“Walk the talk” Promoting body, mind, emotion and spirit — Elders’ reflections on Hiring, Retention, Tenure, and Promotion

Elders stressed that best practices in indigenizing would include making language and particularly language immersion an important part of indigenization. Indigenous teaching methods – employing patience, and teaching with love, with “no slapping or yelling” — were recommended as well, rather than token efforts (“not enough to take a non-indigenous program and slap a name on it and expect it to be indigenous” Workshop 1/Group 6). Communication bridging at all levels was felt to be important.  Elders also felt that native holidays as well as Canadian ones should be observed by the institution, and that it was important for all parties to build bridges between institutions and communities.

Community consultation was seen as the first step in the process of indigenization, as well as the need to take the research, learning and teaching out to the communities. Community priorities needed to be addressed, whether within the areas of language, education, business, natural resources, or health.

To support student success, Elders and community members felt that students’ individual “orientations” needed to be identified or assessed for their depth of knowledge about their cultural heritage, history, or language. Also deemed important was identifying what they wanted students to learn, European education vs. traditional learning, how much of their traditional knowledge they should be sharing within the institutions, and whether or not the students would learn traditional knowledge if not in the institution. Much learning has been lost due to residential schools, and elders felt that replacing that lost learning was an important component of the indigenization process. Student support circles were also recommended. It was noted that pre-European learning centred around survival skills for the environment, and what skills would be needed to survive in today’s environment?

Culture and Spirituality was stressed as an essential component of all indigenizing processes: Elders stressed the need to use love to combat racism and prejudice; to promote body, mind, emotion and spirit; to “walk the talk”. To anchor this process and to support the students, it was recommended that institutions create paid positions for Elders-in-residence, as many of these positions are currently volunteer, not paid.

Tags: Elders, Personal and Institutional Reflections

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