UFV appointed an indigenization committee this year, under the purview of the UFV Senate, to indigenize culture and education in all aspects of the university, including appearance, curriculum, and services.
Senior advisor on indigenous affairs Shirley Hardman says the committee aims to be a governing body to support Aboriginal Peoples in self-governance, the aboriginal worldview, and in building a healthy nation for indigenous peoples.
Hardman says that integration of aboriginal education isn’t necessarily a replacement of the current curriculum, but incorporating the idea that there is more than one way of looking at or learning something.
She uses small examples, like replacing houses with teepees on an elementary school worksheet, but also says that larger concepts in math, science, and literature can be shown in real life as well as on paper. Hardman says that at the University of Alberta, students work with canoes and travoises to apply math to the tangible world.
“Math has social and political implications, so when we get to that point where we’re teaching students the basics, we need to make sure we’re approaching that from a pact that includes indigenous people,” she says.
“But all of the sciences … are positioned socially in the world and they have social impacts. So when we consider social impact, then that includes the position of Aboriginal Peoples.”
According to Hardman, UFV was meant to receive funding to support indigenous initiatives at post-secondary institutions after the ministry piloted the project at a few universities in B.C. However, UFV did not receive that funding after three years of the pilot.
Hardman says that her position as an advisor and the indigenization committee provides ample support for UFV — especially because UFV includes indigenization in their ongoing strategic planning.
She said that there are also other resources to draw from, despite the funding.
Hardman mentioned that the Australian government has worked closely with its indigenous population to integrate aboriginal history and culture into its curriculum. In comparison, indigenized education only began appearing in the provincial K-to-12 system here in the last 15 years.
“We’ve participated in a historical amnesia,” she says. “We haven’t been taught about indigenous ways of knowing or authentic aboriginal history.”
Hardman notes that rather than placing fault or blame on non-aboriginal people for not understanding the aboriginal perspective, education should be the primary focus.
“Some of [the lack of understanding] rests at the feet of education. So the university has accepted that responsibility,” she says.
Aboriginal relations, education, and safety is a large topic in most of the political party platforms for the upcoming election. Hardman says that individual communities are lobbying to the federal government for more financial support for students. Although the indigenization committee has the potential to make UFV more welcoming to aboriginal students, it doesn’t solve the lack of governmental funding to support aboriginal students — meaning without financial aid, students are less likely to apply.
“We’re partnering with the communities and supporting the bands in their request for more funding for post-secondary education for their membership,” Hardman says.
Until then, Hardman plans to broaden the university’s perspective on aboriginal issues at events and at Senate meetings.
“I’m very excited about the indigenous committee and that Senate has opened their hearts to working with aboriginal people to make education a good place for all of us,” she says.
With files from Sonja Klotz