‘Indigenizing’ the University of the Fraser Valley

Reconciliation efforts underway at local University

Shirley Hardman

The University of the Fraser Valley is doing its part in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action by undergoing a process known as “indigenization.”

The term, a relatively new one on Canadian campuses, supplants “decolonization” as the word of choice to describe efforts to be more welcoming to aboriginal students, while putting indigenous cultures, histories and knowledge at the centre of the curriculum.

Every program – from plumbing to nursing, chemistry to social work – now has an increasingly indigenized focus.

These practices and others were discussed at the recent B.C. Public Post-Secondary Truth and Reconciliation Summit in Vancouver.

UFV’s representative at the event and the school’s senior advisor on indigenous affairs, Shirley Hardman, said education plays an important role in reconciliation efforts.

Hardman, who is from Chxwha:y village in the Sto:lo Nation, said the definitive account in the TRC of residential schools and treatment of indigenous people at the hands of the Canadian government has given school leadership concrete reasons for concentrating on reconciliation.

UFV faculty has consulted with indigenous students, asking them what they expect from the school’s faculty and staff.

“Aboriginal students want their instructors to know and understand aboriginal history and to be able to teach that comfortably in class,” said Hardman.

Instructors have had professional development sessions on such topics as cross-cultural communication, the history of residential schools and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, she said.

This strategy differs from that of the University of Winnipeg, which began requiring undergraduate students to take at least one indigenous studies course. For nursing students, this means learning about aboriginal healing practices, as well as understanding the effect residential schools have had, making some aboriginal people distrustful of institutions such as hospitals.

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