Indigenous ways of knowing and the academy: Part 2 of 2

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Vendredi 28 avril 2017

Guest blog by Aaron Franks, Mitacs-SSHRC Visiting Fellow in Indigenous Research and Reconciliation

Read Indigenous ways of knowing and the academy: Part 1 of 2

On April 26 I published a guest post on this Federation blog on Indigenous ways of knowing and the academy. Here I want to share more details of a specific gathering at Congress 2017 that will be hosted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) (May 30 – check the program!) which SSHRC hopes will help strengthen the autonomy and standing of diverse Indigenous knowledge systems in the contemporary academy.  

Many of you reading will recognize that this effort, like so much about relationships with Indigenous peoples in these territories, is long overdue. And leaders in our national knowledge communities (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) who have been tasked with advising on ways forward have become more emphatic about addressing the profound damage done by generations of colonial, genocidal and assimilative policies.

SSHRC in particular has been tasked with taking up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Commission (TRC) Call to Action 65, which states:

“We call on the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council [SSHRC], and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of understanding of reconciliation.”

— 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (page 8)

The advancement of Indigenous knowledge systems (both autonomously and in Indigenous-led research collaborations) must be a central part of any such research program, a view reflected in the recent Fundamental Science Review led by Dr David Naylor and his colleagues:

“Historically, research involving [Indigenous] peoples in Canada has been defined and carried out primarily by non-Indigenous researchers. This stems in part from a culture and tradition of colonization….The net result is that approaches to Indigenous research generally do not reflect Indigenous world views and many Indigenous people regard research with apprehension or mistrust.” — Investing in Canada’s Future – Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research (p. 98)                                                                    

The panel’s recommendation 5.7, directed towards the three granting councils, builds on the TRC’s Call to Action 65 and specifically underlines the need for “clarity on the Indigenous knowledge process” and “greater understanding of the role of Indigenous knowledge.”

As SSHRC thinks through TRC recommendation 65, it is important to draw insights from a variety of disciplinary, cultural, national and sectoral perspectives about how best to engage Indigenous knowledge traditions, including:

  • the dynamics of responsibility within Indigenous knowledges;
  • the complex meanings of community outside and inside the academy;
  • the relationship with place-based knowledge and how it travels;
  • the ownership of, care for, and protocols governing Indigenous (and indeed any) knowledges.

This is important because:

  •  any meaningful research program that might “advance understanding of reconciliation” must include Indigenous knowledges as deemed appropriate by Indigenous communities, knowledge holders and academics;
  • Indigenous communities are vigorously reclaiming their distinctive knowledges;
  • because growing numbers of Indigenous and allied academics are creating their own “knowledge communities”; and
  • universities are, in a variety of ways, making claims on Indigenous knowledge—and opening up to the claims of Indigenous communities.

Please join scholars and practitioners Zoe Todd, Jill Carter, Carrie Bourassa, Dawn Martin Hill, Jean-Paul Restoule, Deborah McGregor, Marie Battiste, Kim Anderson, Falen Johnson, Leah Levac and others on May 30, at 6:30pm in the Sandbox (formerly known as the Launch Zone) on the 3rd Floor of Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre at Yonge and Gould Streets. As moderator of this session, I am very much looking forward to an open and engaging exchange on Indigenous knowledge systems, the evolving research landscape in Canada, and the ongoing work of decolonization and reconciliation.




Congress of the Humanities and Social SciencesCongress 2017SSHRC