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Getting started with Indigenous Decolonization of curriculum and pedagogy

A guide to support faculty in beginning their process of critical self-reflection regarding Indigenous Decolonization of curriculum and pedagogical practices.

Steps to getting started

We suggest the following steps to get started:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the recommended action items in the six (6) reports detailed on this page. These items contextualize Indigenous decolonization in the academy and specifically at Concordia University.
  2. Read about the local history of the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawake.
  3. Read the article by Pidgeon (2016) informing meaningful approaches and strategies for inclusion in higher education. Estimated reading time is 30–60 minutes.
  4. Watch the 4-minute video on the importance of Land Acknowledgements, with Kahérakwas Donna Goodleaf and Graham Carr.
  5. Review the practical strategies for decolonizing curriculum and pedagogy.
  6. Watch the 7-min video of Kahérakwas Donna Goodleaf explaining her approach.
  7. For an initial consultation, contact Kahérakwas Donna Goodleaf, Ed.D., Director, Decolonizing Curriculum and Pedagogy and Carole Brazeau, Indigenous Curriculum and Pedagogy Advisor.

Contextualizing action items from various reports

The TRC report was released in December 2015 and includes 94 calls to action to advance reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous Peoples.

Following are the education-related calls to action (p. 1-2):

“6. We call upon the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43* of the Criminal Code of Canada.

7. We call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

8. We call upon the federal government to eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.

9. We call upon the federal government to prepare and publish annual reports comparing funding for the education of First Nations children on and off reserves, as well as educational and income attainments of Aboriginal peoples in Canada compared with non-Aboriginal people.

10. We call on the federal government to draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. The new legislation would include a commitment to sufficient funding and would incorporate the following principles:

i. Providing sufficient funding to close identified educational achievement gaps within one generation.

ii. Improving education attainment levels and success rates.

iii. Developing culturally appropriate curricula. iv. Protecting the right to Aboriginal languages, including the teaching of Aboriginal languages as credit courses.

v. Enabling parental and community responsibility, control, and accountability, similar to what parents enjoy in public school systems.

vi. Enabling parents to fully participate in the education of their children.

vii. Respecting and honouring Treaty relationships.

11. We call upon the federal government to provide adequate funding to end the backlog of First Nations students seeking a post-secondary education.

12. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families.”

* For reference Section 43 of the Criminal Code states “Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”


Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, p. 1-2.

Viens Commission includes 142 Calls to Action and, specifically, item 23 states:

“With respect to postsecondary & professional education, I recommend that the government include a component on Québec First Nations & Inuit in professional programs at colleges & universities (medicine, social work, law, journalism & other programs), working with Indigenous authorities.”


Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec (2019, September 30). Final report

A guide and tool for the Concordia community to participate in decolonizing & Indigenizing the university. The plan was led by Indigenous staff and faculty at Concordia. It was created, in part, to respond to the Calls to Action of the TRC and its creation.

Specifically, see the following recommended actions 2.1 and 2.2 (p. 19-20):

“2.1: Develop a plan to build the capacity of faculty members to decolonize & Indigenize curriculum content across all academic departments.

2.2: Create teaching and learning opportunities for all Concordia students to gain awareness of Indigenous peoples, our histories, cultures and contemporary issues.”


Concordia University. (2019). The Indigenous Directions Action Plan.

This guiding & contextual document should inform Canadian University strategic plans for Indigenous decolonizing of curriculum & pedagogy. It declares Indigenous rights to protect their culture through practices, languages, education, media and religion—including control of intellectual property (article 31.1, p.22).

Specifically, see the following articles most relevant to higher education (p. 13-14, 21):

“14.1: Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

14.3: States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including 14 those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.

21.1: Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.”


United Nations. (2007, September 13). United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

From Reclaiming Power and Place: National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (p.193):

“11.1: We call upon all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions and education authorities to educate and provide awareness to the public about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, and about the issues and root causes of violence they experience. All curriculum development and programming should be done in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, especially Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Such education and awareness must include historical and current truths about the genocide against Indigenous Peoples through state laws, policies, and colonial practices. It should include, but not be limited to, teaching Indigenous history, law, and practices from Indigenous perspectives and the use of Their Voices Will Guide Us with children and youth.”


National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (2019). Reclaiming power and place. The final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The National Inquiry.

These principles inform how to employ Indigenous knowledge and information in teaching and learning respectfully. It also informs how to consult and collaborate with Indigenous peoples.

“The First Nations principles of OCAP® establish how First Nations’ data and information will be collected, protected, used, or shared. Standing for ownership, control, access and possession, OCAP® is a tool to support strong information governance on the path to First Nations data sovereignty. Given the diversity within and across Nations, the principles will be expressed and asserted in line with a Nation’s respective world view, traditional knowledge, and protocols.

If you work with First Nations, consider how you interact with First Nations data.

OCAP® asserts that First Nations alone have control over data collection processes in their communities, and that they own and control how this information can be stored, interpreted, used, or shared.

Ownership refers to the relationship of First Nations to their cultural knowledge, data, and information. This principle states that a community or group owns information collectively in the same way that an individual owns his or her personal information.

Control affirms that First Nations, their communities, and representative bodies are within their rights to seek control over all aspects of research and information management processes that impact them. First Nations control of research can include all stages of a particular research project-from start to finish. The principle extends to the control of resources and review processes, the planning process, management of the information and so on.

Access refers to the fact that First Nations must have access to information and data about themselves and their communities regardless of where it is held. The principle of access also refers to the right of First Nations’ communities and organizations to manage and make decisions regarding access to their collective information. This may be achieved, in practice, through standardized, formal protocols.

Possession While ownership identifies the relationship between a people and their information in principle, possession or stewardship is more concrete: it refers to the physical control of data. Possession is the mechanism by which ownership can be asserted and protected.”

Additional tools and resources are available in the OCAP Online Library.


The First Nations Information Governance Centre. (n.d.). The First Nations Principles of OCAP

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