In fall 2021, I had the chance to co-facilitate a series of workshops framed on Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers with my wonderful colleague, Jen Ward, one of TCDC’s Indigenization Specialists. Published by BCcampus, the guide is one of a series of open-source resources meant to support Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation efforts within post-secondary institutions.
Our Elder, Nk’xetko, generously began our first session with encouraging words and a prayer. Jen introduced the 18 participants to new ways of building trust and community within our classes including “belly button introductions” and the “I am from” poem. She unpacked the differences and connections between Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation, and shared the importance of protocol and ways to respectfully and ethically engage with Indigenous communities. She invited us to find the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that we could commit to working toward in our professional and personal lives and taught us how to create our own authentic, meaningful territorial acknowledgement. I closed our session by sharing a bit of history on our relationship with Musqueam, discussing what it truly means for the college to be gifted a name and a house post and the reciprocal responsibilities that come with that act of generosity by our hosts.
Opening the sharing circle
Following the first session, when Jen was no longer able to join and guide us, I needed to decide if the final two sessions would be cancelled or if I would take on the uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking task of facilitating them on my own. As the white, great-granddaughter of Scottish, Welsh and Irish settlers, is it my place to facilitate something like this? I still have so much to learn about Indigenization and decolonization, and bringing Indigenous ways of knowing, doing and learning into my practice. I knew that my colleagues who had signed up for this series were looking for guidance from an Indigenous colleague. I assumed they, like me, felt that tension between the desire to move forward with reconciliation and the fear of doing something wrong, of tokenism, of potentially causing more harm.
I discussed what to do with Jen, and she, like other Indigenous friends and family members in past conversations, reminded me that part of my role in reconciliation is taking some of the burden off of the shoulders of the few Indigenous people I work with. There is a lot of learning I can do on my own, and in my role as a curriculum consultant, I can create opportunities to do and share that learning with others.
So, for the final sessions, I shifted the format to informal sharing sessions. We discussed what we learned from the guide about Indigenous epistemologies and pedagogies and how we might incorporate them into our courses in a good way. We talked about our roles in reconciliation here at the college and the challenges and fears we face. And we shared some of the steps we’ve taken to begin decolonizing and Indigenizing our curriculum and teaching practices in different disciplines.
I’m thankful for my colleagues who showed up to these sessions and bravely shared their stories, experiences, questions, and fears. I am grateful we had this chance to pull together, and I look forward to continuing this learning journey with you all.
− Carmen Larsen, Curriculum Consultant
Upcoming: Spring Pulling Together sessions
Our spring Pulling Together sessions, facilitated by my colleague Parisa Zitouni, will explore another guide in the series, Pulling Together: A Guide for Teachers and Instructors through March and April. Registration is now open.
These gatherings offer a space for collective learning, sharing and discussion of the themes, readings and exercises in the guide. Exploring ways in which we can include Indigenous perspectives, values and knowledge into our teaching practice is a collaborative process. The BCcampus Indigenization Guides authored by teams of Indigenous scholars and allies from across the province of British Columbia have been created to support post-secondary staff and faculty, in this process.
For more information and to sign-up, visit the TCDC calendar.