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Towards the Indigenization of Concordia

by Mina Mazumder April 9, 2019
Towards the Indigenization of Concordia

Indigenous Directions Leadership Group discusses the future of Indigenization at Concordia

Concordia’s Indigenous Directions Leadership Group launched its action plan last Thursday, which includes governance changes, student recruitment, Indigenous knowledge and pedagogical changes.

The plan is based on consultations done in the last year with Indigenous students, faculty and staff about changes needed for more Indigenization on campus.

“I would [like to] see a point where all students who graduate from Concordia will have some Indigenous knowledge and experience as part of their education journey,” said William Lindsay, senior director of Indigenous Directions at Concordia. Indigenous people “are starting to feel comfortable here, but plans like these go a long way to helping the university change for the better too.”

Although the plan was scheduled to be released last fall, Lindsay said additional consultations were required to create a more accurate representation of the university’s needs. After drafting the plan, the Indigenous Directions Leadership Group presented it to various faculty and staff members including the president, dean of students, members of senate and chairs from multiple departments to have it approved and launched.

According to the action plan, the administration plans to facilitate students’ self-identification as Inuit, First Nations, Métis or part of an international Indigenous community on their admissions applications by summer 2019. In addition, they hope to increase the number of scholarships for Indigenous students by fall 2019.

Through the development of an Indigenous GradProSkills course by fall 2020, the plan wants to encourage Indigenous graduate students to become faculty members. The report also outlines plans to develop a policy regarding the use of Indigenous languages and terms in both internal and external communications at the university-level.

Heather Igloliorte, the special advisor to the provost on advancing Indigenous knowledge, said the consultation review focuses on achieving short-term goals and what is expected in the next three years. “It’s an ambitious plan, but it is achievable, because it is all steps that will set us up for future actions,” she said.

Concordia being the only university in Quebec with a First Peoples studies program, Lindsay said this new plan aims to further the work that has already been done. “The documents introduce people to traditional and modern knowledge about Indigenous people,” he said. “It is created by Indigenous people.”

Concordia is the leading university in Quebec working towards becoming a more Indigenous-inclusive institution, according to Lindsay. He hopes it will encourage other schools to implement a similar plan. “McGill is doing something similar, but I don’t think it is as comprehensive yet,” he said. Lindsay has done similar work during his time at Simon Fraser University.

Elder Charlie Patton of Kahnawake, said “this action plan is about getting the broader community around us to understand who we are.”

Patton said learning about Indigenous people starts with studying their culture and being grateful for the resources that nature has given us. “Our native people have something to offer when they talk about the earth, and that’s something that many people have forgotten.”

Igloliorte hopes to eventually see a graduate program for students who want to expand their knowledge beyond the undergraduate program.

With files from Ian Down.

Photo by Hannah Ewen.

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