The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) is launching a new research centre at the University of Toronto that's focused on Indigenous education.
The Indigenous Educational Research Centre will provide a space where Indigenous faculty and students can meet, work on Indigenous-specific research projects and engage in critical conversations about their work in a culturally aligned safe space.
“The Indigenous Educational Research Centre will support the Truth and Reconciliation Committee's Calls to Action on education by bringing together excellent researchers to lead, connect and collaborate on crucial research,” said Michele Peterson-Badali, OISE’s associate dean, research, international and innovation.
The centre has seven key objectives, according to Sandra Styres, an assistant professor in OISE’s department of curriculum, teaching and learning and is a Canada Research Chair in Iethi’nihstnha Ohwentsia’kkha (Land), Resurgence, Reconciliation and the Politics of Education:
- To advance the goals of Indigenous educational research in relevant and respectful ways
- To promote adherence to local place-specific protocols and ethics that guide the work in Indigenous and non-Indigenous educational research collaborations and the work with Indigenous communities
- To engage in knowledge production and dissemination of educational research in ways that foster respectful and reciprocal relations
- To develop and promote, through various types of events/workshops, appropriate and wise practices in the design and implementation of culturally appropriate educational research methods and theoretical concepts
- To provide a safe, supportive and fully resourced space for Indigenous students and faculty to advance their work
- To help build research capacity for emerging scholars in community-based Indigenous educational research contexts
- To offer opportunities for networking and building international educational research collaborations.
OISE writer Perry King recently spoke to Styres about the establishment of the new research hub, which begins its work this fall.
What is the goal of the Indigenous Educational Research Centre?
This Centre is an Indigenous-driven and Indigenous-led administrative structure within the department of curriculum, teaching and learning at OISE. It’s designed to foster Indigenous resurgence and strengthen an Indigenous presence in research practices, but more specifically within Indigenous educational research contexts. The centre will also better equip the university to help shape how institutions can go beyond token Indigenization and reconciliatory efforts.
There are three Indigenous ethics informing the vision for this centre: the ethics of Relationality, the ethics of Land and the ethics of Indigenous resurgence. The vision is to establish a research focus within OISE that connects Indigenous faculty and graduate students along with other scholars whose educational research interests align with the vision of the centre in collaborative, respectful and culturally appropriate ways in order to examine and explore the issues of pressing concern to Indigenous people and their communities. The vision and goals of the centre are not about any one individual – it’s about community, it’s about land and it’s about Indigenous resurgence.
Further, the vision seeks to to connect programming and research in ways that reflect Indigenous place-specific knowledges. Visioning around the ethos informing this centre is key to Indigenous resurgence. However, in her 2011 book Dancing on our turtle's back : stories of Nishnaabeg re-creation, resurgence and a new emergence, Leanne Simpson tells us that Indigenous resurgence cannot rely on vision in isolation from intentionalities. She writes that “vision must be coupled with intent: intent for transformation, intent for re-creation and intent for resurgence.”
Why was the centre created?
With the national spotlight on the reconciliation project and with education seen as a critical site for reconciliatory efforts and Indigenous resurgence, the centre was developed as a vital means to work toward resurgence and as an important response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action.
In Dancing on our turtle's back, Simpson writes that, “If it is truly time to talk ‘reconciliation,’ then how we reconcile is critically important.” To conceptualize Indigenous resurgence in the context of the centre I further draw upon the work of Leanne Simpson. She writes that the “process of resurgence” must be Indigenous-driven and Indigenous-led. Further, she writes that Indigenous resurgence is about “creating a space of storied presencing, alternative imaginings, transformation, [and] reclamation.”
In this way, Indigenous resurgence is an emergent construct that can be taken up in relation to place-specific educational research contexts. The centre is designed to foster Indigenous resurgence and strengthen an Indigenous presence in research practices, but more specifically within Indigenous educational research contexts.
What kind of work was undertaken to make the center a reality?
The development of the proposal for the centre involved multiple levels of consultation. I consulted internally and externally with relevant experts in the field. These consultations included faculties, departments, and various levels of administration, both within OISE and the greater University of Toronto, as well as the Indigenous community within and beyond OISE. Clare Brett, chair of the department of curriculum, teaching and learning, consulted with the chairs of all other OISE departments whose faculty may be associated with the centre.
Extensive consultations included meetings with the OISE Dean’s Advisory Council on Indigenous Education and the Indigenous Education Network (IEN). The IEN expressed keen interest in generating a strong collaborative relationship with the centre, particularly related to the mobilization of knowledge.
Within the greater University of Toronto, consultations included the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health. The OISE dean’s office also organized consultations with faculty and academic administrators from the Faculty of Arts & Science, the director of the Centre for Indigenous Studies and the provostial academic adviser on Indigenous curriculum and education, as well as with the director of the Jackman Humanities Institute.
External consultations were arranged with a few national and international scholars who are relevant external experts in the field of Indigenous educational research.
What kind of research do you see the centre undertaking?
The Indigenous Educational Research Centre has its roots in empirical research. The centre will act as a nexus for fostering Indigenous educational research both across OISE, in the wider non-academic community and in international scholarly contexts in several key ways. It will provide key space for Indigenous specific research across OISE where Indigenous faculty and students can meet, work on research projects and engage in critical conversations about their work in a culturally aligned safe space designed to foster Indigenous ethics of relationality.
How significant is it that a centre like this exists?
My recent research into the ways institutions have been taking up the TRC’s Calls to Action revealed a strong need for academic institutions to provide culturally specific, safe and protected spaces where Indigenous graduate students and faculty can find support to advance their work. As well, after participating in two TRC task forces and OISE’s academic planning committee, it became apparent that OISE, as a leading education institution, needed to take a leadership role in promoting and supporting Indigenous educational research.
The distinctiveness of the centre is its multi-disciplinary focus on self-determining, emergent and responsive Indigenous research environs – more specifically the ways it relates to education across broad contexts. This centre supports the ways Indigenous faculty and graduate students promote Indigenous educational research within the academy while furthering the institutional goals of reconciliation.
The centre provides a safe and supportive research environment linking Indigenous communities and the university. It serves to promote and support culturally aligned methodologies and theoretical approaches to Indigenous educational research.
It also seeks to establish and promote place specific ethics and protocols that guide the work in Indigenous and non-Indigenous research collaborations and the ways researchers work with Indigenous communities.