Indigenization/Decolonization in Curriculum Design and Instruction

Doors and Archway, Aaron Moody 2010 

Image: Doors and Archway, Aaron Moody 2010 . Yellow cedar.
Doors of the Aboriginal Gathering Space, VCC Broadway campus

The CTLR acknowledges and takes seriously its responsibility in supporting the communal journey at VCC into decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation through curriculum development and teaching practices. This journey is rooted in a thoughtful understanding of history, alignment with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the United Nation Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), an acknowledgement of past and persisting racism and inequity, and a commitment to improving educational and career outcomes for Indigenous people. We believe that indigenization and decolonization are important for all students and educators in creating a more holistic, inclusive learning experience that enriches the community.

“Indigenization benefits everyone; we all gain a richer understanding of the world and of our specific location in the world through awareness of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives. Indigenization also contributes to a more just world, creating a shared understanding that opens the way toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”

"Pulling Together for Curriculum Developers."

Our CTLR team comes to this work from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary perspectives. We begin by acknowledging our own positionality and place as non-Indigenous folks of diverse backgrounds and disciplinary perspectives. We are not experts, but we have a responsibility to join in this work and educate ourselves. We seek to facilitate, support, and share resources with others. We look to and listen to Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, scholars and community leaders. We recognize the limitations of our knowledge, and understand that humility, risk-taking and accepting discomfort are part of this process. 

For 2023-24, the CTLR team is committed to:

  • The instructional associates, online developers and manager of e-learning completing the Pulling Together Guide for Curriculum Developers series with support and involvement of the VCC Indigenous Education department. 
    Pulling Together: A Guide for Indigenization of Post-Secondary Institutions is a set of open professional learning guides that are the result of collaboration between BCcampus, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, and a steering committee of Indigenous education leaders. The content in these guides is authored by teams of Indigenous and ally writers from across B.C.
  • Beginning consultation with Indigenous Education and Community Engagement about updates to program renewal guiding questions and curriculum development documents with respect to Indigenization and decolonization.
  • Co-facilitating a Pulling Together for Teachers and Instructors learning series with IECE. 
  • Providing resources and peer learning support in consultation with IECE for instructors/curriculum developers interested in starting or continuing their own and/or department journey of indigenizing and decolonizing curriculum and instruction. 

The resources below are not a comprehensive list but a gathering of some possible entry points for your journey - starting with grounding knowledge of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, the impacts of colonization, and Indigenous resilience and resistance. With respect to teaching and learning, you will also find resources on Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching, what Indigenization of education means, land acknowledgements, finding authentic resources, supporting Indigenous students, and land-based learning. We have tried as much as possible to centre resources from the lands and host nations we are privileged to work on.

The Indigenous Education and Community Engagement department at VCC is an excellent resource and collaborated with us to suggest and review the resources on this page. They lead many community education events during the year at VCC and can connect you with VCC Elders, Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Cultural Advisors. You can also look into the wider community for events to participate in like National Indigenous Peoples Day, National Truth and Reconciliation Day, visiting the Aboriginal Friendship centre for pow wow family nights, Hoobiyee Nisga’a New Year at the PNE and others.   

The road we travel is equal in importance to the destination we seek. There are no shortcuts. When it comes to truth and reconciliation we are forced to go the distance.” Justice Murray Sinclair

We all have our own unique starting point and positionality in this work. There will be mistakes and relearning on the way, but know that you’re not journeying alone. The First Peoples Principles of Learning provide guidance as you engage in this work: learning requires the exploration of one’s identity; learning takes patience and time; learning involves recognizing the consequences of one‘s actions; learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential and relational; learning recognizes the role of Indigenous knowledge; learning is embedded in memory, history, and story; learning involves generational roles and responsibilities; learning involves recognizing that some knowledge is sacred and only shared with permission and/or in certain situations; and learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors. We welcome feedback on this list as it evolves with time and in relationship.

“Decolonization requires an understanding of Indigenous history and acceptance and acknowledgement of the truth and consequences of that history. The process of decolonization must include non-Indigenous people and Indigenous Peoples working toward a future that includes all.” – Kory Willson and Collen Hodgson, Pulling Together: Foundations Guide

“What we see in these [Indigenous education] frameworks are approaches to learning that are holistic. They emphasize social, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of learning. These frameworks advance ways of knowing that are experiential, land-based, tied to narrative traditions and promote intergenerational learning.” - Dr. Jan Hare, Learning from Indigenous World-Views

“Indigenization is a process of naturalizing Indigenous knowledge systems and making them evident to transform spaces, places, and hearts. In the context of post-secondary education, this involves bringing Indigenous knowledge and approaches together with Western knowledge systems. This benefits not only Indigenous students but all students, teachers, and community members...”- Pulling Together for Curriculum Developers Guide

“[Indigenizing] is positioned as verb, not a noun, not an outcome as such …  we need to understand this is a continual process of learning and that as we learn we have a responsibility to share with others and that’s just a teaching of hands back hands forward again.”  Dr. Jo-Ann Archibald

Elder Deanne George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation giving territorial welcome.

The current institutional territorial acknowledgement for VCC is below.

“We acknowledge that Vancouver Community College (VCC) is located on the traditional unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples who have been stewards of this land from time immemorial.”

It is a starting place toward your own personalized land acknowledgement. According to Clay Little, Associate Director of Indigenous Education and Community Education, developing a personalized land acknowledgement, takes time and practice as you become consistent in correctly saying the names of the host nations, and then work on adding your own context and ancestry, and personal commitments toward reconciliation. The articles and videos below will help you explore some of the complexity and intentionality of giving a land acknowledgement.

How to thoughtfully consider authentic resources and invitation to Indigenous speakers.

If you are interested in inviting an Elder to your classroom as a guest speaker, please plan for an honorarium of at least $200 for up to 1.5 hours of an Elder’s time. Email IECE to explore possibilities to work with VCC Elders, Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Cultural Advisors.

Working with Indigenous students