Researcher seeks ‘purposeful collaboration’ between Indigenous communities, higher ed

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s Calls to Action, post-secondary institutions have an important role to play in Indigenous knowledge recovery and mobilization, both as a site of research and in preparing future educators to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in their classrooms and curricula.

Rebecca Sockbeson, a professor of Educational Policy Studies in the Indigenous Peoples Education specialization, and her research team want to know how this aspect of reconciliation is being experienced in Indigenous communities, and how the values and knowledge held by these communities can inform how universities collaborate with them.

“Indigenous knowledge embedded in ceremony and language was prohibited and subjugated through the Indian Act 1876 and the Indian Residential School system, so Indigenous knowledge mobilization is a purposeful act of redress to make right those crimes. Indigenous knowledge recovery has been identified as one of the most foundational ways to reach redress and associated reconciliation, and address the myriad issues we have in our communities. Socio-economic distress, the need for healing—there’s an abundance of evidence telling us that Indigenous knowledge recovery is at the heart of addressing that,” Sockbeson said.

“We want to find out from Indigenous communities in a coordinated structured way, in an evidence-based way, what’s happening in your communities where you’re feeling the benefits of Indigenous knowledge recovery in higher education?”

Sockbeson will present a snapshot of this work at Open Minds 2020, an event comprising lightning talks by UAlberta scholars on research funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Educational Psychology professor Patricia Boechler is also part of the eight-speaker showcase, which takes place Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 4 p.m. in 2-115 Education North.

Coordinated Aboriginal community response

Sockbeson said her research with co-applicant Cora Weber-Pillwax, undertaken in partnership with the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and Maskwacis Cultural College, takes the form of a coordinated Aboriginal community response (CACR), which solicits community perspectives on how higher education is advancing reconciliation. The CACR would then inform a policy framework offered to post-secondary institutions to adopt into governance.

“Different departments and faculties across the university want to know how to honour Indigenous knowledge, so a policy framework would offer some principles and guidelines for engagement that would be conducive to Indigenous knowledge recovery for the benefit of Indigenous peoples,” Sockbeson said.

“One of the objectives is to strengthen the U of A’s reputation and integrity and our commitment to uplifting the people, and to be really purposeful in that collaboration.”

Sockbeson added that such a policy framework will serve both the institution and students in creating a space for Indigenous knowledge recovery for the benefit of their respective Indigenous communities.

“Indigenous students who come here bring their communities with them. I want all students who come here to know they don’t have to leave their communities and associated ways of knowing and being at the door, that they can come here and in equitable ways are able to engage in their own knowledge systems as their non-Indigenous peers have,” she said.

Open Minds 2020 takes place Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 4 p.m. in 2-115 Education North, with a reception to follow. All are welcome; register here.