In 2020/21, the Decanal Advisory Committee on Indigenous Research, Teaching and Learning (IRTL) discussed the importance of understanding the provenance of endowment wealth at A&S and how this wealth might be implicated, directly or indirectly, in the dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their lands and territories. This discussion was not meant to diminish or negate the generous and meaningful financial contributions made to A&S in support of research and teaching excellence, but to better understand the history of the institution in relation to Indigenous peoples.
Action Item: By March 2022, hire a Research Associate to put together a historical sketch of large endowment gifts made to A&S.
Enhanced research capacity associated with/undertaken at the Centre for Indigenous Studies would support the broader goal of A&S becoming, “a place where Indigenous languages, forms of cultural expression, systems of knowledge, theories and research methodologies are transmitted and are critically and rigorously studied at the most advanced levels.” The Committee identified that the following resource would support this goal:
Action Item: Set up a webinar series discussing what it means to do Indigenous research. A working group from the IRTL Committee and CIS by invitation to be established by March 2022.
Committee members identified that when providing honoraria, the application of finance policies can create specific barriers for Indigenous peoples. This includes, but is not limited to, onerous paperwork/administration, delays in receipt of payment, and not receiving supplemental tax forms (TD1-IN) during the set-up process. Greater consistency and education are needed concerning best practices within existing finance policies.
Action Item: Check in with divisional colleagues in Finance on progress to address financial processes with regards to payments that support Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.
Procurement is an important dimension of how the fiscal policy of A&S can work in service to the goal of fostering and supporting relationships with Indigenous peoples, communities and organizations. By creating a positive obligation to prioritize Indigenous vendors, corporations, and service providers, A&S can support Indigenous economies and self-determination.
Action Item: Explore, with divisional colleagues in this area, linking preferred vendor status to more Indigenous vendors, corporations, and service providers.
Guidelines for Working with Indigenous Elders/Knowledge Keepers
The IRTL Committee identified a need to update the guidelines for working with Indigenous Elders and recommended that these be expanded to include Knowledge Keepers. These guidelines are an internal document that could be more widely distributed in support of meaningful Indigenous engagement across the faculty once updated.
Action Item: Update the guide to working with Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Align this with work being undertaken at the Office of Indigenous Initiatives on honoraria guidelines.
Indigenous Postdoctoral Fellows are in high demand at universities. Enhanced structural support that serves to highlight and make visible the innovative research and teaching taking place at A&S with respect to Indigenous languages, cultures, and knowledge systems, is a key component of any Indigenous-specific recruitment and retention strategy.
Action Item: Collaborate with the Directors of Academic and Administrative HR to identify hiring priorities for Indigenous faculty and staff across A&S and at the Centre for Indigenous Studies (CIS).
Being able to gather, hold ceremonies, and access cultural supports are critical dimensions of Indigenous pedagogies and student wellbeing. Due to ongoing and much needed renovations to the CIS and First Nations House (FNH), and pandemic restrictions, our ability to offer these kinds of learning experiences and supports to Indigenous students has been impacted.
Action Item: Collaborate with FNH, College Principals and Registrars to better understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Indigenous students.
Identity-Based Data Collection
At a high level, access to disaggregated, anonymized data is critical to understanding if we are achieving our recruitment and retention goals and where there are gaps. It is also important for the committee to have a solid understanding of the sites and mechanisms of identity-based data collection at A&S and to have the opportunity to advise on these as appropriate.
Action Item: Work with the A&S Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) to request a briefing from the Office of the Faculty Registrar at A&S, the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students, and the Office of the Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity & Culture, on identity-based data collection at A&S and U of T more broadly.
The Committee identified that experiential learning has historically been focused on STEM and would like to see these kinds of opportunities continue to grow in the context of Indigenous community and organizational partnerships. Institutional barriers to culturally relevant practices of reciprocity need to be examined from a policy lens to ensure alignment with the communities we partner with and to enable deeper and more meaningful collaborations.
Action Item: Work with the Office of Experiential Learning & Outreach Support to identify opportunities for new experiential learning in the context of Indigenous community and organization partnerships.
The Centre for Indigenous Studies and the Department of Linguistics have expanded course offerings in Indigenous languages and Indigenous language revitalization and documentation. Through recent hires in both units, there is now a growing body of experts in Indigenous language revitalization.
Action Item: Make inquiry to Vice-Dean, Graduate Education to explore opportunities to expand Indigenous language learning in the School of Graduate Studies (SGS).
The topic of Indigenous research ethics permeated many areas of the Committee’s discussions. Notably, an Indigenous Research Ethics Board is being established by the Vice-President, Research & Innovation and will include Indigenous faculty from the Faculty of Arts & Science. The Decanal Advisory Committee on Indigenous Research, Teaching and Learning will continue to advise and collaborate on the core issues impacting Indigenous research at A&S and will continue to engage and partner with Research Services and the SGS to offer programming for students and faculty to engage with Indigenous research ethics.
Progress Through the Ranks (PTR)
The Decanal Advisory Committee on Indigenous Research, Teaching and Learning identified that Indigenous faculty contribute a great deal of service on behalf of and for the University that is not necessarily recognized in terms of the PTR processes. This includes educating colleagues about residential schools, drafting resource lists for faculty, speaking engagements at neighbouring institutions, and organizing community-based events that build relationships and credibility. The Committee requested more information on how these kinds of contributions may be weighed in terms of PTR.
Action Item: Invite the Vice-Dean, Faculty and Academic Life for a discussion with the Committee on PTR processes to inform advice going forward.
The Committee also reflected on the ways in which institutional processes that evaluate knowledge and scholarship are not equipped to recognize the contributions of Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers to the University’s mission of excellence. Should a recommendation come forward to hire an Elder as a faculty member who does not possess academic credentialling, advanced discussions with the academic leadership of the Faculty, the Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life, and other offices, may be required. The committee intends to further deliberate on this matter, and in the interim, work with the Dean’s Office to determine where best to position new hires who are Elders or Knowledge Keepers.