Indigenous Rights in Education: Enacting our Responsibilities

Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2021

concentric circles

 

Year of Action 2021-2022

The University of Ottawa is located on the unceded territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation.

The link between Indigenous rights and education is clear. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its final reports. Many of the 94 Calls to Action refer directly or indirectly to education. As a Faculty of Education, it is therefore particularly important that we enact our collective responsibility for truth and reconciliation in our research, teaching, advocacy and engagement with First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and other community partners throughout education systems and in wider society.

In recent months, we have once again been reminded of the role of schools in the oppressive history of relationships between the Crown and Canadian Government with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities of what is now called Canada. Thousands of unmarked graves have been uncovered at former Indian Residential Schools—thousands of children who died as a result of genocidal government policies of assimilation. To this day, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities mourn the loss of their children, each one a person who was denied the chance to live. Thousands more survivors suffered abuse whose painful intergenerational effects remain real today. The awareness of the present reality of this past must inform our work to ensure that schools are safe and comfortable places for all, today and in the future. Through our collective work we will continue to challenge and replace the oppressive worldviews that persist within education systems, schools and curriculum.

The Faculty of Education accepts its responsibilities and commits to working towards restorative relations

The University of Ottawa’s Indigenous affirmation reminds us to honour the Elders and Knowledge Keepers who continue to share their wisdom, teachings and life-experiences with us all. The leadership team and professors of the Faculty of Education recognise the unprecedented expectations of a broad coalition of communities, students, professors, and staff that:

  • the Faculty enacts its responsibilities through meaningful reciprocal relationships with the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation (host Nation of the Ottawa area), as well as different First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities;
  • the Faculty actively supports the rights of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation, as well as different First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities within the Faculty, the University of Ottawa, in our educational systems, and wider society.

We gratefully acknowledge the impact of numerous talented Indigenous scholars, educators and administrators within and beyond Indigenous educational contexts in this endeavour. We remain committed to doing this educational, collaborative and relational social justice and equity work together.  

The Faculty of Education has been part of the growing shift in consciousness, building on the inclusion of Indigenous rights as a key aspect of the Faculty’s strategic plan. Initiatives and actions in recent years include:

  • Tenure-track appointment of Indigenous professors;
  • Securing of a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Ganandawisiwin (Good Health) Sovereignties;
  • Redesign and reaccreditation of the Indigenous Teacher Education Program and appointment of first Indigenous Director;
  • Establishment of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee to provide leadership, coordination and collaboration with students with respect to equity and social justice in the Faculty, including with respect to Indigenous rights;
  • Creation of a foundations course that addresses First Nations, Inuit, and Métis histories, perspectives and contemporary issues within our anglophone Teacher Education program;
  • Creation of scholarships for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students;
  • Partner and host of the Ontario Project of Heart;
  • Creation of a Fulbright Chair in Indigenous Education; and,
  • Growing number of externally funded research projects in areas such as Truth and Reconciliation Education, Indigenous studies, Indigenous research methodologies, education, histories, perspectives, and contemporary issues.

While much has been achieved, much remains to be done to address the TRC’s Calls to Action and to create strong reciprocal relationships with various communities and community organisations.

Plan for the year

The Faculty of Education leadership will initiate, support and sustain the conditions for the following additional steps during the 2021-2022 academic year. A key overarching goal is to complete a long-term action plan that will continue to guide us well into the future. This work will be guided by the following principles:

  • Ethical engagement: A commitment to ethically engage with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis community members, students and staff, and community partners in crafting our long-term action plan;
  • Reciprocity: A commitment to strive for reciprocal relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and individuals with whom we collaborate;
  • Respect: A commitment to be aware of the additional work that may inadvertently be borne by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis members within or outside of the Faculty of Education and to conduct the process with respect, reciprocity, and sensitivity.

The following specific actions are planned.

To engage our community:

  • We will organise a series of opportunities focused on actions that different partners would like to see in different aspects of our activities (e.g., teacher education, graduate programs, research, services);
  • We will create and facilitate activities focused on Indigenous rights for our Faculty Assemblies and on other occasions during the year;
  • We will co-review our co-research and professional learning partnerships with local school boards and First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners to identify unaddressed needs and opportunities;
  • We will engage with partners within the University (e.g., TLSS, other Faculties) to propose new joint initiatives focused on addressing Indigenous rights.

In the coming year:

  • We will review and revise faculty and program policy documents, including professor and student guides, from an Indigenous rights perspective to update language and expectations, policies, protocols and compensation, etc.;
  • We will review our programs and courses to ensure that they reflect and include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis perspectives, contributions and rights, as well as the responsibilities of all educators with respect to these rights;
  • We will review the Faculty of Education’s internal and external communications to ensure they reflect our values;
  • We will provide support for professors to respectfully and authentically incorporate First Nations, Inuit, and Métis perspectives and content in their teaching, in Indigenous, francophone and anglophone sectors;
  • We will implement learning opportunities on Indigenous rights for professors and administrative personnel of the Faculty of Education;
  • Will contribute to the development of Anishinabe-Algonquin and francophone educational materials and resources;
  • We will add additional elective courses in our teacher education programs, professional development program, and micro-accreditations in our graduate programs;
  • We will adopt the upcoming United Nations Decade of Indigenous languages and develop actions to contribute to its goals; and,
  • We will complete an action plan for the future that seeks to ensure that the Faculty of Education enacts these responsibilities in the years ahead.

Together, we, the members of the Faculty of Education, recognise and undertake to enact our responsibilities to promote and maintain Indigenous rights through education within the Faculty of Education, with the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation, other First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, as well as in our schools, communities, society, and beyond.

We recognise that this is a learning journey and will seek adjustments to this document where and when necessary. Further, we acknowledge when learning and adapting we may make inadvertent mistakes—we invite colleagues to enact a ‘calling-in’ process where we may deepen our relationships with each other as we engage in co-learning.


Notes:

In using the term “Indigenous” we recognise the multiple distinct peoples, cultures and languages of the peoples of what is now called Canada, including the First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

These rights are internationally recognised and affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (of which Canada is, belatedly, a signatory). UNDRIP includes several articles recognising the importance of education in the rights of Indigenous peoples, including articles 14 and 15.

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