Curriculum Innovation: Indigenizing Curriculum
As one of the University of Guelph's Indigenous faculty and the only identified Indigenous faculty member in CSAHS, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Relationships and Associate Professor in the Department of Family Relationships and Applied Nutrition Dr. Kim Anderson has worked at highlighting the importance of incorporating indigeneity into curriculum and the campus environment. The following discussion on indigeneity explores some of the main ideas presented by Dr. Anderson in the Lunch and Learn session Indigenizing Curriculum.
The University of Guelph's Territorial Acknowledgement and What It Represents
When was the last time you took a moment to think about the history of the lands where you learn and work? In recent years, a territorial acknowledgement has become customary at many events and presentations held at Canadian Universities. The University of Guelph’s territorial acknowledgement is a reminder to give thanks, to consider one’s individual and collective role in the stewardship of our land, and to continue building relationships with the people that first inhabited the continent:
We acknowledge that the University of Guelph resides on the ancestral lands of the Attawandaron people and the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. We recognize the significance of the Dish with One Spoon Covenant with the land, and offer our respect to our Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Métis neighbours as we strive to strengthen our relationships with them. Today, this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our important connection to this land where we learn and work.
While recognizing Indigenous territory and reflecting on one's relationship to the land is important, it should not just stop there. Respectful relationships with Indigenous people and communities need to be built. An effort needs to be made to enhance knowledge and to learn about how a person can have an active role in reconciliation. A territorial acknowledgement needs to be more than empty rhetoric. Instead, it should act as a framework for interpreting a personalized acknowledgement. By reflecting on which academic discipline a person belongs to – what we are teaching or studying – who a person is and how they are situated in life, a personal territorial acknowledgement can be established that carries actual meaning and value.
Indigenous Efforts on Campus
In harmony with the spirit behind the territorial acknowledgement, the University is pursuing various on-campus Indigenous initiatives. Special Advisor to the President on Indigenous Initiatives Dr. Cara Wehkamp is a central figure in organizing Indigenous activities on campus. Dr. Wehkamp pioneered the Aboriginal Students Association in 2001, now the Indigenous Student Society, and was a key player in the foundation of the Indigenous Student Centre, formerly the Aboriginal Resource Centre in 2003.
A campus-wide Indigenization committee, the Indigenous Initiatives Strategic Task Force, is currently in place. Comprised of five working groups, the task force looks at how to enhance campus experiences for Indigenous Peoples, students, and community members.
The committee also looks at how to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into curriculum development. Some of the committee's other priorities include promoting Indigenous community engagement and experiential learning involving land-based learning. More about this process can be found at indigenous.uoguelph.ca.
Indigenizing Curriculum and Pedagogies within the College
Efforts are also being made at a College level to put into action the University commitment towards Indigenization. The College of Social and Applied Human Sciences Strategic Framework, developed in 2017, included portions on Indigenous strategy with a focus on Indigenizing curriculum. A review of the CSAHS curriculum was conducted in order to gauge how indigeneity is being integrated in course content.
Some of the teaching methods instructors are using to Indigenize curriculum are:
- providing Indigenous scholarship readings and other course material;
- working with Indigenous scholars and guest speakers;
- making use of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Some instructors are apprehensive about discussing Indigenous materials and incorporating them into their course. They fear that students will respond negatively to nonindigenous faculty teaching about Indigenous subjects.
The answer, of course, is to get more Indigenous people speaking and teaching in classes. However, to do so requires more financial resources. Other feasible methods to overcome this issue could include implementing curriculum consultants and scholarly resource centres directed at curriculum development.
Like many other universities in Canada, the University of Guelph still has work to do in terms of Indigenizing its campus and its course curriculum. There is no quick modification to achieve Indigenization. It is not a box to be checked but an ongoing process that requires a shift in thinking. In an academic sense, indigeneity involves finding ways to integrate more Indigenous content and knowledge within the resources we possess.
Discussing the predominant issues facing Indigenization and changing the way we think about our current teaching practices and curriculum is simply the start of the Indigenous conversation. The Hub for Teaching and Learning Excellence wants to help with this ongoing project by providing opportunity for education on indigeneity and the importance it holds.
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