Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem – it involves all of us.
– Chief Justice Murray Sinclair (CBC, 2015)
Reconciliation is about addressing past wrongs done to Indigenous Peoples, making amends, and improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to create a better future for all.
The work of Indigenization is a growing focus in this era of reconciliation, which has been driven forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), a multi-year investigation of the residential school system. The TRC gathered information in a variety of ways about the historical and contemporary injustices toward Indigenous Peoples from across the nation. The release of the Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future: Summary of Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in June of 2015 marked an important moment in the history of Canada. In the context of reconciliation, Indigenization is one way in which we can contribute to working toward a stronger shared future as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
The report, with its 94 Calls to Action, emphasizes the need for education to play a key role in service of justice and resurgence of Indigenous Peoples, and Indigenous communities are looking at post-secondary institutions to be leaders in responding to the TRC Calls to Action and in working to support Indigenous education in meaningful, concrete, and sustainable ways. Essential to this work is placing Indigenous perspectives at the centre of the work being done, or, as Marie Battiste has said, “Nothing about us without us” (quoted in Cote-Meek, 2017). It means we are moving towards processes of truth and reconciliation and transforming the educational system into spaces that are inclusive, respectful, and honour Indigenous people.
Given the colonial context of Canadian education, there is work to be done to decolonize our policies and practices to de-centre Western approaches and being to re-centre Indigenous ways of knowing, being, learning, and teaching. Mindful of the need for truth and reconciliation, this work is guided by a relatively straightforward question:
Are we making the institution a better place for those who come after us?
While the recent context of reconciliation has brought new levels of attention to this work, we acknowledge the long history of Indigenous faculty and staff and allies in supporting Indigenous students and advocating for change within institutions, and respectfully working to empower Indigenous communities.