Curriculum Indigenization initiatives
Indigenous Studies Degree Minor
Conestoga is developing a degree minor in Indigenous Studies to provide a combination of critical competencies on the resurgence of Indigenous knowledge and traditional land-based practices in North America, with a specific focus on the region of Southwestern Ontario. This minor will introduce Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to the field of Indigenous studies and will enable learners to interact appropriately and respectfully with Indigenous communities as well as be able to identify key cultural competencies.
Diploma and degree electives
Diploma and degree electives cover a wide breadth of topics and offer a variety of options that include Indigenous-focused courses. Examples include: Indigenous Studies: The North American Journey, Anishinaabe 13 Moons: Awakening the Spiral, and First Nations Experience.
Indigenous upgrading programming
The college will build relationships with local Indigenous bands for on-campus and on-reserve pre-General Arts and Science (pre-GAS) programming to help Indigenous students qualify for post-secondary studies. The college’s current Indigenous student population is disproportionately lower than the growing urban Indigenous population in the surrounding area. Offering pre-GAS programming at the college in the context of the previously mentioned Indigenization projects creates a more welcoming learning environment for mature Indigenous students. Delivering pre-GAS programming in Indigenous communities (e.g. on-reserve program delivery) increases the possibility of higher retention and persistence rates.
Indigenous childcare centre – Brantford campus
In partnership with Six Nations/New Credit, Conestoga operates an Indigenous, licensed childcare centre at the Brantford campus. This childcare centre complements the 2-year Early Childhood Education (ECE) program delivered at the campus, and allows college students the opportunity to observe and participate in a culturally sensitive Indigenous early years curriculum.
ECE Professional Resource Centre – Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiative
Located at the Doon campus, the ECE Professional Resource Centre is engaging in a strategic initiative to support Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) across Waterloo Region’s early years sector through professional development and learning.
This initiative begins with the creation of a video that focuses on building awareness of Indigeneity in the early years sector. Through consultation with, and active participation of the local Indigenous community, the video will invite educators to increase their understanding of Indigenous peoples in Canada and the impact on their sector.
The initiative includes a study of five children’s books written by Indigenous authors and facilitated by local Indigenous Elders and educators. Early childhood educators will be invited to study groups where they will read these books, and with the help of Indigenous facilitators, learn more about the symbols represented in them to connect with the true meanings of the stories. This initiative will also include the delivery of the books to every child care centre in the Waterloo Region.
The Indigenous knowledge keepers offering the courses include community members and leaders from diverse Indigenous backgrounds.
- Awareness of Indigenous Values, Identity and Spirit: This introductory, six course series specifically developed for teachers invites them to draw connections between their teaching practice and the core teachings of first nations. All courses are led by two Indigenous knowledge keepers. Learners will consider the pedagogical impact and relevance of key topics such as Wampum Belt teachings, creation beliefs, traditional medicines, Confederation & The Indian Act, residential schools and contemporary Indigenous life.
- Faculty are offered opportunities for Indigenous learning via mirco-credential courses in Awareness of Indigenous Values, Identity, and Spirit and Decolonizing Learning and Amplifying Indigenous Perspectives.
Land-based learning & revitalization
Indigenous Teaching Garden
Conestoga’s Indigenous Studies program and Be-Dah-Bin Gamik have collaborated to develop the Indigenous Studies Teaching Garden at the Kitchener - Doon campus. Support for the project is provided, in part, by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through the College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF). The garden serves as a living classroom to help build cross-cultural relationships and a deeper understanding of Indigenous land-based practices and knowledge.
The initiative is part of a larger project at Conestoga focused on the revitalization of land, language and culture through the mobilization and dissemination of Indigenous knowledge. Supported through the CCSIF, Conestoga is collaborating with a network of local organizations on a range of initiatives designed to build knowledge and understanding of Indigenous cultures and practices and provide opportunities for community participation and engagement.
The garden covers an area close to 4,000 square feet and is shaped to resemble a medicine wheel with three concentric circles and a lodge made from maple and willow saplings in the centre. Planting began in May 2021 to include sacred medicines and local Indigenous foods, such as tobacco, sweetgrass, corn, bush beans and squash. The garden also includes non-local Indigenous foods, like Peruvian purple potatoes, to help draw connections between food systems and trade networks.
Plans for the project include relationship building and knowledge exchange with Elders, workshops and the development of online resources. The garden will serve as an integral piece, having practical and tangible impacts on the community through seed-saving workshops, traditional food preparation demonstrations and donations of produce to the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank.
The Indigenous Studies Teaching Garden is supported in part by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.