Indigenization knowledge and practice focus of certification program

By Everett Dorma Posted: March 29, 2019 8:30 a.m.

Emily Grafton during a JSGS Orientation September 2018.
Emily Grafton during a JSGS Orientation September 2018. Photo: U of R Photography

Dr. Emily Grafton, Executive Lead, Indigenization, University of Regina, led the first group of 18 scholars to complete the Enhancing Academic Indigenization Certificate designed to deepen the knowledge and practice of Indigenization for faculty and graduate students. 

“Indigenization is one of the University’s overarching priorities identified in our 2015-2020 Strategic Plan: peyak aski kikawinaw – Together we are Stronger,” said Grafton.  “But for individual instructors and academics it can raise a lot of questions: What does Indigenization mean? How do I take on responsibility for this in my research and pedagogy? Do I even know enough about our country’s colonial relationship with Indigenous people?  What supports and resources does the University have to help me? 

“The course is intended to help faculty and graduate students address these and other questions in a safe environment and give them the knowledge and tools required to begin or continue their own Indigenization efforts.” 

Course participant Dr. Jason Demers, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, noted that: “Through this course I learned about the resources that are available to me as I work to Indigenize my curriculum at the University of Regina. These resources are important because Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing are paradigmatically different, diverse, and in flux. Indigenization doesn't work if you just try to plug and play. Adding new texts and voices means research, dialogue, and relationships. Thinking about relationality is key.” 

Offered through the Office of Indigenization and the Centre for Teaching and Learning, with assistance from the Centre for Continuing Education, the innovative course was delivered online through UR Courses with five face-to-face sessions from January 10 to March 5, 2019. 

“I would say that the most significant thing I learned in this course was perhaps my own personal starting point for understanding Indigenization,” said participant Dr. David Meban, Department of Philosophy and Classics, Faculty of Arts. “I learned that I must begin by listening and learning with respect and humility, and then contribute to the process of Indigenization by building relationships, and working collaboratively, with Indigenous peoples and groups on campus and in the province.” 

Course content and activities focused on colonialism, decolonialism, and Indigenization. Knowledge Keepers and experts from the Treaty 4 territory—Indigenous and non-Indigenous— provided online learning through videos addressing the complexities, misunderstandings, and benefits of academic Indigenization practices and customized application. 

“Generally, one of the things I would say is to think critically,” said participant Dr. Alexandra Stoddart Faculty of Education. “Instead of just accepting policies and practices, assess whether they are colonial practices. Instead of just accepting stories and history texts, think deeper and ask where the stories are coming from, whose voices are dominant and whose are missing. We have a responsibility to repair and rebuild our relationships and that starts with truth.” 

Key components of the course included Elder-led sharing circles and face-to-face sessions introducing authentic Indigenous-centred learning methods which created an opportunity for integrated knowledge-building. Using online communication tools participants were also able to challenge and support each other’s work, explore biases and assumptions, and deepen their personal understandings of Indigenization. 

“Because I'm already over two years into ‘Indigenizing,’ I think the course reinforced for me that it will be a process that continues for the rest of my career, rather than a project with an end point or a checkbox to complete,” said participant Heather Dietz, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science. “It was great to start building a community of like-minded individuals in disparate fields and from disparate backgrounds.” 

For Grafton, the course offered a strong start to what will be an ongoing dialogue. She is now off on a leave, but encourages those interested in taking upcoming courses to watch on the website