I recently applied for and was selected for a time release position to support Indigenization efforts in the School of Business at KPU. I applied for the position as a non-indigenous ally with a precondition: If there was an applicant with an Indigenous background, or someone with more experience, I would respectfully withdraw my application. Unfortunately there was not an Indigenous applicant for the position (a sign of the work ahead).
In taking on this work, I'm offering myself as a settler helper - an intermediary who can collect and coordinate information and planning that is led, inspired and informed by the Kwantlen, Musqueam, Katzie, Semiahmoo, Tsawwassen, Qayqayt and Kwikwetlem peoples whose unceded territories we work, study and live in ("Territorial Acknowledgement," n.d.). My work is guided by the maxim "Nothing about us, without us." This means building relationships with Indigenous nations, taking guidance, and working from scratch on means of Indigenizing not only our curriculum and teaching, but our institutional culture and operations as well.
I am mindful that Indigenization is a process of institutional decolonization, and that decolonization is a distinct and sovereign project, different from other human rights and civil rights-based social justice projects (Tuck & Yang, 2012). Tuck and Yang offer a clear and critical reminder to maintain the integrity of decolonization (and by extension Indigenization efforts):
Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools. The easy adoption of decolonizing discourse by educational advocacy and scholarship, evidenced by the increasing number of calls to "decolonize our schools," or use "decolonizing methods," or "decolonize student thinking," turns decolonization into a metaphor." (2012, p. 1).
Guided by this reminder, as well as scholarship on restitution and reconciliation by Indigenous scholars like Dr. Taiaiake Alfred, I hope to contribute to meaningful Indigenization efforts in the School of Business that advance true decolonization, restitution and perhaps following those prerequisites, reconciliation.
This is work I am privileged to be doing. I know I will learn a great deal, and I am humbled by the generosity of the Indigenous elders I have already begun speaking with.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University. (n.d.). Territorial Acknowledgement. Retrieved from: http://www.kpu.ca/about/territorial-acknowledgement
Tuck, E. & Yang, K. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1 (1), 1-40.