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New SFU Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre Librarian ready to help bring Indigenous knowledge into the classroom

The eagle flies the highest in the sky, and in a coast salish story people would seek guidance from the eagle to gain knowledge of faraway places. This representational eagle wing relief was created to bring the knowledge to students as they seek guidance in their studies. -- Marissa Nahanee

Portrait of a smiling woman standing outdoors

A new role for Ashley Edwards with the ICRC 

Ashley Edwards has joined the SFU Library as our new Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre (ICRC) Librarian, a role dedicated to creating the ICRC, which is slated to open in 2021. Working closely with Indigenous Initiatives Librarian Jenna Walsh, Edwards will shape the ICRC into a space – both physical and online – that will offer guidance to SFU Instructors about Indigenizing and decolonizing their curricula, as well as relevant resources for their classrooms.

Creating the ICRC at SFU Library is in direct response to SFU’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council’s final report Walk this Path With Us, which calls for establishment of an Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre (Call to Action #21) and asks the SFU community to actively work with Indigenous Peoples in developing content that supports and facilitates Indigenizing curricula (Call to Action #12). 

A personal and professional journey

Edwards’ deep passion for advancing Indigenous cultures and Indigenous ways of knowing is both personal and professional. Growing up in Chilliwack on Stó:lō territory, Edwards notes a lack of education in her elementary school classes about Stó:lō people and culture. After becoming a Library Technician, Edwards began working at the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, and her understanding of the local culture deepened. “Cataloguing cultural materials like a basket or an adze was so new to me. It stretched my professional skills and piqued my interest in local Indigenous history,” Edwards says. Impelled by her love of helping others find information, Edwards’ interest in becoming an academic librarian also grew. After three years with Stó:lō Nation, Edwards joined SFU Library as a Library Technician in 2013. Earlier this spring she completed her Master of Library and Information Studies.

Throughout her adulthood Edwards has also been on a personal journey to learn more about her own Indigenous heritage. While she had always known of her Indigenous ancestry, she learned through genealogy work that her family is Red River Métis, a fact that had been suppressed by the racism her family members faced over time. “Finding out was powerful and emotional,” she says. “It solidified my identity in a way that I didn’t realize wasn’t solidified before.”

Support and guidance for Indigenizing curricula 

Edwards sees the ICRC as having a role in interrupting historic patterns of repressing, negating, and ignoring Indigenous knowledge that continue to play out in education systems today. “We still prioritize Western ways of knowledge and knowing. The ICRC is a way to help faculty bring in Indigenous content. It’s one step towards challenging the status quo,” she says.

While the ICRC will eventually be housed on the fourth floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library, until the physical space is complete and while the SFU community continues to follow physical distancing measures due to COVID-19, Edwards will begin by developing a web presence and digital materials to support Indigenizing curricula.

When asked what she hopes instructors gain from the ICRC, she says, “I hope faculty see this as an amazing resource, because Indigenizing curricula can be daunting. If that’s not something you’re familiar with, it might be hard to start. I hope that the physical and online ICRC provides useful support and guidance.” Edwards also notes the value of the ICRC to students, particularly those in the Education program. “If we graduate students who are going out and teaching [with an understanding of how to incorporate Indigenous knowledge] think of how that could impact Indigenous – and non-Indigenous – students,” she says, “I really want students of the future to have a better experience than I did.”

Location

W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby)

Contact for further information

Ashley Edwards: avandijk@sfu.ca