Stronger together

November 17, 2017 | Society

Faculty members collaborate on Indigenous resource repository

When a student raises a hand to ask a question, faculty members can’t always predict what they’re going to be asked. As conversations about Indigenous knowledge and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action become increasingly common on campus, some faculty members admit they’re unsure how to respond.

Assistant Professor Dr. Emily Milne, sociology, has been studying how Indigenous content is included in the K-to-12 curriculum in Ontario and Alberta’s school systems. Aligning with Call to Action #62, Emily is a firm believer that this content be included in post-secondary institutions as well.

Related: Sociology prof’s research addresses the successes—and challenges—of incorporating Indigenous content into provincial curricula

“I do my best to incorporate Indigenous content within my classes and I’m always looking for resources and ways to connect to community,” she says. “I know a lot of other teachers are doing the same thing, but we’re all very disconnected.”

While connecting with other faculty members during a workshop in the Centre for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFÉ), Emily found a kindred spirit in Associate Professor and Chair Kevin Hood, Department of Public Safety and Justice Studies. Kevin teaches restorative justice in the Correctional Services program. (He begins a six-month sabbatical in January to research reconciliation efforts in South Africa, England, Ireland and Germany.)

With guidance from the Edmonton Public School Board’s First Nation, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) Unit, the two faculty members co-hosted blanket exercises for their students and other faculty members. The interactive exercise uses blankets to take participants through Indigenous history in Canada, covering colonialism and residential schools.

“ Sometimes students ask very difficult and uncomfortable questions, and yet they're genuine questions.Kevin Hood 

But in talking about who might deliver workshops in the future, Kevin admitted he wasn’t always comfortable speaking about Indigenous experience as a non-Indigenous person. The admission led to an important conversation with Emily and other faculty members. “Many faculty we’ve had contact with over the last year have said they don’t know how to speak about these issues when asked by students. Sometimes students ask very difficult and uncomfortable questions, and yet they’re genuine questions.”

Emily and Kevin decided to collaborate on a repository for curricular resources, tools and strategies on how to incorporate Indigenous perspectives, views and histories into classrooms. They will be consulting with internal groups (including kihêw waciston Indigenous Centre, CAFÉ and MacEwan Indigenous Initiatives) as well as community partners (like amiskwaciy Academy, Métis Child and Family Services, and the Edmonton Public School Board’s FNMI Unit).

“Faculty members here want to incorporate Indigenous knowledge, but they may feel unsure, may not know how to do it, or may not know which resources are appropriate,” says Emily. “I’ve found that some people here were already interested, but we’re all doing things separately. So by coming together, we can do a lot more.”

Emily and Kevin plan to share the repository in Fall 2018 thanks to funding from the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund.

“Our hope is to build a resource that faculty members anywhere in the university can use,” says Kevin. “There are a lot of materials out there that faculty haven’t seen, so some of our work will be to pull together that material, and take the opportunity to guide and support people in having conversations about Indigenous content.”


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