From sports and recreation to film and field placements, four campus projects have been awarded Indigenous Learning Fund grants.
Western’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives recently announced the recipients of one-time, single-year funding for programs aimed at advancing Indigenous teaching, curriculum and learning and strengthening Indigenous community partnerships.
The fund was created as part of the university’s investment in the strategic priorities articulated in the Indigenous Strategic Plan.
A cross-campus call for ideas from faculties, departments, schools, libraries, administrative units and student groups attracted 10 proposals.
“We weren’t really sure what to expect, but the ideas were creative and well-intentioned,” said Sara Mai Chitty, Indigenous curriculum and pedagogy advisor.
“Reviewing the applications gave us a better understanding of the work people want to do with Indigenous students and communities, but they may not have access to funding or resources, or need more time to build relationships with Indigenous partners to make their projects happen in a good way,” Chitty said.
One of the successful applications came from the School of Occupational Therapy in collaboration with Antler River Elementary School, Chippewa of the Thames First Nation and Thames Valley Children’s Centre.
The partners are working to create a community-led approach to occupational therapy to meet the holistic needs of Indigenous families, children and youth. It will include consultations (both virtual and on-site), integrated fieldwork hours and clinical practice placements for OT students.
“The opportunity for our students to be embedded within the fabric of services and explore how their occupational therapy lens can bring a different perspective to some of the challenges raised by the community is invaluable,” said assistant professor Jessie Wilson. “They can safely challenge their professional assumptions and positionality, and engage in critical reflection to take personal and professional steps towards allyship.”
Traditional models of OT practice in Indigenous communities are often delivered by external agencies bound by institutional barriers, including funding and access to services.
“By creating and delivering a more integrated service in partnership with Antler River Elementary School, we can leverage family strengths and community connections to provide a more holistic service beyond the walls of school and into the community,” Wilson said.
Her project, along with the following three initiatives were awarded up to $7,500 each:
- A documentary film, created by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, telling stories of Indigenous youth in London and surrounding areas. School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities (SASAH), Faculty of Arts & Humanities. Project lead: professor Laurence De Looze
- The adaptation of an experiential, land-based learning and sustainability-issues course to an online format through livestream communication and field project options. Indigenous Studies and Geography program, Earth Sciences, Faculty of Social Science. Project Leads: Clint Jacobs, director of the Heritage Centre of Bkejwanong First Nation, and professor Desmond Moser
- Online training for Western’s track-and-field team and Mustangs coaches on the cultural and historical context of sports among Indigenous Peoples. For Indigenous youth, the focus will be on varsity sports at Western. Student Experience, Indigenous Student Centre. Project leads: track-and-field coach Vickie Croley, Indigenous community enhancement co-ordinator Zeeta Lazore-Cayuga
Submissions were adjudicated by a committee of Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty, staff and students chaired by Candace Brunette-Debassige, associate vice-president (Indigenous initiatives).
Although the Indigenous Learning Fund was a pilot project, Chitty said the Office of Indigenous Initiatives will continue to work with all applicants to support them in future applications and visions.