenization. LINK

  • not replacing 'Western' with 'Indigenous', but 'remix', or "weaving or braiding" to encourage appreciation of both
  • not an 'add-on'
  • deliberate blending of two knowledge systems

Decolonization refers to the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches.

  • dismantling status quo
  • "valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge"
  • new ways of thinking, worldview perspective
  • critical examination of western epistemology
  • changing misconceptions
  • for settlers, "decolonization is the process of examining your beliefs about Indigenous Peoples and culture by learning about yourself in relationship to the communities where you live and the people with whom you interact."
  • must be led by Indigenous people

Reconciliation is about addressing past wrongs done to Indigenous Peoples, making amends, and improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to create a better future for all. Chief Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has stated,

“Reconcilliation is not an Aboriginal problem – it involves all of us”

  • restoring damaged relationships
    • apologizing
    • building trust
    • recognizing mutual humanity
    • concrete actions
  • not only between individuals, but groups and over hundreds of years

"Clearly, the onus for this action is on the party that perpetrated the harm, which in this case is settler society."

The need to Indigenize

Exclusion and misrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples
  • academic curricula have privileged Western thought, content, approaches and values
  • Indigenous worldview have been excluded and misrepresented
  • exclusion and misrepresentation is extremely damaging and a powerful tool for assimilation
Indigenization is not multiculturalism
  • not an abandonment of MC
  • MC does not address social injustices and racist policies. Indigenous experiences and immigrant/minority settler expereinces are vastly different
  • we live on unceded land; we are visitors

Jim Silver (2006) illustrates this point: “Canada takes pride for example, in being the destination for many runaway African-American slaves who were fleeing their captors by taking the ‘underground railway’ in search of freedom. Yet Canada’s police force relentlessly hunted down Aboriginal children who had escaped captivity in a residential school” (p. 24).

Benefits of indigenization
  • not just an 'Indigenous issue'; all benefit
  • creates a more just world
  • shared understanding promotes reconciliation
  • complementary knowledge systems, not opposing binary
    • different systems fill in gaps for each other
Two-eyed seeing/Etuaptmumk

the realization that beneficial outcomes are much more likely in any given situation if we are willing to bring two or more perspectives into play

  • gift of multiple perspectives

learn to see from your one eye with the best or the strengths in the Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing ... and learn to see from your other eye with the best or the strengths in the mainstream (Western or Eurocentric) knowledges and ways of knowing ... but most importantly, learn to see with both these eyes together, for the benefit of all

  • co-learning is essential in the process
  • "weaving back and forth between knowledges"

Elder Albert recommends the approach be pictured in the following way: “Sometimes it’s like a heavy sledge that we are trying to move – this sledge represents our passions for ensuring the ecological integrity of Mawisikamukawey (the nurturing wholeness of the earth), the well-being of our communities, and the transmission of our Mi’kmaq culture (and/or other Indigenous cultures) and knowledge(s). We, the Elders, are dragging that sledge with all our might, and we need others to help us by pushing as hard as you can on the rear of the sledge. But, it is we, the Elders, who will determine where it goes. Other times that heavy sledge represents a passion we Elders hold that the Western sciences can help address. Then we, the Elders, will help you Western scientists with that sledge ... you drag, we push ... while we all also constantly exchange understandings about where it is going ... and learn to abide by i’l’oqaptmu’k meaning “to revisit to renew, to maintain movement in the direction Spirit intended”. Indeed, Elder Albert says, the capacity to abide by i’l’oqaptmu’k is the essence of co-learning and essential to Two-Eyed Seeing. Other essentials are knowledge scrutinization or inquiry (to learn to be able to see in genuine and meaningful ways the best, the strengths, within our different knowledges); knowledge validation (by peers, to ensure authenticity, accuracy, and sacredness), and knowledge gardening (to learn to walk our talk, together, within grounded projects that have meaningful community relevance).

  • not picking bits and pieces of Indigenous knowledge to include in western conceptions to make it more palatable

See also: Bartlett, C., Marshall, M., & Marshall, A. (2012). Two-Eyed Seeing and other lessons learned within a co-learning journey of bringing together indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 2(4), 331–340. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-012-0086-8

Pathways toward Reconciliation

Reconciliation is an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships. A critical part of this process involves repairing damaged trust by making apologies, providing individual and collective reparations, and following through with concrete actions that demonstrate real societal change. ~ Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Summary of the Final Report, 2015

In the context of reconciliation, Indigenization is one way in which we can contribute to working toward a stronger shared future as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The report with its 94 Calls to Action emphasizes the need for education to play a key role in service of justice and resurgence of Indigenous Peoples by calling on Canada to provide “the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms” (TRC, 2015, p. 238).

Excerpts from Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Reconciliation must support Aboriginal peoples as they heal from the destructive legacies of colonization that have wreaked such havoc in their lives. But it must do even more. Reconciliation must inspire Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples to transform Canadian society so that our children and grandchildren can live together in dignity, peace, and prosperity on these lands we now share. (8)

At the Victoria Regional Event in 2012, Survivor Archie Little said,

[For] me reconciliation is righting a wrong. And how do we do that? All these people in this room, a lot of non-Aboriginals, a lot of Aboriginals that probably didn’t go to residential school; we need to work together…. My mother had a high standing in our cultural ways. We lost that. It was taken away…. And I think it’s time for you non-Aboriginals … to go to your politicians and tell them that we have to take responsibility for what happened. We have to work together. (9)

The Reverend Stan McKay of the United Church, who is also a Survivor, believes that reconciliation can happen only when everyone accepts responsibility for healing in ways that foster respect. He said,

[There must be] a change in perspective about the way in which Aboriginal peoples would be engaged with Canadian society in the quest for reconciliation…. [We cannot] perpetuate the paternalistic concept that only Aboriginal peoples are in need of healing…. The perpetrators are wounded and marked by history in ways that are different from the victims, but both groups require healing…. How can a conversation about reconciliation take place if all involved do not adopt an attitude of humility and respect? … We all have stories to tell and in order to grow in tolerance and understanding we must listen to the stories of others. (9)