Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Universities and Colleges
Call to Action #24 - Medical and nursing schools to provide a mandatory course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, which includes skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism;
Because most of the items on the above list should already be done in universities and colleges as a matter of law - as per federal and provincial human rights laws; employment laws; non-discrimination laws; equality laws; and campus commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion. Universities don’t get to pat themselves on the back for doing what they should have been doing all along under the law. Furthermore, some of the actions noted above should be happening as a matter of academic practice. If you teach about native issues, it should be a given that native voices and content are centered. It's a matter of professional ethics and academic standards that faculty learn about the subjects they teach - or ought to be teaching.
(6) Keep current commitments to native faculty and staff. For example, if you have a Chair in Traditional Native Medicine, make sure that Chair is made permanent, funded from core university dollars and not dependent on external funders (i.e., supported only if the funds are available). Making reconciliation initiatives dependent on the goodwill of corporate funders puts them all at risk given the fact that native peoples are largely discriminated against in the corporate world. Universities must engage in real sacrifices - of power and wealth - in order to engage in real reconciliation. That means the university itself must dedicate and protect the funds for reconciliation initiatives - includes faculty, staff, chairs, research and projects.
(13) Universities could help make amends for past harms. Take for example, the crisis of disappearing native languages. Universities and colleges in partnership with native communities, elders and languages speakers, could help prevent native languages from extinction. Together, they could develop comprehensive k-12 education, as well as community-based native language instruction, to try to undo the devastating impacts of Canada’s assimilatory policies and the university's roles in it.
(15) Universities must also focus on the recruitment, retention and support of native students towards academic success. This includes not only a welcoming atmosphere, various student supports like housing and grants, but also native faculty advisors, native courses, and special research projects and other opportunities.
(16) Universities must take active measures against the growing trend of rushing to hire "self-identified" native peoples who are not native, not connected to community and have no lived experience as a native person. Universities are being flooded with those making false claims and universities commit further harms to actual native people by taking no action to prevent it from happening. When frauds take our places in universities as students, staff or faculty, our voices are once again erased and our identities over-shadowed by white ethnicity shoppers whose only claim to Indigeneity is ancestry.com or some distant relative from 400 years ago. At best, these frauds skew our numbers and taint our research, and at worst, they proactively work against real native peoples.
Clearly there is a great deal that university can and should be doing. This blog is already too long to include a much longer list. I truly believe that some of this will happen in short term, and some of it will take a little longer. But without real native people at the helm – directing the path - it runs the risk of preserving the same status quo or worse. I believe that we are at a turning point.
The TRC has helped jump start both conversation and action at the university and college level. We just need to ensure the way forward is co-developed by native peoples and communities, together with universities and colleges. We have a real opportunity to make lasting, impactful changes. Let's move beyond the superficial and engage in real, transformative reconciliation now - which will mean doing things as they haven't been done before. We're ready academia - are you?
For those who want more information, here is a link to my Woodrow Lloyd Lecture on Reconciliation at the University of Regina in 2018: