Indigenous peoples affiliated with Western have created six teaching modules instructors can use to share Indigenous knowledge and worldviews in their classrooms.
“We carry these gifts of knowledge, and we want to share them so instructors can share Indigenous perspectives in an ethical way,” said teaching fellow Candace Brunette-Debassige, co-ordinator of the project and a professor in the Faculty of Education.
Work towards this digital repository of resources started three years ago, as Brunette-Debassige and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives team “recognized there were huge gaps across the curriculum,” she said.
Each bundle – which can be taught in any course in any department and faculty – is equivalent to about three hours of teaching time and follows one of six themes:
- Indigenous land and place
- Indigenous women and resilience
- Indigenous storytelling and media
- Orientation to Indigenous knowledge
- Indigenous leadership
- Indigenous and Black solidarities
Collectively, the bundles are called Maatookiiying gaa-miinigoowiziying (sharing our gifts).
Through them, instructors and students are invited to gather and learn and begin to understand Indigenous ways of knowing, their connection to the land, the interwoven relationships among place and people.
“We want to build community around this,” Brunette-Debassige said.
The development team included more than 40 people: lead collaborators, knowledge-holders, students, artists, Elders and Indigenous community members.
Western instructors are invited to register to access bundles to embed into their courses, and be supported through an orientation session and optional community of practice for the 2022-23 academic year.
Each bundle includes a list of learning outcomes; a presentation; a half-hour conversational visit with an Indigenous Elder, Knowledge-Holder or specialist in the area; recommended teaching prompts; instructional strategies; academic readings; and recommended assignments assessments and relevant resources.
“I hope instructors coming into this will be open to developing a relationship with Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous ways of knowing – a reciprocity that is deep and meaningful,” said Brunette-Debassige.
The plan is to keep adding new bundles with different themes.
Erica Neeganagwedgin, who developed the Indigenous and Black Solidarities Bundle, said she wants people to learn with more than just their minds.
“I want them to connect with the content, to connect with their hearts, and I hope when students see this bundle, it will impact how they feel and believe and perceive.”
They will question whose voices have been centred and whose histories have been prioritized and why. Her bundle, specific to the Indigenous Peoples and Black context in Canada, includes historical and current perspectives.
In London, Ont., and surrounding areas for example, Indigenous people protected enslaved Black people who were running for their lives in the early- and mid-1800s.
“I hope they will ask themselves, ‘How did I not know this before?’”
Neeganagwedgin is also a professor of critical policy, equity and leadership studies in Western’s Faculty of Education.
“Having the opportunity to talk about these things is important. There’s not a lot out there because people who are Indigenous and Black have been on the margins, coming from two groups that have been systematically targeted and oppressed.”
The bundles, she said, have big themes of identity, relationship, erasure, resistance and solidarity.
“Indigenous curriculum is wholistic. It’s multi-faceted and it’s sacred. All these voices have come together to build these bundles, and their spirit is in it,” Neeganagwedgin said.
The new Indigenous curriculum is part of Western’s continuing work to decolonize and embed Indigenous learning into education and practices. At the core of this initiative is the planned, brand new Indigenous Learning Space, set to open on September 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
On June 20, 2023, Western will host Universities Canada’s Building and Reconciliation Forum, which brings together university leaders and Indigenous communities to discuss and share ideas and practices to advance the work of truth and reconciliation.