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March Newsletter: Enhancing the Cultural Climate of the University for Indigenous Peoples

March 31, 2019
By Indigenous Directions

The third mandate of the forthcoming Indigenous Directions Action Plan calls for enhancing the cultural climate of the University for Indigenous peoples. 

We invited Vicky Boldo, Cultural Support Worker for Indigenous Students in the Aboriginal Student Resource Centre and IDLG Member, to share some words about what it means for Indigenous peoples to have an environment where they feel safe to be themselves, feel supported in culturally appropriate ways, and her hopes for the future when it comes to making Indigenous presence visible and felt at Concordia.

"Offering safe spaces for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, staff and faculty to learn this history is essential as these topics carry a lot of emotional weight to them...People need spaces and environments where they are able to be vulnerable and are encouraged to be their true selves, away from external pressures."

- Vicky Boldo




Vicky Boldo on Enhancing the Cultural Climate of the University for Indigenous Peoples

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their Final Report and 94 Calls to Action in which they strongly recommended that all levels of government, educational institutions, private sector organizations, and individual citizens be made aware of the legacies of Residential Schools in Canada in order to begin the laborious work of decolonizing at a systemic level.

In 2016, while guest lecturing in a humanities class I first heard about the Indigenous Directions Leadership Group (IDLG), which was mandated to create Concordia’s response to the TRC Calls to Action. I remember thinking “Wow! What a big undertaking to Indigenize the academy.” A year later, I was asked to join the Aboriginal Student Resource Centre (ASRC) as the in-house Elder, although personally, I prefer to call myself a community or cultural support worker. I accepted the position and consider it an immense honour and privilege to do the work that I do. I was also invited to be a member of the IDLG and have had the pleasure of working with this incredible group as it embarked on a three-year journey to create the forthcoming Indigenous Directions Action Plan for Concordia. 
In these post-Reconciliation times, plans of action are being implemented across the nation like rail ties being nailed down as settlers moved west in earlier times. In order to avoid repeated mistakes, it is essential that these plans be rooted in the truths expressed by Indigenous peoples. As educators and administrators, we know that education is empowerment. Students are in debt and enraged to have been taught a lopsided history. In my experience, unveiling the history, sharing the truths and teaching from an Indigenous perspective enhances learning experiences and builds a strong peer support system that students come to rely on and benefit from throughout their educational journeys.
The truths of Canada’s settler-colonial past and its present-day manifestations must be told so that we are all starting on equal footing; from a place of honesty and understanding. To do so will allow for a better-rounded collective consciousness. Acknowledging our shared history is a step in the right direction toward providing equitable opportunities for Indigenous peoples to pursue self-determined goals. And this country, or Turtle Island as many Indigenous nations call it, will be better for it.

Reads and Resources for Indigenizing the University


We need to get better at this! Pedagogies for Truth Telling about Colonial Violence 
by Elizabeth Fast and Marie-Ève Drouin-Gagné in the International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies (2019)

Abstract: "This article considers the importance of widespread teaching of colonial histories to future generations of students. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 2015 report, Calls to Action, asserts that the lack of historical knowledge among most Canadians has serious consequences for Indigenous peoples, and for Canada as a whole. Using the Responses to Interpersonal Violence framework, this paper explores the capacity of educators to teach colonial histories in a way that indicates supportive social responses and a recognition of the ongoing colonial violence lived by Indigenous peoples in Canada. It also makes recommendations on core principles of teaching colonial histories to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in a responsible way that respects the intentions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

Walking Our Path Together: Yukon College's reconciliation journey
"Walking Our Path Together is an audio podcast series featuring the voices of more than 50 Yukoners sharing their first-hand experiences of the College deepening its relationship with the 14 Yukon First Nations and integrating Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into the institution.

The eleven episodes of season one share stories of what reconciliation really looks like on the ground. Stories about Indigenizing curriculum, Elders on campus, land-based learning and the legacies of residential school in Yukon."

Indigenous Peoples' Atlas of Canada

"The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, in partnership with Canada's national Indigenous organizations, has created a groundbreaking four-volume atlas that shares the experiences, perspectives, and histories of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. It's an ambitious and unprecedented project inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. Exploring themes of language, demographics, economy, environment and culture, with in-depth coverage of treaties and residential schools, these are stories of Indigenous Peoples, told in detailed maps and rich narratives. This extraordinary project offers Canada a step on the path toward understanding."


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