On this page
How do we start?
We need to "do the hard work first" as stated by Q'um Q'um Xiiem (Dr. Jo-ann Archibald) during her "The many facets of Decolonizing and Indigenizing the Academy" presentation (hosted by SFU's Centre for Educational Excellence, September 22, 2020). She identified four ways that people can engaged in this "hard work":
- Learn the colonial history of your local area, then province, then nation.
- Recognize it's intergenerational impact.
- Engage in critical self-reflection.
- Use Indigenous perspectives and stories.
In his book, How to be an antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi discusses the importance of defining what some concepts and terms mean before engaging with them. This page aims to do, by providing an explanation and sources for further information on some key topics.
Wondering how to refer to Indigenous Nations? See the Indigenous terminology guide.
Unsure where or how to start? Our Learning towards Reconciliation page provides sources to help with gaining a foundation on some of these topics.
Impacts of Canada's colonial roots
There can be no denying that the settlement of the country we know as Canada came at a great cost to the peoples living there at the time of "discovery." Over the decades reports and commissions have documented the devastating impact of colonization on all aspects of Indigenous life, and how the effects of colonization are still being felt today; see the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report (1996), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (2015), and the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Girls and Women report (2019).
As a result of genocide and assimilation tactics, Indigenous communities faced decimation from diseases, enslavement, decline in resources due to over fishing and over hunting, and the creation of reserve land. The Indian Act prohibited spiritual practices and ceremonies, denied Indigenous heritage to women, and restricted people from leaving reserves without permission. The Residential School era saw the loss of cultural identity, language, and community ties, as did the Sixties Scoop (which is a misnomer, as the practice of fostering Indigenous children outside of their community continues today). No aspect of Indigenous life went unaffected as a result of colonization.
Stolen sisters, second class citizens, poor health: The legacy of colonization in Canada. Kubik, W., Bourassa, C., Hampton, M. (2009). Humanity & Society, 33(1-2), p.18-34.
Subjects of empire: Indigenous Peoples and the ‘politics of recognition’ in Canada. Coulthard, G.S. (2007). Contemporary Political Theory, 6(4), 437–460.
What is Indigenous Cultural Safety—and why should I care about it? Ward, C., Branch Fridkin, C. & Fridkin, A. (2016). Visions: BC’s Mental Health and Substance Use Journal, 11(4), 29.
Why Aboriginal Peoples Can't Just "Get Over It": Understanding and addressing intergenerational trauma. Schiffer, J. (2016). Visions: BC’s Mental Health and Substance Use Journal, 11(4), 7.
BC’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act [video presentation, 1 hr 29 min] Terry Teegee, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, & Bradford Morse, Courthouse Libraries BC, November 17, 2020
DLJ 4 - Indian Reserves, the Indian Act, and Confederation [video presentation, 1 hr 37 min] Cheryl Knockwood, Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia, December 15, 2020
DLJ 5 - Myths & Truths About Indigenous Rights [video presentation, 1 hr 51 min] Trevor Bernard, Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia, December 15, 2020
Indigenous History: Building Reconciliation and Dismantling Settler Colonialism [video presentation, 50 min] Keith Carlson, ScienceTalks, December 1, 2020
A person's identity is multifaceted, and includes both social and personal characteristics. According to Lowman and Baker in their book Settler: Identity and colonialism in 21st century Canada, "to speak of identity is to speak of the point at which we make assumptions and pre-cognitive decisions. It is to speak of the part of ourselves where the individual meets society and says "I belong here," while internalizing important lessons for how to belong" (p. 13). Indigenous identity includes community and kinship connections, status or non-status, and at times is influenced by the Indian Act (for an explanation of these concepts, please see our Indigenous terminology guide).
Indigenous identity, ‘authenticity’ and the structural violence of settler colonialism, Sarah Maddison (2013). Identities, 20(3).
Intra-race intersectionality: Identity denial among dual-minority biracial people, Analia F. Albuja, Diana T. Sanchez, Sarah E. Gaither (2020). Translational issues in psychological science.
Matnm Tel-Mi'Kmawi: I'm fighting for my Mi'kmaw identity, Pamela Palmater (2013). Canadian journal of native studies, 33(1).
Narratives of race and Indigeneity in the genographic project, Kim Tallbear (2007). The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 35(3).
The Queen and I: discrimination against women in the Indian Act continues, Lynn Gehl (2000). Canadian woman studies, 20(2).
Who is indigenous? ‘Peoplehood’ and ethnonationalist approaches to rearticulating indigenous identity, Jeff Corntassel (2003). Nationalism & ethnic politics, 9(1).
Restoring Nationhood: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson [video presentation, 1 hr 8 min] Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Simon Fraser University, January 13, 2014
Racism and academia
Canadian universities and colleges are based on European institutions, and early schools were often affiliated with religious organizations. Therefore, it's important to recognize that the concept of a university was brought over during colonization, and displaced Indigenous educational practices. With these European based institutions came a European based curriculum, maintained through the presense of Western canons. These are discipline specific works that have been decided to be the standard, the ones that all students should know to be considered educated in that field.
The authors of The equity myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian universities write that "much of the modern disciplinary curriculum is White, Eurocentric, and colonial, and continues to reflect historical biases against women, Indigenous and racialized scholars, and scholarship from non-Western countries" (p. 279). The authors also point out that curriculum communicates whose knowledge has value, which is a form of power and privilege. There have been student movements to challenging these curriculum decisions, most notably the "Why is my curriculum white" movement at the University College London, and "Rhodes must fall" in South Africa. In Canada the TRC Calls to Action can only be attained with changes to curriculum, and these changes need to happen at all levels of education, K-12 and post secondary.
Contesting the curriculum in the schooling of Indigenous children in Australia and the United States: From Eurocentrism to culturally powerful pedagogies. Hickling‐Hudson, A., & Ahlquist, R. (2003). Comparative Education Review, 47(1), 64–89.
Dear Universities, your anti-racism workshops aren’t nearly enough, Yap, A. (July 13, 2020). The Tyee.
How anti-black racism on Canadian university campuses robs us all. Kristin Moriah (2020). The Conversation.
Language of appeasement, Dafina-Lazarus Steward (March 30, 2017). Inside Higher Ed.
Racism in the academy. Harriet Eisenkraft (2010). University Affairs.
The structure of knowledge in westernized universities: Epistemic racism/sexism and the four genocides/epistemicides of the long 16th century. Grosfoguel, R. (2013). Human Architecture : Journal of the Sociology of Self - Knowledge, 11(1).
'We especially welcome applications from members of visible minority groups': Reflections on race, gender and life at three universities. Annette Henry (2015). Race, Ethnicity and Education, 18(5).
Why is my curriculum White? Hussain, M. (March 11, 2015).
A Conversation with Dr. Jo-ann Archibald Q’um Q’um Xiiem: The Many Facets of Decolonizing and Indigenizing the Academy [video presentation, 1 hr 4 min] Jo-ann Archibald, Simon Fraser University, November 10, 2020
How do we solve Structural Racism? A 5X5 Review [guide] Yellowhead Institute
Scholar Strike Canada [website]
Why is my curriculum white? [video documentary, 20 min] UCL, November 11, 2014
Reconciliation and academia
Senator Murray Sinclair famously said that “...education is what got us into this mess… but education is the key to reconciliation.” In order for Canada to achieve the TRC Calls to Action, and the Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Calls to Justice educational institutions need to engage in a reconciliation process. That means examining how academia is failing Indigenous communities and knowledge, not only in the lack of inclusion in course availability and curriculum, but also in supporting Indigenous students, staff, and faculty. Educational institutions then have a responsibility to enact transformative changes, to address these failings and move forward.
Changing the subject in teacher education: Centering Indigenous, diasporic, and settler colonial relations. Martin John Cannon (2013). Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry, 4(2).
Decolonizing education in Canadian universities: An interdisciplinary, international, Indigenous research project. Marie Battiste, Lynne Bell & L.M. Findlay. (2002). Canadian Journal of Native Education, 26(2).
How a university can embed Indigenous knowledge into the curriculum and why it matters. Maggie Walter and Michael A. Guerzoni (2020). The Conversation.
Indian control of Indian education: Reflections and envisioning the next 40 years. Michelle Pidgeon, Marissa Muñoz, Verna J Kirkness, & Jo-ann Archibald. (2013). Canadian Journal of Native Education, 36(1).
Indigenization as inclusion, reconciliation, and decolonization: navigating the different visions for indigenizing the Canadian Academy. Adam Gaudry, Danielle Lorenz (2018). AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 14(3).
More than a checklist: Meaningful Indigenous inclusion in higher education. Michelle Pidgeon (2016). Social inclusion, 4(1).
Toward being inclusive: Intentionally weaving online learning, reconciliation, and intercultural development. Heather Williams. (2019). New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 157.
Critical Race Theory and its Implication for Indigenous Cultural Safety [video presentation, 28 min] Verna St. Davis, Indigenous Cultural Safety Collaborative Learning Series, April 27, 2017
Healing the Wound with the Weapon: Post-secondary Education and Reconciliation [video presentation, 1 hr 29 min] Kevin Lamoureux, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, University of British Columbia, Mary 6, 2019
Indigenous Canada [online course] Tracey Bear, University of Alberta (Note: In August 2020, actor Dan Levy invited all Canadians to join him in taking this course. As part of his work, he held conversations - available on Dan Levy’s YouTube channel - with course facilitators and other guests.)
Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Universities and Colleges [blog post] Pamela Palmater, Indigenous Nationhood, May 17, 2019
Resistance and Resurgence: Decolonization in a Time of “Reconciliation” [video presentation, 1 hr, 56 min] Angela Cooper, Diana Day, Melissa Moses, Shaniece Angus, & Kim Haxton, Feminists Deliver, June 19, 2020
Warrior Life [podcast series] Pamela Palmater, ongoing
What Does an Indigenous University Look Like? | Niigaanwewidam (James) Sinclair | TEDxUManitoba [TED talk, 18 min] Niigaanwewidam (James) Sinclair, TEDx Talks, April 13, 2016
Antiracism, white fragility, and white supremacy
Ibram X. Kendi writes that if you are not actively working to be antiracist then you are racist (How to be an Antiracist). This is an uncomfortable thought, as nobody wants to be racist. It is this discomfort that Robin DiAngelo names "white fragility," and it stems from the idea that Western societies have been designed to benefit those who can be identified as 'white'. What Kendi is asking readers and learners is to reflect on how they are working against and/or within systems that are designed to be racist. Often this racism is not overt but subtly found in policies and attitudes (The equity myth).
In Canada it is easy to overlook white supremacy in favour of the Canadian reputation as being multicultural, but in doing so we fail to understand or learn how Canada as a country was formed. It's an ugly aspect of Canadian society but without learning about the history of genocide, slavery, and racist policies, there cannot be transformative movement towards reconciliation.
Charlottesville: White educators need to fight racism every day, Michelle Stack (August 15, 2017). The Conversation.
Dear white people, wake up: Canada is racist, Annette Henry (September 6, 2017). The Conversation.
Race and language learning in multicultural Canada: Towards critical antiracism, Ryuko Kubota (2015). Journal of multilingual and multicultural development, 36(1).
The characteristics of white supremacy culture, Showing up for racial justice (adapted from Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups).
Welcome to the anti-racism movement - here's what you've missed, Ijeoma Oluo (March 11, 2017). Medium.
Anti-Aboriginal Racism in Canada: A Social Determinant of Health (multi-part video presentation, 49 min total) Charlotte Loppie, National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health (NCCIH), December 8, 2015
Cultural Safety in the Classroom: Addressing Anti-Indigenous Racism in Education Settings [video presentation, 1 hr 32 min] Sheila Cote-Meek & Leigh Patel, Indigenous Cultural Safety Collaborative Learning Series, January 25, 2018
Episode 3.13 Understanding White Supremacy [podcast, 23 min] Hannah McGregor, Secret Feminist Agenda, January 11, 2019 (Note: The host is a white settler scholar, and the episode is aimed at other white settlers.)
Facing white privilege [blog post] Julia Lane, InCommon: The SLC Blog, Student Learning Commons, Simon Fraser University June 15, 2020
From Unconscious Bias to Conscious Inclusion [video presentation, 1 hr 8 min] Irfan Chaudhry, MacEwan University, June 24, 2020
Police Brutality In Canada: A Symptom Of Structural Racism And Colonial Violence [article] Krista Stelkia, Yellowhead Institute, July 15, 2020
The danger of a single story [TED talk, 18 min] Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TEDGlobal 2009, July 2009
What systemic racism in Canada looks like [video news report, 10 min] CBC News, July 2020.
Allyship and accomplices
The concept of allyship may be familiar; simply put, it's when a person or group voices their support of another. An accomplice is when someone is working side by side a disadvantaged group to help change the system(s) of oppression. There are many ways each of these roles contribute, as seen in Step 3 on the White Accomplices website.
150 Acts of Reconciliation for the Last 150 Days of Canada’s 150 [blog post] Crystal Fraser & Sara Komarnisky, Active History, August 4, 2017
Accomplices not allies: Abolishing the ally industrial complex [zine] Sprout Distro, 2014
Guidelines for being strong white allies [short guide] Paul Kivel, adapted from Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Social Justice, 2006
Indigenous Responses to Black Resistance [video presentation, 39 min] Bonita Lawrence, Scholar Strike Canada, September 10, 2020
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) [website]
White Ally Toolkit [website]