October 20, 2023 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

The Indigenizing Your Syllabus Retreat, organized by Western’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives (OII), allowed members of the King’s faculty to reflect on how Indigenization of the King’s curriculum might provide a positive impact on our campus.

Sara Mai Chitty, Lecturer for Social Justice and Peace Studies and curriculum and pedagogy advisor at OII, moderated the session and said it provided some first steps towards Indigenizing the King’s curriculum.

The focus of the retreat was to support faculty in beginning to think through the ethics and responsibilities of incorporating Indigenous worldviews, knowledge and perspectives into their courses. The retreat included an overview of some of the approaches people might take to Indigenizing their syllabi.

“Part of Reconciliation is taking up that responsibility to engage Indigenous curriculum and pedagogy in their courses and pedagogy. Indigenous students have a right to see their own worldviews and realities reflected in their course materials, but also survivors of Indian Residential Schools, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, have asked every educator to do this work,” says Chitty.

“It's all about diversity and inclusion,” says Felipe Rodrigues, Assistant Professor of Operations Management and Analytics in the School of Management, Economics, and Mathematics. The seminar introduced Dr. Rodrigues to “a sample of the rich world of Indigenous knowledge, exposing me to diverse teaching methodologies and perspectives of Canada's native cultures.” The varied narratives present in Canada can be used to try different paths, approach problems from novel angles, and combine them to our advantage, he says.

Dr. Carolyn Chau, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, learned that approaching Indigenization of curriculum can happen in many ways. “It can be as straightforward as incorporating texts from Indigenous authors, to teaching in a way that is Indigenous, for example, mindfully contextualizing and attributing knowledge,” she explains.

“Indigenization of the King’s curriculum is important because it is part of the Catholic identity of the college to be committed to issues of social justice, and to be committed to truth, wherever it is found,” says Dr. Chau. She said she will continue to invite Indigenous speakers into her classrooms and incorporate material from Indigenous authors into her courses. She also gives the example of utilizing Indigenous wisdom on issues in environmental ethics and incorporating values of holism and love of the land.

Dr. Chau hopes to create opportunities for students to experience Indigenous understandings of the sacredness of creation through participation, perhaps in something like a sunrise ceremony led by an Elder or cultural advisor.

Dr. Rodrigues says he will try to embed some Indigenous methodologies into his courses, which could involve incorporating case studies based on Indigenous businesses or encouraging students to question "growth at all costs" business models.

He adds that incorporating Indigenous perspectives could create a learning environment far beyond his traditional pedagogical mix of business case studies, experiential learning, and simulations. “How about a lecture being transformed via a storytelling method? What if we ‘solve a case’ and then pose the question: What would we propose instead if we considered a place-based, community-driven perspective to this case? One that fosters participation and consideration of our community and environment,” asks Dr. Rodrigues.

Dr. Rodrigues adds that if he is unable to introduce readings and resources that reflect the Indigenous knowledge perspective, he will try to develop materials with the community's help. “This will make my courses more in tune with our ethos at King's,” he says.

Both Dr. Chau and Dr. Rodrigues believe students will embrace the Indigenization of the King’s curriculum. Dr. Rodrigues says students are ready because King’s would be helping to develop their critical thinking skills by introducing Indigenous problem-solving approaches. “Our students are welcoming of different cultures and will see it positively,” he says.

Dr. Chau hopes students will embrace Indigenization “because it seems to me to exemplify the best of education and is what higher learning should be about: critical and appreciative self-awareness about the social and historical contexts of knowledge, celebration of the human, and the interconnectedness of the human with all of creation and the sacred. The attention paid to meaning and depth in Indigenous ways of knowing, and wisdom grounded in experience and connection to the land, are things I think many young people today in college are yearning to experience.”

“Can you imagine a generation of more inclusive and empathetic business leaders who have the well-being of the community and the planet in equal measure with the relentless pursuit of profits? We could change the world,” says Dr. Rodrigues.