Calls to Action and Markers
We have put forward a framework of commitments with principles and calls to action that colleges and units will need to interpret and build into their own strategic and operational plans.
The markers associated with each commitment indicate the change we expect to see.
Our strategy is grounded in seven fundamental commitments—interdependent, mutually reinforcing, interconnected in time and space. These commitments reflect important concepts to Indigenous peoples, our ways of knowing and being. These commitments are central to the wholeness of Indigenous self-determination:
“Nothing about us, without us” as an antidote to exclusion.
Indigenous inclusion and voices are key to matters that relate to Indigenous peoples.
Belonging as a healing practice.
Creating a sense of belonging is to communicate and demonstrate appreciation and value, and to build relationships that are restorative, reciprocal and caring.
Allyship as a demonstration of humility.
Allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships that are based on trust, compassion, and respect. It is grounded in action, in commitment, and in enduring leadership. It is not paternalistic or tokenistic. Allies actively engage in and advocate for decolonization; they take the lead from Indigenous peoples.
Settler colonialism brought with it historic violence, racism, and a significant impact on the safety and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples. Racism and oppression still exist— both within our communities and beyond. It is evident in the overt or covert actions (e.g., microaggressions) and words of people, and evident in the policies that determine how we interact with each other.
On their website, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission notes: “[Racism] attacks an individual’s dignity. It is demeaning and debilitating. Having to live and work in an environment of overt or covert discrimination can cause victims to suffer a range of physical and mental health problems. Racism is hurtful behaviour that can scar people for life”. Racism and oppression inhibit meaningful learning and relationships between people, undermine belonging, and challenge the journey of self-determination for Indigenous peoples.
CALLS TO ACTION
- Promoting system-wide learning for students, staff, faculty and leaders focused on embedding principles of anti-racism and anti-oppression across the University/community (e.g., through curricula, educational resources, anti-racism campaigns, cultural awareness, and unconscious bias training that is developed with and approved by Indigenous peoples).
- Developing and implementing systems (e.g., organizational models and frameworks, clear policies, procedures and practices) to confront and address racism and discrimination, and to do so in a safe, protective and constructive manner.
- Establishing standards (e.g., annual performance review measures) and support systems (e.g., wellness networks) that address the unique complexities of providing anti-racism and anti-oppression education.
- Creating and/or facilitating access to support services (e.g., Indigenous Ombudsman, Indigenous counselors, ‘caring’ and protective processes of disclosure) and safe spaces for Indigenous students, staff, faculty and leaders who have faced or are facing racism and discrimination.
- Creating mechanisms, processes, systems, and external partnerships to support Indigenous faculty in the identification of barriers and/or racism (e.g., by creating an Indigenous Observer role to represent faculty rights).
- A deep understanding of the challenging realities experienced by many Indigenous peoples as a result of discriminatory laws and policies by non-Indigenous peoples on campus.
- Growth in the relevance, breadth and number of student/staff/faculty support services focused on addressing racism and oppression.
- Increase in the number of educational/training resources and opportunities focused on racism and oppression.
- Increase in the number of allies—people that are supported by an Indigenous student, staff, faculty member and/or leader for demonstrated allyship.
- Greater comfort and confidence in the ability to report incidents of racism and oppression against Indigenous peoples.
- Increase in the number of policies and practices that are congruent with Universities Canada and the University of Saskatchewan’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) principles.
Wholistic wellness as self-determination.
For Indigenous peoples, wellness embodies intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual health; wholistic balance leads to strong expressions of and impact on political, economic, social and cultural determination.
Today, the University of Saskatchewan has the privilege of learning from Indigenous leaders, faculty, staff and students. As of March 31, 2021, we had 50 Indigenous scholars and instructors, and 157 Indigenous staff/administrative support.3 Indigenous students continue to grace the University’s campus. In the 2020/2021 academic year we had 3,466 Indigenous students enrolled at USask.4
With a growing Indigenous population at USask, what do we know about the current realities of Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan, realities that would directly affect learning, teaching, experiences, and overall wellness of Indigenous peoples on campus? Do our systems and policies support Indigenous health and wellness practices that are culturally specific? For many Indigenous peoples, wellness embodies intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual care, and this balance will lead to forms of self-determination.
3. The University recognizes Indigenous people as those who self-identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit. All data gathered on Indigenous representation is based on voluntary self-declaration, which can be completed any time post-hire. It is important to note that USask’s workforce may have better representation than the statistics indicate.
4. Preliminary 2020/21 Academic Year.
CALLS TO ACTION
- Developing culturally appropriate/sensitive health and wellness resources and supports for Indigenous students, staff, faculty and leaders (i.e., access to Indigenous counselors, physicians, therapists, as well as traditional Indigenous approaches and the establishment of an Indigenous Wellness Team).
- Facilitating knowledge of and access to broader wholistic wellness resources and supports for Indigenous students, staff, faculty and leaders (e.g., partnering with the City of Saskatoon to familiarize individuals to the campus and city—childcare, counseling services, housing, recreation, transportation, financial resources and supports).
- Implementation of culturally sensitive and appropriate retention, induction, orientation, and mentorship experiences for Indigenous students, staff, faculty and leaders that are responsive to their unique experiences.
- Ensuring that Indigenous faculty members have opportunities to network, gather, and learn together and have access to Indigenous mentors and advocates.
- Greater integration of and access to diverse, culturally relevant, and alternative health and wellness resources and supports across the University.
- Improvement in the experiences and efficacy of new Indigenous students, staff, faculty and leaders—experiences that foster a strong sense of belonging.
- Collective Agreements that are inclusive of Indigenous peoples’ traditional forms of health and wellness.
- Increase in the number of Indigenous mentors for Indigenous faculty.
Ceremony as sanctification.
Ceremony evokes a spiritual connection to the Creator, humanity (past, present and future), all creation and cosmos—to All my Relations. Appropriate protocols are carefully and mindfully practiced with great humility and respect.
Land as first teacher.
Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing come directly from the time immemorial relationship with the first teacher—the land. Cultural philosophies, traditions, practices and languages are a reflection of this intimate relationship.
Language as expression of life.
Indigenous languages are action-oriented, they are fluid, and they capture the inextricable, interconnected relationship with the land— the source of all life.
Indigenous peoples—Métis, First Nations, and Inuit—on Turtle Island and its unique ecosystems and territories are diverse and rich in knowledges that are reflected in cultures, languages, traditions, protocols, practices, and histories that have evolved over thousands of years, primarily reflected by the relationship with the land and specific ecosystems that constituted territories. According to the 2016 Statistics Canada census, the Indigenous population is growing—1,673,785 peoples, representing 4.9% of the overall Canadian population and 16% of Saskatchewan’s population.
Tremendous diversity exists across Métis, First Nation, and Inuit peoples, and this is captured within and unfolds through our languages. There are over 60 distinct Indigenous languages across Canada that fall within 12 language families. In Saskatchewan, the languages that are predominately evident are Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Swampy Cree, Dene, Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, Saulteaux, and Michif.
CALLS TO ACTION
- Embracing diversity through the approaches used to offer teachings on Indigenous cultures, languages and protocols (e.g., integrating practices in kinesthetic, multi-sensory, experiential teaching of Saskatchewan’s primary Indigenous languages; utilizing teachers who are fluent in these languages; teaching land-and place-based education physically out on the land and certifying students on the land).
- Establishing a Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Languages and Cultures, which will be a repository of Indigenous stories and languages and a space for Indigenous cultural and protocol learning and practice, and a space for gatherings connected to Indigenous teaching and research.
- Strengthening the integration of meaningful, Indigenous-led and developed content into University courses across programs, departments and colleges (e.g., on Indigenous laws about land).
- Establishing a dedicated multi-disciplinary degree program in Indigenous Sovereignty, Treaty and Inherent Rights.
- Supporting opportunities for multi-sensory and experiential education across the University and broader community (e.g., accredited land- and place-based learning; advocacy for Mother Earth; Indigenous oracy and storytelling approaches).
- Promoting capacity-building, skill and knowledge development in Indigenous histories and contemporary realities (challenges and successes) for non-Indigenous educators and leaders.
- Continuing to engage in processes that promote respect and reciprocity in partnerships and agreements (e.g., MOUs, research, program engagement and development) with Indigenous communities.
- Growth in the number of Indigenous policies, programs, curricula and initiatives that focus on strengthening and implementing Indigenous cultures, languages and protocols across campus.
- Increase in the number of public presentations, performances and experiential cultural and language learning opportunities promoting Indigenous histories, traditions, and knowledges—Indigenous ways of being, doing, and knowing.
- Growth in the breadth and number of training/educational opportunities incorporating Indigenous cultures, languages, traditions, protocols, practices, and histories.
- Growth in the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars fluent (or knowledgeable) in Indigenous languages, cultures and traditions.
- Growth in the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous student graduates across all subjects/programs with an appreciation for, and understanding of, Indigenous histories and current Indigenous realities in Canada (‘growth attributes’ and competencies).
- Increase in the number of partnerships and agreements with Indigenous communities.
Indigenous presence as validation.
Indigenous presence in all our spaces and places enriches and strengthens the USask community as a whole. Indigenous peoples will validate Indigenous strategies, programming, curricula, policies, and initiatives through their words and actions of affirmation.
Teaching and learning as “coming to know”.
In many Indigenous languages, there is no word for schooling, and education is translated into ‘coming to know’. Coming to know is boundaryless, lifelong learning; it is fluid, active, and elicits heightened awareness and interaction with self and surroundings.
Art and architecture as symbols of respecting and honouring seven generations.
Time is not linear, but circular, a spiral in fluid motion where the past, present and future are in a dynamic relationship within each moment. We learn from our ancestors, from stories and patterns seven generations into our past, so we understand our current reality and can plan for seven generations into the future. We honour All My Relations through expressions, including and beyond the written word.
Indigenous ceremonies as community and identity/ spirit builders.
Ceremony draws people together for reverent occasions and evokes the questions: Who am I/we? Where do I/we come from? Where am/are I/we going? What are my/our responsibilities? Ceremony asks all to be ‘sanctified kindness’. Increasing spaces for ceremony elevates USask to valuing the multifaceted journeys that students, staff, faculty and leaders bring to its spaces and places.
Indigenous peoples have ways of being, knowing and doing that have been expressed in methodologies, pedagogies, stories, protocols, ceremonies, art, and architecture for thousands of years. Throughout kisiskâciwan (Saskatchewan), the vibrancy of the complexity, sophistication, intellect and thought—beauty—can be learned through respectful inquiry, seeking, and protocols. By being open to discovery, dreaming, designing and a destiny (appreciative inquiry) that is meaningfully inclusive of Indigenous peoples, new learning and appreciation will be gained. What will one find?
- A place called Wanuskewin, where Indigenous peoples have visited for more than 6,000 years to gather food, strengthen social bonds, and practice ceremony.
- A medicine wheel near Moose Mountain that is 2,000+ years old; these sites signify a deep understanding of the earth-sky relationship.
- A pictograph (rock art) documenting significant points in history, which can be found in northern Saskatchewan.
- Ancient and current sweat lodge frames dot the land, indicating the importance of wholistic, spiritual balance.
- Teachings that embody ‘all my relations’.
CALLS TO ACTION
- Championing respectful practices that support the participation of Indigenous students, staff and faculty in traditional ceremonies.
- Promoting Indigenous storytelling and celebrating the success of Indigenous peoples through respectful dedications, remembrances and events across the University and broader community (e.g., art/ architecture, imagery, naming of landmarks, streets, buildings and facilities, ceremonial spaces that pay homage to the land).
- Creating new Indigenous spaces for gatherings across the University and broader community (e.g., covered outdoor smudging bowl, sweat lodge, tipi ground).
- Allocating space and financial support to embedding local Indigenous artistry and cultural expressions across University spaces (e.g., dedicated funding envelope for the purchases of Indigenous art).
- Implementing focused efforts to recruit and retain Indigenous students, staff, faculty and leaders (including those who are known for their expertise of the land).
- Acknowledging the role of Indigenous faculty members’ research, body of work, and global reputation in benefiting the University in multiple and diverse ways (e.g., attracting Indigenous faculty, staff, and students).
- Increase in the number of physical spaces that recognize Indigenous peoples, cultures and practices, demonstrating an interconnected and respectful community.
- Success in attracting and retaining Indigenous students, staff, faculty and leaders.
- Increase in the number of Indigenous leadership positions across the University.
Respectful, reciprocal relationships as restoring, renewing, rejuvenating and (re)conciliating.
Healthy relationships are the foundation of all creation—they move individuals and organizations from simply surviving to thriving. We are encouraged to embrace manācihitowin, to strengthen the bonds of respect, trust and shared benefit. This is done by creating dynamic, inclusive spaces that encourage ethical relationality.
Active and respectful communication with Indigenous peoples (on- and off-campus) as bridge- and Nation-building.
Quality, active and respectful, communication is a force that can connect, nurture, inspire, motivate, and heal. It can build bridges between people from diverse and disparate worldviews, bridges that can be pathways to stronger communities.
Research as sacred.
Indigenous peoples have engaged in forms of research since time immemorial. Research begins with humility and respectful relationships, then engaging appropriate protocols, active listening and astute observation, oracy and storytelling. The sacredness and tremendous responsibility embedded in research is ever present.
Systemic and structural transformation as valuing and uplifting Indigenous knowledges.
Creating innovative and bold solutions to barriers experienced by Indigenous peoples through radical systems and structural change demonstrates to Indigenous peoples a deep commitment.
Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island have always had complex forms of governance, social organizations, and economic systems, which were focused on sustainability. Treaties and trade agreements were secured between Indigenous peoples across this land. Large gatherings of diverse Indigenous populations formed for economic, social, entertainment, and ceremonial purposes. The spirit of these systems—the inspiring, exciting, masterful oration, dynamic negotiations, and sophisticated political interactions—are alive today. These forms of partnerships and engagement practices have been challenged by colonial laws and mindsets that sought to dismiss, overpower, assimilate, and annihilate them, but they remain—providing insight into democracy, sustainability, and ‘right relations’.
Michael Coyle and Anishinaabe legal scholar John Borrows (2017) state that a question has to be asked and “tackled” in order to reconcile Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships—“what is the right relationship…?” (p. 3). Coyle and Borrows look to the Treaty making process as a framework of relation - ships based on right relations, as “the real importance of treaties was the relationship to which both sides had agreed” (p. 3). This strategy asks each one of us: what are we agreeing to?
Cree scholar Willie Ermine encourages Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to lean into ethical spaces, which are ripe with creative possibility, if people agree to respectfully work together towards a common goal. nīkānītān manācihitowinihk (Cree), ni manachīhitoonaan (Michif), let us lead with respect (English).
CALLS TO ACTION
- Committing to uplifting relationships through an engaging framework based on Right Relations and an active commitment to earn and nurture trust and faith in relationships, with Indigenous peoples, across the University.
- Adapting institutional protocols and foundational documents (e.g., those related to job promotion, academic tenureship) to recognize and reward work, service and merit that go beyond conventional job expectations and profiles (e.g., community and advocacy work).
- Establishing standards and guidelines for research ethics and intellectual properties that integrate Indigenous ways of knowing and research beyond OCAP® 5 and TCPS 2—Chapter 96.
- Enabling the inclusion and engagement of kēhtēayak (Elders) and Knowledge Keepers in research studies (e.g., community-based/led and methodological research) through institutional policies and practices (student kēhtēayak (Elders) ambassadors, increased kēhtēayak (Elders) parking near doors); being cognizant that academics and researchers can work with kēhtēayak (Elders) and Knowledge Keepers, but that their knowledge needs to be earned.
- Instituting mechanisms that will provide an open, transparent and welcoming bridge for Indigenous peoples into the University’s ecosystem (e.g., single point of access for information such as an integrated website).
- Developing policies and processes to support and empower Indigenous membership and citizenship verification (e.g., when applying to programs, or for scholarships) as well as monitor access to confidential information by relevant groups.
- Investing in short- and long-term resourcing (i.e., core support vs. soft financial commitments) to support Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation initiatives.
- Ensuring that proper protocol training is a part of all research involving Indigenous peoples; respecting that traditional ceremony may be a part of the Indigenous research process.
- Increase in the number of Métis, First Nations, and Inuit agreements driven by Indigenous communities.
- Decolonized systems and structures—including those related to job promotion, academic tenure, and the recognition of work, service and merit—that support and recognize Indigenization, reconciliation, and Indigenous knowledges and scholarship.
- Increase in the integration of Indigenous content on traditional (e.g., print, film, television) and digital media.
- Increase in resource support (e.g., financial, accounting) and visible acts of appreciation towards Indigenous cultures, learnings, practices and protocols.
- Increase in the number of research studies respectfully conducted and published in collaboration with kēhtēayak (Elders) and Traditional Knowledge Keepers.
- Update approval processes to enable self-identified Indigenous students to choose to have their Indigenous identification information shared across campus (engage and communicate with Indigenous student groups more frequently).
5 Ownership, control, access, and possession.
6 Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada
Creativity as life giving.
Ethical spaces are ripe with creative possibility—possibilities become endless when people respectfully work together towards common goals. Creativity, the gatekeeper to innovation, is animate and spirit. Through nihtāwihcikēwin (Cree), nihtaooshchikaywin (Michif), creativity explores, pushes boundaries, and is brought to life by synergies, multisensory, multi-reality experiences; it invites individuals to courageously participate in a collective journey to new and unfamiliar lands, spaces and places, uncovering and proclaiming truths that will enrich life—and for Indigenous peoples today, survivance.
Wise Practices as affirmation.
The creative spirit leads to wise practices that recognize and uplift the wisdom that resides in Indigenous communities. Wise practices affirm Indigenous cultures, traditions and stories.
Tewa Pueblo scholar Dr. Gregory Cajete teaches that “Native Science is a reflection of creative participation, a dance with chaos and her child, the creative spirit” (1999, p. 19). Creativity is animate. The University Plan 2025 recognizes creativity as a principle—nihtāwihcikēwin (Cree), nihtaooshchikaywin (Michif). The plan reads, “At its core, our University is a creative organism. The principle of creativity testifies that we are curious about the unexplored possibilities for growth, enrichment, and justice around us; attentive to the needs and opportunities for change that inspire imagination and invention; and intentional about the future to which we aspire to contribute.
The creative spirit is experiential; it invites participation in individual and collective journeys to discover truth and seek balance within the chaotic dynamism of the universe. nihtāwihcikēwin / nihtaooshchikaywin requires both discipline and optimism—knowing that our efforts can bring to fruition the possibilities we envision for learning and discovery.” Working with the Creative spirit should engage wise practices. Cree thought-leader Brian Calliou explains that “wise practices recognize the wisdom in each Indigenous community and their own stories of achieving success. It recognizes that culture [and identity] matters”7. Where does our wisdom lie? How are we acknowledging, celebrating, resourcing work that is ‘done in a good way’?
CALLS TO ACTION
- Continued support for wise practices (e.g., Graduation Powwow, Indigenous programming [e.g., ITEP, SUNTEP, wîcêhtowin], Aboriginal Student Centre, Sharing Circles, Indigenous advisors, staff, faculty and leaders).
- Ongoing creative, innovative, culturally responsive forms of programming and evaluation for Indigenous students, staff, faculty and leaders.
- Adapting existing or creating new financial mechanisms to recognize and reward Indigenous research, scholarship and unique forms of engagement and dissemination by departments, colleges and units (e.g., adjusting the transparent, activity-based budget system [TABBS] model to include an Indigenization bin).
- The University of Saskatchewan is recognized by Indigenous students, faculty, staff and leaders at USask and other universities globally as an organization that shifts or changes age-old systems and structures to be responsive and strengthened by Indigenous knowledges through the weave metaphor.
- Increase in the number of Indigenous storytelling about activities and accomplishments across varied platforms (e.g., event presentations, print, digital).
- Implementation of University standards that are respectful of Indigenous knowledges, languages and scholarship.
Indigenous youth as our strength, our hope, our future.
Indigenous peoples recognize that our youth are humanity’s most sacred gift, so we collectively work to nurture and support them—see each child as our own— by actively listening, being keenly aware, and astutely observing and responding to their verbal and non-verbal communication. What are their stories? What are their destinies? Our youth hold the future in their hands, they are a promise to those children not yet born seven generations into the future. Our hope is that they walk past us to deeper forms of self-determination. What is good for Indigenous youth is good for all!
In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that the average age of the Indigenous population in Saskatchewan was 28.2 years, while the non-Indigenous population was 40.6 years. At present, Indigenous children aged 14 and under represent 33% of the total Indigenous population, while for the non-Indigenous population it is 17.4%. The Indigenous population is youthful and abundant. USask has an opportunity to nurture the development of this significant and important population, even before they enter post-secondary education. As our Indigenous youth transition to post-secondary students, there are continued opportunities to strengthen the integration, involvement and success of our future generations across the University community.
CALLS TO ACTION
- Cultivating leadership experiences for Indigenous students and youth by developing and strengthening mentorship programming for Indigenous students on- and off-campus (e.g., in-person and virtual peer-mentorship for Indigenous students; College prep institutions and University mentorship programs for Indigenous high school students).
- Evaluating and adjusting institutional programs, policies and curricula (where appropriate) to be responsive, current and innovative for Indigenous students (e.g., elimination of registration fees, e-learning).
- Creating an environment for Indigenous students and youth to learn while retaining (or reconnecting with) their cultural identity through land- and place-based learning and interactions with kēhtēayak (Elders), such as student kēhtēayak (Elders) ambassadors.
- Examining, improving and evaluating systems of accessibility and pathways for post-secondary entrance for Indigenous youth.
- Growth in Indigenous student enrollment, retention, and graduation across diverse departments/ colleges at the University.
- Growth in the number of overall student applications to the University.
- Growth in Indigenous student enrolment and retention in graduate, postgraduate and professional programs.
- Growth in membership of the Indigenous Student Council.
- Growth in the number of partnerships/collaborations established between the Indigenous Student Council and other student bodies.
Everyone who is here [at the University] has a responsibility to learn [about Indigenization], and they have a responsibility to use this knowledge. [NonIndigenous people] put a big weight on our shoulders as Indigenous people to teach… [the] Indigenization movement is often placed on our shoulders as Indigenous people, but that’s not ours to carry.
- Faculty and Staff Forum, January 31st, 2019