Afraid to Indigenize?

Shirley Hardman, Sr. Advisor on Indigenous Affairs

Indigenizing the Curriculum can be a tricky, but inspiring, proposition once you have made a commitment to transform your course outline or lecture notes.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. While I worked with teachers in the K – 12 system I witnessed a number of teachers who were attending workshops, in-service, and pro-d days over and over. Invariably I would approach them, thinking they had scads of indigenized lesson plans by now, only to discover they had not yet created or delivered an indigenized lesson plan. The truth, they told me, was that they were afraid to make a mistake. We cannot afford to allow fear to immobilize us in our roles and responsibilities to address the historical amnesia that has led us to this place.
As educators Indigenizing will not be the first time we are called upon to employ an inside-out model (i.e. engage in self-reflective practice). We all must begin where we are. Historical amnesia is a phenomenon that is best explained as the omission, of Aboriginal history in Canada, at all stages of our education system. We were not taught this history in K – 12, nor likely did we learn in our undergrad education and subsequent graduate programs. This has rendered us ill-equipped, but not incapable. We can familiarize ourselves with what it means to indigenize at the University of the Fraser Valley, understand the history for Aboriginal peoples in Canada from an indigenous viewpoint, recognize the efforts of others in our discipline, participate in teaching and learning initiatives, and enter into dialogue with others, but in the end it is up to us. Go ahead, let it be scary; but, don’t let it immobilize you. Include Indigenous authors / scholars in your course content, invite Aboriginal guest speakers into your class, ask UFV instructors who have had success indigenizing to assist with your indigenizing. The effort that you will exert is what Sami scholar Rauna Kuokkanen² has characterized as “the gift”; it is our responsibility, and only we can take this first step.


¹Indigenizing our Academy: Voices from the Inside Out was an all day event hosted at UFV on February 2, 2012. The event provided an opportunity for UFV faculty and staff to come together and share ideas, and initiatives and learn about indigenization.
²Kuokkanen, Rauna. (2007). Reshaping the University: Responsibility, Indigenous Epistemes, and the Logic of the Gift. Vancouver: UBC Press.