Indigenous people and their communities have had a long and contentious experience with Western education. For far too long, schools and education were used as instruments to systematically dismantle Indigenous culture, their way of living and knowing. Generation after generation of children were taken from their homes, sometime forcefully, in the name of providing them with a civilized education. Instead, what many of these children experienced was at its best a destructive education, and at its worse an inhumane brainwashing, aimed at having these children renounce their ‘savage’ Indigenous perspectives for a more ‘sophisticated’ Canadian approach to life.
Many Canadian universities are just beginning to acknowledge their role in reconciling the negative educational experiences of Indigenous people. Many Universities, like the University of Saskatchewan, are starting to recognize and respond appropriately to the impact of intergenerational trauma caused by residential schools by critically looking at how to effectively support Indigenous students’ ability to participate in postsecondary schools (please see future blog posts for more information on this topic). This is further supported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action for all educators across Canada.
So it is with great anticipation and excitement that I am looking forward to seeing how our new University president, Peter Stoicheff, will plan out and follow through on his priority to Indigenize the University of Saskatchewan.
In Saskatchewan, including here at the University, we are blessed with an abundance of strong, capable Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who are invested in improving the academic experiences and outcomes of Indigenous students. This is reflected in the strong response and support for the University of Saskatchewan’s two day national forum, “Building Reconciliation: Universities Answering the TRC’s Calls to Action”. Canadian university presidents and their leadership teams, First Nations and Métis leaders, student leaders, Aboriginal scholars, and scholars dedicated to research that is meaningful to Aboriginal peoples will all participate. For more information about this event, please visit Building Reconciliation.