FNT2T Life Long Learning: University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Education Webinar, Decolonizing & Indigenizing Education in Canada

Treaty 2 Territory – Boozhoo! FNT2T Life Long Learning participated in an online learning webinar hosted by the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Education. The webinar was titled Decolonizing & Indigenizing Education in Canada, which is based on the book written by guest speakers Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek (Anishinaabe) and Dr. Taima Moeke-Pickering (Maori).

Cote-Meek opens the webinar by saying she often reflects on how much the education system has changed throughout the years to meet the the needs of Indigenous peoples. Decolonization and true change in education is discussed more at the post-secondary level, but the webinar can certainly be applied to all levels of education. There is mention of Wahbung (1971) and the RCAP (1996) which called for “fundamental change in education for Indigenous peoples and that education be viewed as a fundamental element of self-government. And it is still about gaining control and agency (power) over our lives including education.” Cote-Meek also mentions the document titled “Tradition and Education” (1998, AFN) which discussed “a vision for the future of education and the expanded on the need to have control over our education, describing education as a vehicle that could contribute to our larger struggle in self-government.” She then mentions the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls for Action which called for change in the fundamental relationship between Canadians, government, and Indigenous peoples, which caused many educational institutions to reflect on how they were responding – or not responding – to the educational needs of Indigenous peoples. Cote-Meek’s review of these important documents throughout time makes it quite clear that the struggle and work in decolonizing education has been ongoing for many years.

Cote-Meek asks the important question of Truth. That is, speaking truth from the heart. And she questions whether everyone has actually heard the truth, or whether we have been jumping right over truth to reconciliation. She states that this is an important question because often there is “amnesia” and/or selective forgetting of historical injustices committed against Indigenous peoples. One must be open-minded, acknowledge, and understand these injustices very deeply so that they can speak up against them to bring about (true) change.

She believes that to know what true decolonization looks like, one must understand colonization. Cote-Meek believes that colonization has always been about the land and resources. She shares that colonization is also a mindset, which reduced Indigenous peoples to “positions of inferiority,” a mindset that is deeply rooted in racism. Many also refer to this process as dehumanization. If society can be made to believe that a group of people is a “threat” or “less than human” (or they require ‘saving’) then their oppression is rationalized and justified.

Change needs to transformative, mobilized, and sustained, says Cote-Meek, meaning it needs to true change that remains ongoing rather than relegated to one-or-two-time tokenized projects and events. It requires commitment to real systemic change. She asks the question: “Are we more focused on ‘reconciliACTIONS’ that make institutions and individuals ‘feel good’ because they have done something because Truth and Reconciliation is much more than that.”

We must commit to telling the truth about history even when it makes us uncomfortable. Individuals must sit with that discomfort and ask why it makes them uncomfortable. Why the discomfort of a people (for generations) has been acceptable, but one’s own discomfort is unacceptable? Cote-Meek states: “We can and must do better.”

True decolonization is complex. It is difficult. It will take time and effort. It takes deep understanding, real systemic change, and and transformation. Also mentioned is the major role that land-based learning and women play in decolonizing and Indigenizing education. These are a critical foundation to transformative change. This must be at the center of decolonization and Indigenization in education.

Cote-Meek closes her piece in the webinar by stating: “Leaders can be the drivers of change. Or they can be resisters of change. How can educational leaders [of institutions that work with and for First Nations (Indigenous) peoples] disrupt the status quo and mobilize meaningful change that leads to decolonization?

Miigwetch. Renew and revitalize.

Source for all of the above shared information: University of Manitoba, Faculty of Education, Webinar “Decolonizing and Indigenizing Education in Canada”, Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek and Dr. Taima Moeke-Pickering, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8XIN46vHHI. **FNT2T Life Long Learning has no affiliation to U of Mb. Faculty of Education or Dr. Cote-Meek & Dr. Moeke-Pickering (this post is an Indigenous Education resource share).

Image source: Book cover of Decolonizing and Indigenizing Education in Canada edited by Cote-Meek & Moeke-Pickering, Canadian Scholars (painting on the book cover, Kokum Flowers, is by Patrick Cheechoo).