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Indigenizing Education: The Paper

What is your topic? What is the more specific phenomenon you intend to explore? For this research paper, I have chosen the topic of Indigenizing education. Indigenous student engagement through this process is the phenomenon I intend to further explore.

What is the general history of the phenomenon you will explore? … [Here you might provide a very brief run through of the history] …

“Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Aboriginal peoples’ education, cultures, and languages, health, child welfare, the administration of justice, and economic opportunities and prosperity.” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, p 3)

Curriculum is often developed in ways that privilege the dominant culture, which in Canada is the Euro-Western culture. The content, approaches to learning, and values of knowledge excludes the experiences and worldviews of Indigenous Peoples. This exclusion and misrepresentation (through perpetuated stereotypes) continues to be a damaging impact of colonialism and a tool of assimilation. Indigenization is a process where all members of educational institutions address the legacy of the Indigenous Peoples through integration of Indigenous perspectives in curriculum and other educational contexts. Indigenizing education engages in the trauma of colonization, building relationships with Indigenous peoples, and revisiting the pedagogical approaches that are Western dominant. Indigenous knowledge systems are embedded in relationship to the land, culture, and community.

Multiculturalism approaches are necessary and relevant, however, they differ from Indigenization. Multiculturalism is a law and policy, and recognizes Indigenous Peoples, however, the inclusion of multiculturalism in curriculum does not address the injustices and racism towards the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. Indigenous histories and contemporary situations differ in significant ways from immigrants and minorities. In order to form respectful relationships, these differences must be acknowledged. It is generally acknowledged in literature that Canadians lack an understanding of Indigenous history, including the impact of Indian Residential Schools and Indigenous ways of knowing (Curwen Doige, 2003; St. Denis, 2007).

As the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples [RCAP] (1996) noted, the education of non-Aboriginal teachers about Aboriginal history, traditions and ways of knowing benefits all students. “The quality of education Aboriginal students received in provincial and territorial schools depends on the willingness to create a supportive environment for them” (RCAP, 1996, 5.6) As the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples [RCAP] (1996) noted, the education of non-Aboriginal teachers about Aboriginal history, traditions and ways of knowing benefits all students. “The quality of education Aboriginal students received in provincial and territorial schools depends on the willingness to create a supportive environment for them” (RCAP, 1996, 5.6) Literature further states that Although many Indigenous communities attempt to maintain their traditions, students are faced with ongoing confrontation of poverty, stereotypes, and poor schools which hinder their education. Through Indigenization, students are able to connect with the curriculum, thereby creating social and academic success, as well as the development of better educational pathways.

“Indigenous knowledge is now seen as an educational remedy that will empower Aboriginal students if applications of their Indigenous knowledge, heritage, and language are integrated into the Canadian educational system” (Battiste, 2002). Current literature suggests that through Indigenizing education, students are able to strengthen their relationship to each other and their communities. Indigenous students have suggested they do not feel like they are alone and completely different because of the introduction of shared experiences in school-based settings.

What are the social issues (or potential social issues) at hand? … Why are these issues important? … For whom are they important? … How do you know these things? …

According to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal peoples (RCAP) in 1996, “the quality of education Aboriginal students received in provincial and territorial schools depends on the willingness to create a supportive environment for them” (RCAP, 1996). Moreover, research suggests that in order to support Indigenous educational accomplishment, the teachers working with Indigenous students need knowledge of Indigenous peoples, including linguistic and cultural competency, as well as respect for Indigenous worldviews (Battiste, 1997).

Federal bureaucrats in charge of First Nation schools have labelled Indigenous education as a ‘non-system’ because Indigenous students are being so ill-served. Former Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennet stated "many communities lack the educational systems and structures required to close the educational outcome gap." In 2012, the Council of Ministers of Education released a report stating that there are several barriers to Indigenous student success in Canada including the legacy of residential schools, racism, social disadvantage, poor mental health, and the low school engagement.

Canada is home to some of the world’s top educational institutions, priding itself in its well-funded system with consistently high standards. It needs to be researched why then, Indigenous communities find themselves with consistently low grades and low standards for Indigenous students – and why this is acceptable. This research will attempt to provide evidence and information as to why Indigenizing education is able to further the educational experience and performance of Indigenous students.

Furthermore, this study matters because it is unequitable, unjust, and unbelievable that in 2020, Indigenous communities still face living conditions and structures which Canada at large does not. It is a form of systemic racism to provide Indigenous communities with lesser-than education, from a country who continuously ranks high in the world. Education is critical to improving social and economic strength. By not providing adequate education, Indigenous people continue to remain lesser-than in society, and not be able to improve their communities to a level experienced by other Canadians. Education improves prospects and reduces poverty, which can benefit the hundreds of marginalized Indigenous communities. Moreover, in not involving the Indigenous communities in determining the kind of education it’s children receive, we are continuing the detrimental cycle of eliminating Indigenous voice and culture. This study matters because Indigenous education matters, and Indigenous education begins with Indigenizing curriculum.

We all live on Indigenous lands. Most of this land is unceded, and stolen by settler governments. Out of respect, we must come to know and understanding Indigenous culture which begins by learning about local cultures and languages.

What is the question (or set of questions) you intend to explore in your paper? … Why is it important that this question (or set of questions) gets addressed? …

I intend to explore the following questions:

· What is Indigenizing education?

· What does Indigenizing education look like at the school-age level?

· How can teachers be better trained on Indigenizing education?

· How do Indigenous students engage more in school with Indigenized curriculum?

· How is the performance of Indigenous students impacted when Indigenized curriculum is implemented?

I believe that these questions are important because they link the scope of the research (Indigenizing education) to the purpose of the research (performance of Indigenous students). The questions are sequential, allowing for a better breakdown of research, and allow the reader of the research to understand the purpose and importance of Indigenizing education through a step-by-step process.

These questions are important because there are real achievement gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in Canada. New programs and initatives to improve educational outcomes continue to be implemented, but Indigenizing education allows for a real connection and educational development for Indigenous students. Students are more likely to understand the topic at hand when they are learning through their own developed schema. Moreover, understanding the importance and outcomes of Indigenizing education enables Indigenous students to feel capable furthering their education and thereby improving the socio-economic status of their communities.


Antoine, Asma-na-hi, Rachel Mason, Roberta Mason, Sophia Palahicky, and Carmen Rodriguez de Fance. Pulling Together: A guide for Indigenization of Post-Secondary Institutions.

Battiste, m. (Ed.) (2009). Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Battiste, M. (2002). Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy in First Nations education: A literature review with recommendations. National Working Group on Education and the Minister of Indian Affairs. Ottawa, ON: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Curwen Doige, L.A. (2003). A missing link: Between traditional Aboriginal education and the Western system of education. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 27(2), 144-160.

Kitchen, Julian & Raynor, Marg. (2013). INDIGENIZING TEACHER EDUCATION: AN ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT. 14. 40-58.

Royal Comission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996). Report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples: Volume 3. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada.

St. Denis, V (2007). Aboriginal education and anti-racist education: Building alliances across cultural and racial identity. Canadian Journal of Education, 30(4), 1068-1092.

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