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  ‘Decolonizing Learning’ researchers and Elders hosted by Aurora College
Created: 2017 Sep 25

FORT SMITH, NT – Aurora College and Aurora Research Institute recently hosted an on-the-land gathering with Indigenous Elders and research partners from the University of Alberta, University of New Brunswick, University of Saskatchewan, University of Toronto, and Toronto District School Board at Kettle Point, Wood Buffalo National Park, near Fort Smith as part of their research project, Stories of Hope: Decolonizing Learning in Canada.

Stories of Hope: Decolonizing Learning in Canada is a two-year project, led by Aurora College and funded through a $240,000 Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Initiated by Principal Investigator Dave Porter, Director Thebacha Campus, and Sarah Rosolen, Manager, South Slave Research Center, this was the first research award Aurora College received from SSHRC after becoming eligible for funding in 2014. SSHRC is the federal agency that promotes and supports post-secondary research and research training in the humanities and social sciences.

Elders and academics gathered August 29-31 to share progress on their studies and activities documenting how decolonizing education is happening across the country. Current and proposed projects include: providing supports to teachers to incorporate Indigenous Learnings into revamped science curriculae; providing on-the-land learning opportunities for students; introducing traditional Indigenous ceremonies and cultural practices into mainstream classrooms; developing books and learning resources based on and inspired by Indigenous cultures, experiences, and knowledge; evaluating Residential School Awareness curriculum to ensure there was authentic engagement by survivors; offering Indigenous Art classes (that include visual and performing arts, music, storytelling) in mainstream high schools as an alternative to segmented Arts classes (i.e. music, drama, dance, visual arts, etc. as separate entities); as well as using Indigenous research and reporting techniques when undertaking academic research.

Currently, in all areas of Canada including the northern territories, there are significant gaps between the educational and employment success rates of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Many scholars and community leaders argue that decolonizing the education system has the potential to re-engage Indigenous youth in learning, and empower them to achieve greater success. Decolonizing education systems involves rethinking the way schooling is delivered, including the curriculum, methodologies, and relationships with communities.

Jane Arychuk, President of Aurora College, says the project is an excellent fit with Aurora College. “This project addresses current needs for educators in the NWT and across Canada to support educational opportunities for Indigenous learners. It will develop and strengthen decolonizing efforts within our instructional staff and create new knowledge that will support pre-service teachers. Not only will it guide our instruction as a whole as we further move towards decolonizing our programs, but these findings will enhance educational experiences for students from coast to coast to coast.”

The Partnership Development Grant which Aurora College received is given, in part, to design and test new collaborative approaches to research that may result in models that can be adapted by others, or that have the potential to be scaled up to a regional, national or international level. Aurora College is the only institution in the NWT eligible to apply for and receive SSHRC funding.

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