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Indigenous Education and Decolonization

Summary and Keywords

The need to decolonize and Indigenize education stems from shared experiences of colonialism across the globe. In a world divided by ongoing conflict, and fueled by issues of power and control, the need to closely examine the ways that education has served hegemonic interests will help to inform future educational initiatives as well as serve as a form of reparation for those Indigenous peoples who have endured the dire consequences of colonialism. Present-day efforts to reclaim, restore, and revitalize threatened traditions are supported by international bodies such as the United Nations, in tandem with a range of approaches at national levels.

Decolonizing education entails identifying how colonization has impacted education and working to unsettle colonial structures, systems, and dynamics in educational contexts. We use the term education in these descriptions broadly to name the sociocultural task of understanding ways of knowing and being (epistemological and ontological systems) and the ongoing formation and transmission of knowledges: for instance, we mean both formal education as structured through Western schooling and other forms of education such as those traditionally practiced within Indigenous families and communities. Decolonizing education fits within larger understandings of decolonization and Indigenization at socio-political levels. However, these undertakings address in particular the colonization of the mind, of knowledge, language, and culture, and the impacts of colonization at personal and collective levels of physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and intellectual experience. In this time of transition, the work of decolonizing schooling necessarily precedes that of Indigenizing education for most educators and learners; yet, in keeping with Indigenous knowledge traditions, education must remain in a state of flux as we come to know this work collectively.

Keywords: indigenous education, decolonizing, colonial education, indigenizing, self-determination, schooling, decolonizing pedagogy


In a world divided by ongoing conflict, and fueled by issues of power and control, the need to decolonize and Indigenize education stems from the shared experiences of international Indigenous peoples who have endured the dire consequences of colonialism. In 2008, the United Nations created the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), thereby “Affirming that Indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such” (p. 1). As an international covenant, the scope of this document extends broadly, yet the importance of reclaiming and restoring education from Indigenous perspectives is highlighted within Articles 13 and 14, which advocate “providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning” (p. 7). Grounded in principles of “justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith” (UNDRIP, 2008, p. 15), this international document reveals much by way of its adoption, or objection to its implementation, around the world.

As Indigenous scholars from Canada, we draw largely upon experiences and examples situated in Indigenous contexts in Canada. It is beyond the scope of this writing to examine the entirety of colonization and resistance movements of diverse Indigenous peoples across the globe. Understanding that Indigenous work requires particular understandings of place and attention to contextual specificities, we do not seek to generalize across global contexts. However, we do seek to foster dialogue with Indigenous scholars and communities—as well as all those working in Indigenous education—from places far and near. We acknowledge Indigenous peoples across the globe, residing on every continent, including, but not limited to: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Australia), Māori (New Zealand), various Minzu peoples (in China), Sámi (Scandinavia), the Ainu peoples (in the northern regions of Japan), the Indigenous peoples of Taiwan, and the many and diverse Indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America.

It is important to acknowledge Indigenous peoples by name; however, we also recognize that there are far too many Indigenous peoples globally to name in one place and that the complexities surrounding naming defy simple categorization. For instance, while First Nations, Métis, and Inuit are appropriate terms for addressing the three Indigenous groups in Canada, these broad categories exclude some Aboriginal peoples. Individuals may affiliate themselves with particular Nations and communities, but in many cases, may fall outside, among, or between politically defined categories. One of our authors, for instance, identifies as Métis—a distinct Aboriginal group in Canada—even though personal circumstances could situate her as First Nations, likely of non-status designation, within her nation-state. The involuntary vacillation between colonially defined categories can translate on a personal level to complexities, ambiguities, contradictions, and oftentimes frustration, but, just as importantly, to a feeling of powerlessness.

The historical and cultural diversity of Indigenous groups around the world is substantial, yet all have suffered significant language loss, systemic and deliberate attempts at cultural genocide, and other forms of violence by colonizing forces. As one example of the ongoing impact of colonization, in Canada the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls continues unabated, despite many calls to seek redress and the 2016 formation of a national inquiry process. Globally, Indigenous groups share the experience of struggling for self-determination in response to histories of colonization: while these histories and struggles take unique shape in individual contexts, conversations are happening between and across global Indigenous peoples.

This article addresses the intersections of colonizing and decolonizing in the distinctive realms of schooling and education, with a vision of Indigenizing education as its central aim. After defining key terms and concepts, we begin our discussion with education/colonizing and then move through schooling/colonizing, schooling/decolonizing, and then decolonizing/education. We invite readers to consider the dynamic nature of this organizational model as our understandings move between and among quadrants. Consequently, our writing includes particular, situated examples from specific Indigenous contexts, while also thinking between and across First Peoples’ experiences globally. In the spirit of collaboration, we invite and welcome dialogue with Indigenous colleagues and cousins in other colonized nation-states as we explore what it means to decolonize education and move toward Indigenizing education.

Exploring Key Terms and Concepts

The global term Indigenous is used to denote the original occupants of lands prior to colonial expansion and takeover. While “Indigenous” works as a broad term, it is preferable to use the terminology that people themselves claim in particular Indigenous contexts.

Colonizing is the physical and ideological domination of peoples in order to separate them from their culture and resources, while creating external and internalized assumptions of the supremacy of the colonizer. Conversely, the project of decolonizing challenges and disrupts assumptions of colonial superiority. For Smith (2012), decolonization is the revitalization of the ways of being and knowing prior to colonization, while unearthing the manner in which colonization was achieved. It is not enough to simply reconnect with the past; in order to pursue decolonization, we must also untangle the complex web of internalized oppression created by colonization. Furthermore, decolonization requires the colonizers to recognize and challenge their own socialized presumptions of superiority.

We make a distinction between schooling and education. Schooling is institutionalized and systematically governed and legislated by provincial, state, or federal institutions. Historically, schooling is bounded within physical structures where the majority of learning is confined to specific temporal, legislative, and bureaucratic limitations. It could be argued that most Indigenous peoples did not have formal schooling experiences until it was forcibly and, in the majority of cases, violently introduced by colonizers. Yet it is also the case that schooling was welcomed by some Indigenous groups who foresaw its advantages for future generations (Glenn, 2011). Education for Indigenous peoples—both traditionally and as envisioned within decolonizing projects—could be described as a lifelong process that consists of an internal and external exploration of “coming to know” (Cajete, 1999, p. 78). Education in this sense is broader; it is embodied in all of the cultural lifeways of a community, including beliefs, relationships, cosmology, communications, stories, and land. Scholarly discussions of decolonization have focused largely on Indigenous education in postsecondary contexts; consequently, we work to extend the focus on schooling of children and youth.

Indigenous education attends to understandings of education that are indigenous to particular lands and places, and “the path and process whereby individuals gain knowledge and meaning from their indigenous heritages” (Jacob, Cheng, & Porter, 2015, p. 3). There are as many unique approaches to Indigenous education as there are diverse Indigenous nations around the globe—yet a central aim is “holistically nurturing future leaders who will be able to speak and act on behalf of their people” (p. 2). In a contemporary context, it is a continuance of Indigenous Knowledges, yet also entails fostering ethical, reciprocal relations between Indigenous and other knowledge systems (Ermine, 2007). Returning to the epistemological and ontological systems of a country’s Indigenous peoples in order to shape educational systems or institutions in that place is a way of Indigenizing education.

Indigenous educators also recognize that colonialism continues to shape contemporary schooling: colonial education can exist even when explicitly assimilative systems of formal education have been closed and condemned. Colonial dynamics in contemporary schooling are often less visible because of how deeply and unknowingly educators can be entrenched in hegemonic assumptions, arising from colonial mentalities and further entrenched by dominant structural systems.

Indigenous Knowledges are bodies of knowledge that arise from the long-term occupancy of a specific place over time. Such knowledges include “traditional norms and social values [alongside] mental constructs that guide, organize, and regulate the people’s way of living and making sense of their world” (Dei, Hall, & Goldin Rosenberg, 2000, p. 6). Such knowledges arise from the collective experiences and understandings of a people.


In order to understand the extensive process of colonizing education, it is vital to establish and affirm the foundation of Indigenous knowledge systems that have existed for millennia. In this section, we highlight the fact that meaningful systems of Indigenous knowledges existed prior to settler invasion. Next we detail how colonization attempted to dismantle traditional modes of education and ways of knowing. This section provides a necessary grounding for the other three quadrants of schooling/colonization, decolonizing/education, and decolonizing/schooling.

Indigenous Knowledges as Education

Indigenous education reclaims and sustains Indigenous Knowledges. Such knowledges matter because they form “the basis of decision making in the face of challenges both familiar and unfamiliar” (Dei, Hall, & Goldin Rosenberg, 2000, p. 6). From the United States, Tewa scholar Gregory Cajete (1999) notes that “there is no word for education, or science, or art in most indigenous languages. ‘Coming to know’ is the best translation for education in most Native traditions . . . [and] is a process that happens in many ways” (p. 78). The experience of “coming to know” involves relationships guided by respectful acts of reciprocity and renewal. This form of education, for many Indigenous peoples, begins with the understanding of relationships that exist between humanity, creation, and cosmos as an inextricably interconnected web, and in this landscape, reciprocity is a natural and important aspect of its holistic design. The humbling principle of this perspective is, “Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves” (Chief Seattle, as cited in Jeffers, 1991, p. 20). In this reality, reciprocity involves a continual “celebration of renewal and understanding of relationships and responsibilities” (Cajete, 1999, p. 80) to ensure individual, community, and societal health. Indigenous knowledges offer the understanding that reciprocity with the land is necessary to human survival (Darko, 2014).

Education is “coming to know” different levels of existence, and because of the constant flux that inspires renewal in all creation, education is an omnipresent life force that requires a lifetime process of answering: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What are my responsibilities? Here, the intention is for humanity to walk and exist “in a good way”1 within all of creation and with “all my relations.” This community, inclusive of all living things, is a part of the educational process and is actively involved in teaching. Children are valued as the most sacred gift from the Creator, so kinship and educational structures revolve around the child as they hold the future in their hands. For Indigenous peoples, Indigenous Knowledges represent a collective understanding of the world; their protection is equated with the survival, and thriving, of peoples over time.

Ideological Foundations of Colonization

Colonial societies have been founded on the belief of the inherent validity of Western conceptualizations of schooling, while relegating Indigenous perspectives and pedagogies to the margins. Education is inherently intertwined with ontological and axiological assumptions of what it means to be human in a given culture. In such contexts, Western advancement in technology was mistakenly viewed as an indicator of the superiority of European languages and ways of knowing. Based upon this hypothesis, colonial forces perceived traditional Indigenous knowledges as archaic and therefore believed the only viable recourse was segregating or assimilating Indigenous people. In response, Taiaiake Alfred (2009), from Kahnawá:ke in the Mohawk Nation and a professor of Indigenous governance, contends that there was “no inherent conflict between basic Indigenous and non-Indigenous values” (p. 168) upon first contact, but rather a false incongruence was charged by institutional political forces with a vested interest in Western hegemony to gain ownership over resources. A recurring trait of colonization demands that individuals “replace . . . habits of feeling, thinking and acting by another set of habits which belonged to the strangers who dominated [them]” (Baldwin, 1959, p. 26). The colonization of traditional education in Indigenous communities has been waged through the removal of children from communities; children were then socialized to believe in an impoverished representation of their culture.

While Indigenous people have been socialized to narrow their definition of education to classroom activities, many posit that the denigration of traditional kinship structures of education is further eroded by ethnocentric assumptions (Battiste, 1998). Thus, the limiting Western view of schooling fails to recognize the complexity and scope of educational traditions that fall outside of their own standards. Ghanaian-Canadian scholar Isaac Darko (2014) argues that “[e]very community, big or small, has its own ways of socializing or educating its people and this is often based in and on the values, needs, and worldview of such a community” (p. 192). Chickasaw Nation member Eber Hampton (1995), speaking of wider Indigenous contexts, explains that traditional education “can be characterized as oral histories, teaching stories, ceremonies, apprenticeships, learning games, formal instruction, tutoring, and tag-along teaching” (p. 8). From a global perspective, Jacob et al. (2015), maintain “the indigenous education process is better understood as an eternal, reciprocal, interactive, and symbiotic learning process” (p. 3). The colonization of traditional Indigenous education was tantamount to ethnocide: it denied the opportunity to renew knowledges and to form, and to retain, the integrity of strong kinship networks (Loo, 1992; Little Bear, 1996).

Colonizing Traditional Modes of Education

The colonization of philosophical assumptions impacted not only the nature of education, but also the nature of thought for Indigenous communities. Blackfoot Elder Leroy Little Bear (1996) argues, “[a]rising out of the Aboriginal philosophy of constant motion or flux is the value of wholeness or totality . . . It focuses on the totality of constant flux rather than on individual patterns” (p. 77). The linear way of thinking synonymous with Western scientific thought stands in stark contrast to Indigenous circular epistemologies (Bell et al., 2004). The denial of traditional philosophies and structures of education has prohibited Indigenous youth from being socialized in an environment steeped in holistic and circular ways of knowing. In order to heal from the deleterious effects of colonization, Alfred (2009) believes Indigenous people must “promote Native education both in the conventional Western sense and in terms of re-rooting young people within their traditional cultures” (p. 168). Such re-rooting can be an important challenge in the wake of colonial schooling. In many cases, attempts to immerse Indigenous youth in traditional ways of being upon return home from residential or boarding schools was, and continues to be, thwarted by the tactics of shaming and internalized oppression, which assure ideological marginalization from the epistemology of their home community.

Silencing of language and story

Colonial processes worked to undermine the language traditions that served as the roots of education for Indigenous communities. Because languages embody cultural knowledge and are integral to community identities, forcing children to speak the colonial language was a powerful form of ontological and epistemological domination. This was done, for instance, by forbidding children in formal schooling from speaking their languages. Canadian scholars invested in improving Indigenous education state that “[u]ntil very recently, the concepts of education embedded in the languages and cultures of Aboriginal peoples of Canada have been little known or appreciated by professional educators” (Castellano, Davis, & Lahache, 2000, p. xi). The imposition of the English language carried broader implications for the loss of culture transmitted through language and ways of knowing (Battiste, 1998; Cajete, 1994; Little Bear, 1996). At the inception of the residential school era, Hector Langevin famously envisioned the danger of familial influence: “If you leave them in the family they may know how to read and write, but they will remain savages” (TRC, 2015b, p. 161). The assumptions of White supremacy practiced in Indian Residential Schools are tacitly supported in many forms of contemporary education that overlook the persistent oppression caused by stripping Indigenous students of their language and connection to culture.

The deliberate repression of Indigenous languages may have been the most efficient mechanism of colonizing education (Miller, 1996); however, the focus on extinguishing language through corporal punishment was cruel as well as effective. As American scholars from the Arizona State University and the University of Arizona McCarty, Romero, and Zepeda (2006) estimate, approximately 84% of Indigenous languages in North America will disappear with the current generation. Similarly, Australian Indigenous peoples have endured assaults on language through colonial schooling (Marmion, Obata, & Troy, 2014). In Canada, internalized oppression has resulted in generations of residential school survivors rejecting the resurrection of traditional languages because of the indoctrination of shame and a perceived need to protect the youth from similar indignities.

Traditional models of education relied upon language as the basis for distinct worldviews. Due to the colonization of education, generations of Indian Residential School survivors were irrevocably harmed through the further implications of language loss. One such example is the distinctive use of storytelling as a means of knowledge transmission and education. Stó:lo scholar Jo-ann Archibald (2008), in her writing on “storywork” in education, contends that colonization has degraded traditional storytelling in education and social transmission, resulting in “weak translations from Aboriginal languages to English, stories shaped to fit a Western literature form, and stories adapted to fit a predominantly Western educational system” (p. 7). The retelling of stories designed to model and affirm ontologies and axiologies became corrupted when Western pedagogical approaches became the default lens. In their emphasis on storytelling as a necessary element in language learning, McKeough et al. (2008) assert that “oral narrative or storytelling fits with Aboriginal epistemology—the nature of their knowledge, its foundations, scope, and validity” (p. 148). Schooling, which systematically undermined language, oral narrative, and storytelling, ultimately eroded the core of Indigenous life and the essence of an effective means of education.

Cajete (1994) argues that education for Indigenous peoples “is transmitted or explored through ritual, ceremony, art, and appropriate technology” (p. 25). Participation in ritual and ceremony are impeded without the foundation of language to inform shared knowledge. For many Indigenous people, the denial of traditional languages is indistinguishable from the denial of humanity. As Battiste (1998) asserts, “[l]anguages are the means of communication for the full range of human experiences and critical to the survival of the culture and political integrity of any people” (p. 18).

Prohibition of Culture

Along with the imposition of Indian Residential Schools in Canada, colonial governments outlawed traditional institutions of education for Indigenous communities. One such example is the legal ban of potlatches for the Indigenous people of western British Columbia (Loo, 1992), erecting widespread barriers that perpetuate the ongoing campaign to eradicate traditional institutions of education. The potlatch system is a mechanism for witnessing rites and communal structures and for redistributing wealth. It is a fundamental activity that models a culture of compassion, altruism, and egalitarianism (Fiske & Patrick, 2000). Colonial establishments lacked the cultural sophistication to understand the nuances and complexities of the potlatch system that served concurrently as institutions of education, politics, justice, and social organization. The settler society assumed that the cultural practices of redistributing wealth based on a complex algorithm were mere frivolity that lacked respect for Western capitalist maxims. Likewise, the practices of the Sundance in the prairies (Shrubsole, 2011) and the Six Nations Traditional Council (Porter, 1984) in southern Ontario were banned by the Canadian government because they did not align with capitalist ideologies and hierarchical structures.

The Indigenous peoples of Australia endured a comparable prohibition when Corroboree, the practice of ritual, dance, and song to renew laws and relationships (Phipps, 2016), was banned by Western criminal codes. Corroboree ceremonies were only permitted for the entertainment of White Australians or the greeting of international dignitaries, removing the educational and culturally significant foundations of the traditional practice. Ceremony and social institutions define culture and establish a framework for relationships, education, leadership, and what it means to be human (Loo, 1992; Phipps, 2016; Shrubsole, 2011). Institutions like the potlatch, sundance, and Corroboree are often overlooked as hubs of traditional Indigenous education, which were targeted as critical locations for colonizing education. In a national study, Luke, Cazden, and Coopes (2013) found that Australian settler populations have historically denied the importance of traditional education systems, and that this denial has translated into a pervasive deficit model approach to Indigenous education. In the Māori context, Bishop, Berryman, Wearmouth, Peter, and Clapham (2011) argue that schools should consider meeting the needs of students instead of expecting students to reinvent themselves based on institutional requirements. Persistent colonizing forces in contemporary education enact comparable barriers to students’ conscious engagement with decolonizing projects.


It is important to recognize that schooling is only one facet of education. The telling examples of residential, boarding, and industrial schooling are a manifestation of the much broader phenomenon of colonizing education. Schooling eclipsed education under colonial mandates, denying Indigenous communities possibilities for education in the broader, more holistic sense, as enacted in everyday interactions and throughout a lifetime.

The privileging of Eurocentric knowledge systems has been instrumentalized, legislated, and deployed by colonial governments as a mechanism for education, but more insidiously for the assimilation and domination of Indigenous peoples. Colonial schooling over the centuries has caused extensive harm to Indigenous Knowledges, languages, cultures, and well-being, and has precipitated diverse decolonizing and Indigenizing responses.

In its historical and explicitly assimilative form, schooling for Indigenous people was designed to eradicate traditional ways of being and knowing and to reshape Indigenous people in the image of the colonizers—the dominant or invading peoples, who posited themselves as more civilized or powerful. Colonization is naturalized through schooling, so that the powerful are no longer required to reinforce the hierarchy: the colonized will adhere to assumptions of superiority by internalizing their own oppression. As Fanon (1963) reminds us, colonization is complete when the subjugated “admits loudly and intelligibly the supremacy of the White man’s values” (p. 43). The dominant group is also bound within these colonial discourses of the “primitive other,” held in an ignorance that actively reinforces their subjugation of another culture for material gain.

In historical projects of colonization, schooling played an important role in undermining Indigenous epistemological and ontological systems by targeting the children. Given the potential power of formal education to impact people and their communities, the institution of schooling was a powerful instrument of colonization (Adams, 1995). One of the aims of colonizing schooling was to eradicate Indigenous modes of education, to stop the transmission of Indigenous cultures, languages, and knowledges from families and communities to children, thereby severing subsequent generations from their homes, traditions, and cultural identities.

Across diverse nations, each system of schooling was predicated upon a different colonial history; similarities, however, resonate across these experiences. The following represents a few examples from amongst the many—in this selection, we have opted to concentrate our efforts on those countries which share similar experiences of colonialism. These are brief encapsulations of complex histories; we encourage readers to pursue more comprehensive understandings of the specificities, circumstances, and nuances that we are not able to convey fully here. Importantly, Indigenous people’s agency and resistance took shape in diverse ways in relation to these colonial systems.


Schooling was premised on beliefs of racial inferiority, segregation, and assimilation (Beresford, 2003). Children—the Stolen Generations—were removed from their families and relocated to church-run dormitories or to industrial or boarding schools. Children of mixed descent were educated separately, with the intent of integrating them into white society. Colonial schooling was characterized by limited funding, disease, harsh discipline, high death rates, prohibition of Indigenous languages, very limited contact with home, harsh living conditions, abuse, and the deliberate erosion of cultural traditions, families, and identities. Labor and apprenticeships figured prominently and the educational quality was low, due to the perception that children’s prospects were limited. Colonial schooling was at its peak in the 1800s, but assimilation shaped schooling into the 1970s (Beresford, 2003, p. 54). Today, the work of reform continues with policy leaders who direct resources toward “closing the gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous achievement levels (White & Ottmann, 2016, p. 113).

New Zealand

The missionary history in New Zealand shifted into the government-run Native Schools system, through which assimilative, English-only education was legislated for Māori children in 1867 (Simon & Smith, 2001). Schooling constituted a “deliberate attempt to make the Māori child reject the values and standards of his or her parents” (Armitage, 1995, p. 158). For much of its duration, this system provided only primary education. The system was disestablished in 1969 after Native schools were transferred into the control of public education boards (Simon & Smith, 2001).

As compared with other colonial education systems, Māori people’s purposeful engagements with schooling meant that the Native Schools system had very mixed impacts on its students. Comparatively, this system was also not as long-standing. As Graham Smith (2003) tells it: “[t]he ‘real’ revolution of the 1980’s was a shift in mindset of large numbers of Māori people—a shift away from waiting for things to be done to them, to doing things for themselves; a shift away from an emphasis on reactive politics to an emphasis on being more proactive; a shift from negative motivation to positive motivation” (para. 1). Nonetheless, as in other cases, the system has had a lasting and deleterious impact on relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

United States

Steeped in the philosophy of Richard Henry Pratt, one of American schooling’s founders, the primary educational goal in what was to become the United States was to civilize “Indians” through cultural assimilation. Famously, in an 1892 speech, Pratt is acknowledged as the originator of the phrase: “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man” (United States National Conference on Social Welfare, 1892, p. 46). Native American children attended boarding schools where they were provided with basic education, work, and sometimes military training. Children in such schools suffered from illness and malnourishment. As in other cases, models of colonial schooling in the United States, while inflicting immense harm on Indigenous peoples and cultures, failed to achieve their assimilationist goals. Indigenous resistance subverted the colonial project, as “Indian students were anything but passive recipients of the curriculum of civilization” (Adams, 1995, p. 336). In the 20th century, many Native Americans have reclaimed control over educational institutions through initiatives such as community-grounded survival schools—bolstered by ongoing resistance movements such as the American Indian Movement (AIM).


For a long time in Canada, schooling of Indigenous children occurred through the Indian Residential Schools system. Residential schools were so named because children lived in the schools for the duration of the school year. Children were deliberately removed from their families and communities in order to preclude any contact with home, which would have undermined the assimilative work of the schools. Even if they returned home for summers, children often experienced difficulty moving between the very different worlds of home and school.

Residential schools were in operation for well over 100 years; approximately 140 schools existed across the country, and more than 150,0002 children attended them (TRC, 2015a, p. 4). The residential school system officially commenced in 1892, continuing from earlier industrial and residential schools, and became mandatory in 1920. There has been little public recognition among Canadians of the colonial and harmful nature of this system—or of how recent this history is: the last residential school closed its doors in 1996. In 2008, Canada appointed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to expose the truths of the Indian Residential Schools system and its impacts. Following that Commission’s work, previously untold stories around Indian Residential schooling were revealed, prompting former UN war crimes prosecutor and McGill law professor Payam Akhavan to argue that, since “residential schools were so clearly a crime against humanity,” it is more appropriate to term this “persecution” than “cultural genocide” (Brean, 2016, para. 6). Conversely, federal propaganda of the Indian Residential Schools era shared a very different story—depicting happy, well-adjusted children who were well on their way to a life of civilized progress.

Indigenous Education and DecolonizationClick to view larger

Figure 1. Staged photograph of Thomas Moore Keesick (1883–1895), Regina Indian Industrial School.

Colonizing education as enacted through such institutions was a form of forced dislocation. Just as Indigenous peoples had been dislocated in many ways from traditional territories, cultural practices, and ways of life, colonial schooling enforced a separation from Indigenous knowledges, values, and education. Residential schooling interrupted the raising, and the education, of children within their home communities and cultures. In their intention to destroy “those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group,” residential schools enacted a form of cultural genocide (TRC, 2015b, p. 3).

Colonial schooling has had a tremendous, intergenerational impact on Indigenous communities in Canada, as well as on relationships between Indigenous and settler peoples. Systemic racism against Aboriginal peoples persists, and “Aboriginal Peoples continue to experience conditions of persistent disadvantage, including a greater likelihood of suffering violent crimes and physical, emotional or sexual abuse” (“Aboriginal Peoples Persistently Disadvantaged,” 2013, para. 2). Child welfare is another serious issue. A hugely disproportionate number of Indigenous children are in foster care or have been adopted out of their communities. Indigenous people are at risk of experiencing a range of health issues and lateral violence, which results in dire statistics for death, illness, and abuse (TRC, 2015b). The vitality of Indigenous languages, cultures, and knowledges in communities has been seriously threatened to the point of extinction in many communities (Battiste, 2013).

Impacts persist within formal schooling, which continues to fail Indigenous students: wide gaps exist when educational achievement is measured to compare Indigenous youth with mainstream populations (Schissel & Wotherspoon, 2003). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Chief Justice Murray Sinclair has spoken up in the wake of the Commission’s work to identify problems that persist across sociopolitical contexts in Canada and to assert that residential schooling is the root of these ongoing challenges. The work of the TRC has been instrumental in raising public awareness of the disastrous consequences of residential schooling; however, in far too many cases, those who perpetrated heinous crimes against children continue to be protected behind a veil of non-disclosure (Robinson, 2016).

Colonizing Dynamics in Contemporary Schooling

Even when explicitly assimilative institutions no longer exist as such—as is the case with Canada’s residential schools—colonizing dynamics can prevail in contemporary schooling. Hegemonic forces such as Eurocentrism, paired with vestigial colonial structures and policies, can persist in marginalizing Indigenous people and perspectives. Jacob et al. (2015) assert that “[s]ome countries such as Vietnam continue to perpetuate active assimilation policies that in many ways threaten indigenous peoples’ ability to preserve their languages, cultures, and identities” (p. 7). In another example, colonial structures in postcolonial contexts in Africa have “impeded the inclusion of bearers of local, indigenous knowledges in formal, institutionalized education” (Dei, 2000, p. 44). Colonization in contemporary schooling can occur at multiple levels despite an ethos of multiculturalism or other inclusive discourses: at the epistemological level of knowledge systems, at the material level of representation, at the discursive level of curriculum, or at the human level of whose bodies are safe and whose experiences are valued. Colonization may occur in the name of integration or “under the disguise of equality,” but ultimately works “to suppress and destroy cultural identities of Indigenous students” (Almeida, 1998, p. 7). Hidden curriculum and the streaming of students into non-academic versus academic programming are two examples of how colonizing dynamics exist in contemporary schooling.

The curriculum in formal schooling immerses students into the assumptions and language of the dominant or colonial culture. The “hidden curriculum” includes the “unwritten rules, regulations, standards and expectations that form part of the learning process in schools and classrooms, not specifically taught to students through the planned or open curriculum and the content” (Rahman, 2013, p. 660). The hidden curriculum conveyed through the colonizer’s language reflects dominant worldviews, beliefs, and value systems and informs how the written, mandated curriculum is delivered. Rahman (2013) explains that this hidden curriculum forces Indigenous students to negotiate, and perhaps abandon, their own cultural ways of being and doing within inflexible dominant systems in order to survive in school.

Another area of schooling that is currently a contested dynamic for Indigenous peoples in Canada is streaming into non-academic programming or special education, where decreased expectations plague future possibilities. Numerous studies have shown that there is a disproportional representation of Indigenous students in special education programs, and a clear underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2001; Ottmann & Jeary, 2016). Results from these studies reveal assumptions around student abilities, mired in “unexamined beliefs about Aboriginal children and a lack of culturally-sensitive assessment tools” (Ottmann & Jeary, 2016, p. 339). Additional factors that influence assessment include the influence of teachers’ informal diagnoses of children’s problems; school personnel’s negative perceptions of children’s families; external pressure for placement, such as the desire to remove low achievers from statewide testing; the exclusion of information on classroom ecology; variable choice and implementation of assessment instruments; and psychologists’ varying philosophical orientations (Harry, 2007). These findings indicate that standardization in assessment does not eliminate subjectivity and bias, and that dominant cultural systems are pervasive in the school systems.


In some cases, Indigenous peoples were receptive, or at least accommodating, to the introduction of a foreign education system. As Glenn (2011) points out, “[f]ormal, European-style schooling was at times demanded by Indian peoples in their treaties with the national governments of Canada and the United States” (p. 1). The Cherokee, for instance, took control of their schooling system early on by training their own people to serve as educators and contributing to the funding of the schools (Glenn, 2011, p. 22). In the Canadian context, it is crucial to acknowledge early Indigenous leaders such as Ojibway Chief Shingwaukonse and Cree Chief Ahtahkakoop who, in the 19th century, invited newcomer teachers into their communities so they could learn, as a whole community, about the new economy for the purpose of securing their lands and the holistic health of the people (Christensen, 2000; Chute, 1998). This type of historical agency is seldom included in discussions surrounding Indigenous education, but it serves as testimony of the ways in which Indigenous peoples were proactive in educational movements early on in the colonial encounter.

Contemporary Moves to Decolonize Schooling

Thanks to the insistence of Indigenous peoples, these early types of movements continue on in various forms. Given the enormity of the decolonizing task, we focus on current schooling models as a way to enter these critical discussions. It is important to acknowledge the groundbreaking work of Māori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith (2012) in this regard, along with postsecondary institutions that are either tribally controlled or under Indigenous leadership, as well as the early childhood programs that bring our youngest the gifts of cultural identity, language, and tradition. We are framing the following projects as decolonizing initiatives, but we recognize that many of these initiatives are also Indigenizing in that they are revitalizing models and practices based on Indigenous knowledges. We explore this distinction between Indigenizing and decolonizing further near the end of this article.

Kuapapa Māori in New Zealand

Decolonizing projects in New Zealand have initiated transformative approaches to challenging settler dominance within the institution of schooling. Kuapapa Māori, an Indigenous philosophy aimed at revitalizing culture and practices, has become embedded in schooling through Te Kohanga Reo (pre-school language nests), Kura Kaupapa Māori (medium schools), Wharekura (secondary schools), and Waananga Māori (tertiary institutions) (Bishop, 2008). In the early 1980s, the Māori built upon past momentum to take official control of their children’s schooling, resisting systemic Eurocentrism. In this regard, the Māori people were motivated by the belief that schooling would “deliver on its promise of equality and opportunity” (Smith, 2007, p. 338). The global project of decolonizing schooling has benefited from the modeling of the Māori people in revitalizing culture within institutions traditionally associated with colonial hegemony.

Survival Schools in the United States

In 1968, the American Indian Movement (AIM) emerged in the United States in Minneapolis as a rights-based group that sought to rectify racialized issues within justice, health, policy matters, and education. Starting in the 1970s, “survival schools” were started in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and St. Paul where the cultural traditions of American Indians formed the basis of a more culturally aligned curriculum, structured under community and parental control (Davis, 2013). The education grants supporting the three survival schools were cancelled in 1973 by the American government in reaction to the AIM participating in the “Trail of Broken Treaties.” This funding was restored by the US District Court through legal action led by the AIM. In 1975, the Federation of Survival Schools was set up to provide advocacy to the 16 survival schools now present in the United States and Canada (Reyhner & Eder, 2015).

Seeking Control of Indigenous Education in Canada

Other efforts to assert educational self-determination by Indigenous people are found within the National Indian Brotherhood’s Indian Control of Indian Education in 1972. This document heralded a formal launch by Native groups to reclaim and control education from their perspective. This movement was undoubtedly bolstered by the parallel development of Indigenous writers working to reclaim their stories, and their perspectives, within print traditions, as well as community organizations and other supporters who rallied to support this cause (Pidgeon, 2014, p. 7). These efforts to assert control over education continue today, with the most recent attempt seen in the failed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (Bill C-33).

Despite these challenges, we see promise in legislation emerging across Canada that mandates the inclusion of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit perspectives within provincial programs of studies for all subjects. Currently, “decolonizing” or “Indigenizing” projects tend to focus on formal schooling, where “every subject at every level is examined to consider how and to what extent current content and pedagogy reflect the presence of Indigenous/Aboriginal peoples and the valid contribution of Indigenous knowledge” (Castellano, 2014, para. 1). Some jurisdictions—including Alberta in its upcoming revised Teaching Quality Standard—are requiring classroom teachers and educational leaders to gain foundational knowledge, skills, and attitudes around First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. These types of decolonizing initiatives offer hope for Indigenous peoples; however, such initiatives also risk the coupling of superficial understanding with substantial power. For instance, it is problematic when educators and educational leadership are asked to acquire foundational knowledge alone, without considering their own positionality and responsibility in this work (St. Denis, 2007). We look to future iterations of such policies to deepen knowledge- and relationship-building processes.


The need for decolonizing education arises from global histories rife with colonial campaigns of “Christianizing and civilizing” the original occupants of lands where “the colonialist project was never simply about the desire to ‘civilize’ or even deculturalize indigenous peoples. Rather, it was deliberately designed to colonize Indian minds as a means of gaining access to Indigenous resources” (Grande, 2008, p. 235). Cognitive imperialism is inextricable from appropriation of land. Whether for material profit or moral gain, we have witnessed the consequences of these imperializing missions on the colonized as largely destructive and disastrous across a variety of spheres.

In Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples, Smith (2012) provides insights into how understanding an imperialist approach to knowledge disciplines, replete with established canons, allows us to speak back to the notion of one universal truth or approach to knowledge. Over time, and with substantial effort, Indigenous peoples have sought to decolonize themselves in all aspects of their lives. For some education scholars, decolonization is “about the process in both research and performance of valuing, reclaiming, and foregrounding Indigenous voices and epistemologies” (Swadener & Mutua, 2008, p. 31). For others, decolonizing education is inherently a political movement, as it pushes back on historical and contemporary forms of colonialism and on the notion of one universal truth or knowledge system elevated above all others (Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 2000; Battiste, 2013; May & Aikman, 2003; Smith, 2012). Decolonizing education, then, “first and foremost must be framed within concepts of dialogue, respect for the educational pluralities, multiplicities, and diversities” (Battiste, 2013, p. 107) of all Indigenous peoples.

Stages in Decolonizing Education

Any efforts to decolonize education in a present-day context must consider the impacts of colonization, for “such knowledges emerge in the contemporary sense partly in response to colonial and ‘postcolonial’ intrusions . . . In other words, indigenous knowledges are emerging again in the present day as a response to the growing awareness that the world’s subordinated peoples and their values have been marginalized” (Dei, Hall, & Rosenberg, 2000, p. 6). Without an awareness, and a deeper understanding, of the implications of colonization on an Indigenous lifeworld, we run a strong risk of reverting to essentialist ideals of Indigeneity or an instrumentalization of “foundational knowledge” that limits a deeper understanding. Any superficial efforts carry the potential to recolonize education (Brock-Utne, 2000).

Knowing this, we see the work of decolonizing education as that which necessarily precedes the work of “Indigenizing.” If enacted in a good way, this approach holds the potential to reach all learners. The following elements represent one possible route to achieve decolonizing aims in, and through, education.

Reveal and Dismantle Colonial Impacts

On a societal level, the act of raising awareness of how colonialism has impacted the lives of the colonized and granted unearned privileges to colonizers is a fundamental and first step in decolonizing education. Importantly, Smith’s (2012) thinking situates the work of decolonizing within an Indigenous understanding of how an imperialist approach to knowledge disciplines, along with established canons, reifies the notion of one universal truth or approach to knowledge. Within an educational context, decolonizing can then be envisioned as speaking back to colonial powers in terms of questioning what knowledges are valued and embedded within curriculum, who this knowledge privileges, and why this is so. In this work, the casting off of a hegemonic approach to seeing and learning about our world is paramount. The question of who bears the responsibility of this critical work is also at the forefront.

Adopt a Critical/Anti-oppressive/Anti-racist Approach

In dismantling colonial structures, educators are not only called upon to deconstruct national narratives, but also to turn inward and examine their own positionality. In many cases, this learning will include the uneasy recognition of unearned power and privileges (St. Denis, 2007). This is difficult work, yet it can also be transformative as it shifts the status quo from mainstream norms and understandings to a deeper examination of power relations that include systemic oppression of Indigenous peoples (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2015).

As Smith’s (2012) foundational work in decolonizing demonstrates, critical theory has provided a strong theoretical basis upon which to build a deeper and broader understanding of knowledge production, outside the narrow confines of a hegemonic standpoint. Other education scholars, following the exemplar of Paulo Freire’s liberatory pedagogy, have articulated emancipatory, anti-racist, and anti-oppressive approaches to emphasize the importance of critical reflection within the work of education (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2015; St. Denis, 2007). In a bid to help educators gain awareness and understanding of the role of colonialism in contemporary schooling, some advocate for a “pedagogy of discomfort” (Boler & Zembylas, 2003; Zembylas, 2015) where difficult learning, and teaching, is possible. Finally, the recognition of how “epistemologies of ignorance” (Malewski & Jaramillo, 2011) can be positioned to help disrupt a hegemonic, and seldom questioned, world of inequities is also underway.

Value and Incorporate Indigenous Knowledge Traditions alongside Western Knowledge

Within education, this phase of decolonizing is one that calls for the creation of “ethical space” (Ermine, 2007)—a space that is not only inclusive of Indigenous perspectives and knowledge traditions but that is also seen as equal to that of dominant mainstream standards. Some have referred to this positioning as “Two-Eyed Seeing,” which “refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of, or the best in, the Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye learning to see with the strengths of, or the best in, the Western (mainstream) knowledges and ways of knowing, but, most importantly, learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all” (Elder Marshall, as quoted in Hogue & Bartlett, 2016). The assumption underlying this approach is the belief that we are all interconnected and interdependent in a world comprised of “all my relations.” In some cases, the primacy, or the centrality, of Indigenous Knowledge traditions must take place in order to achieve a rebalancing of educational approaches that have long privileged the idea of a universal truth external to local understandings. The creation of such ethical spaces is a decolonizing act that first considers local context before extending into global considerations, in what some diversity scholars have termed an internationalized, rather than a globalized, perspective (Lumby & Coleman, 2007).

Move to Self-determination

Considering the dynamic and fluid nature of knowledge within Indigenous understandings, Ritskes (2012) asserts the transformative nature of decolonizing acts that serve to “regenerate Indigenous knowledges, epistemologies, and ways of life. These Indigenous knowledges are always adapting, always creating, always moving forward—there is no stopping them, no finality” (para. 1). Further reflecting the shape-shifting nature of this work, Corntassel (2012) insists that decolonizing processes overlap and occur alongside “everyday acts of resurgence” (p. 99), through which community members can collectively engage in self-determination and regeneration on their own terms. This focus on resurgence critiques decolonization as a framework, arguing that more radical Indigenization work is required to fully honor tribal ontologies and epistemologies (Alfred, 2009).

In making the case for self-determination in Indigenous education, Jacob et al. (2015) argue: “indigenous voices [need] to be heard in every aspect of education, including in the learning, teaching, and research arenas,” along with “active participation and inputs from indigenous parents, leaders, and policy makers” (p. 7). Indigenization in education has us “live within the community and think outside the box” (G. Cajete, personal communication, February 2014). The need for reformation in education—that of decolonizing—reaches beyond Indigenous peoples to learners across the globe.

Other Forms of Decolonizing

Decolonizing education, then, is turning away from a homogeneous and staid approach to education to one of embracing alternative, unexpected, and always-changing knowledge systems. Generally, decolonizing practices that counter the destructive aspects of schooling are inclusive, community- and strength-oriented, and culturally responsive, and foster collaborative, integrated (wrap-around) approaches to supporting students.

In exploring decolonizing approaches, it is equally important to include considerations of assessment. For many Indigenous students, the definition of success involves empowerment and the actualization of individual and collective self-determination rather than achievement in standardized testing or financial gain (Pidgeon, 2008, p. 24).

In our efforts to decolonize, we have found the arts vital to opening, motivating, inspiring, and imagining a world of liberatory possibilities. Our research into the specialized area of Indigenous education has revealed the power of the arts in these difficult learning environments (Poitras Pratt, Hanson, Daniels, Lindstrom, & Bouvier, forthcoming).

Emerging Forms of Indigenous Education

Grounded in critical traditions, Indigenous education is an emerging field of study that tends to focus most of its efforts on supporting Indigenous learners. Contemporary education reform is shifting, recognizing that Indigenizing is a positive influence for all learners. This recognition requires “thinking of decolonization as a process that belongs to everyone” (Bouvier, 2013, p. 9). Given the broad geopolitical scope of this field in terms of place, space, and cultural pluralities, there are as many unique approaches to Indigenous education as there are distinct Indigenous nations around the globe. This diversity, however, carries many parallel or shared traits within worldviews. Broadly speaking, for instance, many Indigenous worldviews are founded upon a holistic approach to knowledge acquisition grounded in a spiritual orientation. Such an orientation may encompass internal quests for knowledge; a belief of the interconnectedness of all beings, living or otherwise; and a deep and enduring attachment to place and land.

Contemporary visions of Indigenous education, with their concomitant goals of decolonization, have re-emerged in recent years as vigorous offshoots from traditional education systems, defying colonial onslaughts. In keeping with traditional approaches to education, the span of Indigenous education extends from the earliest to the final years of an individual’s life and involves the community collectively in the roles of educators, learners, and respected knowledge keepers (Armstrong, 1987; Canadian Council on Learning, 2007; Goulet & Goulet, 2014). Education, then, is a much broader endeavor, as it spans both formal and informal learning environments and involves a lifetime of learning.

In considering a broader Indigenous landscape of learning, we are inspired by stories of Indigenous agency and self-determination in educational endeavors. In addressing adult learners, for instance, Silver (2013) writes: “Aboriginal adult education can work well, even for those people who have had very difficult lives and who, as a consequence, have relatively low levels of formal educational attainment and who are lacking in self-confidence and self-esteem” (p. 14). In such cases, he argues, a transformative educational experience is nurtured by the right location, small class sizes, affordability, a holistic approach, a warm and personalized learning environment, and a “curriculum that is rooted in their experience . . . a decolonizing curriculum that teaches [Aboriginal learners] about their histories and cultures and that situates their personal struggles in the context of the broader historical and socio-economic process of colonization” (p. 14). Locally we find a potent example of culturally rich learning and exchange within the Ghost River Rediscovery program, where students, led by First Nations Elders, are taken out onto the land and taught from Indigenous understandings. In the earliest stages of life, the Aboriginal Head Start programs spread across Canada and the United States introduce children in the early formative years to a learning environment rich with their own language, cultural traditions, and ceremonies, helping children come to know who they are. This brief sampling of diverse learning opportunities comprises a powerful form of Indigenous education, making for radically liberating learning experiences. In taking back the power to define education on their own terms, Indigenous peoples offer possibilities and a hope of renewal, and innovations, for others.3

Invitation for Further Dialogue

The need for Indigenous education is dire and immediate as the enduring impacts of colonization undermine Indigenous peoples’ well-being and self-determination across the globe. It is telling that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was formulated to affirm such self-determination, but it has not been fully adopted and implemented worldwide. Several nations with significant debt to Indigenous peoples have resisted the responsibilities entailed in the Declaration. Meanwhile, the rights and recognitions central to UNDRIP are clearly lacking for many Indigenous people. Deaths of Indigenous people in police custody (Razack, 2015); rising suicide rates of Indigenous youth; epidemics of missing and murdered Indigenous women; the systematic murder and torture of Indigenous people in many places (Totten & Hitchcock, 2011); the continuing struggles of Indigenous people to resist neo-colonial development strategies, protect the environment, and combat climate change—such persistent problems on the sociopolitical landscapes of contemporary nation-states call for immediate and significant change.

Indigenous education offers opportunities not only for the amelioration of schooling experiences for Indigenous youth but, conceived broadly, for the amelioration and endurance of life on this planet. Indigenous ways of knowing and being contribute to the breadth of human understanding and offer important ways forward. For non-Indigenous peoples, the valuing and acceptance of Indigenous knowledges could contribute to a wider expanse of what it means to be human and, for some, how to survive in an uncertain future. Knowledge pluralism enables humankind to adapt and survive to changing circumstances by providing a wider knowledge base (Battiste, 2013).

Traditional means of education—with or without recognition from a colonial perspective—continue to convey a rich and vast array of Indigenous Knowledges, proving that Indigenous populations do not require the approval of Western authorities to validate their own forms of education. Yet, we also recognize and honor our shared humanity. At the time of this writing, we see an upsurge of racism and xenophobic panic: in response, we work diligently to foster educational responses that inspire respectful relations and affirmations of difference among diverse peoples.

In this spirit, we extend an invitation to further this critical dialogue with all our relations around the globe. What do others have to add to what we have set out here? What are the conversations happening in your communities, and what are those we should be having with one another? We are also reminded of these important questions as we move forward in our own work: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What are my responsibilities? We hope to hear your stories and to share more of our own as we deepen our dialogue.

As we look past what we have written here to our shared future, we seek to build on the work of Indigenization. We understand Indigenizing processes as grounded in Indigenous worldviews and focusing upon Indigenous perspectives. The term Indigenizing “centres a politics of indigenous identity and indigenous cultural action” (Smith, 2012, pp. 147–148). In our views, Indigenizing is significant, and distinct from decolonizing, in that Indigenizing work begins from Indigenous perspectives and standpoints. Indigenizing is powerful for Indigenous communities because it removes the colonial as a primary focus. Where decolonizing challenges colonization and Eurocentrism, Indigenizing fosters the resurgence and practice of Indigenous Knowledges and principles of self-determination, connecting Indigenous pasts, presents, and futures. Indigenizing helps us take the next steps to prepare the world for those children not yet born. For them, we work for a vision of education that fosters wellness and good relations.

Miigwetch, messiyh’, marsee, thank you—all my relations.


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                                                                                                                            Robinson, D. (2016). Intergenerational sense, intergenerational responsibility. In D. Robinson & K. Martin (Eds.), Arts of engagement: Taking aesthetic action in and beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (pp. 43–66). Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                              Schissel, B., & Wotherspoon, T. (2003). The legacy of school for Aboriginal people: Education, oppression, and emancipation. Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                Sensoy, Ö., & DiAngelo, R. (2015). Is everyone really equal?: An introduction to key concepts in social justice education. New York: Teachers College Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                  Shrubsole, N. D. (2011). The Sun Dance and the Gustafsen Lake Standoff: Healing through resistance and the danger of dismissing religion. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 2(4), 3.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                    Silver, J. (2013). Moving forward, giving back: Transformative Aboriginal adult education. Winnipeg, MB: Fernwood.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                      Simon, J., & Smith, L. T. (2001). A civilising mission? Perceptions and representations of the Native schools system. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                        Sinclair, M. (2015, December 6). Will truth bring reconciliation? Justice Murray Sinclair says not without education. CBC Radio.

                                                                                                                                        Smith, G. H. (2003, October). Indigenous struggle for the transformation of education and schooling. Keynote Address to the Alaskan Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention. Anchorage, AL.

                                                                                                                                        Smith, L. T. (2007). The native and the neoliberal down under: Neoliberalism and “endangered authenticities.” Indigenous Experience Today, 2, 333–352.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                          Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples (2nd ed.). London: Zed Books.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                            Statistics Canada. (2010). Population counts. Aboriginal Statistics at a Glance (89-645-X).

                                                                                                                                            St. Denis, V. (2007). Aboriginal education and anti-racist education: Building alliances across cultural and racial identity. Canadian Journal of Education, 30(4), 1068–1092.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                              Swadener, B., & Mutua, K. (Eds.). (2008). Decolonizing research in cross-cultural contexts: Critical personal narratives. Albany: State University of New York Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                Totten, S., & Hitchcock, R. K. (Eds.). (2011). Genocide of Indigenous peoples: A critical bibliographic review (Vol. 8). Piscataway, NJ: Transaction.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                  Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015a). Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future: Summary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

                                                                                                                                                  Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015b). Canada’s residential schools (Vol. 1). Montreal, QC, & Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                    United Nations. (2008). United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. (G.A. Res. 61/295, U.N. Doc. A/Res/61/295). New York: United Nations.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                      United States. (1892). National Conference on Social Welfare, National Conference of Social Work (U.S.), National Conference of Charities and Correction (U.S.), Conference of Charities and Correction (U.S.), Conference of Charities (U.S.), Conference of Boards of Public Charities (U.S.), American Social Science Association. Official proceedings of the annual meeting: 1892.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                        White, N., & Ottmann, J. (2016). Indigenous children, families, and early years education in Australia and Canada. In A. Farrell & I. Pramling Samuelsson (Eds.), Diversity in the early years: Intercultural learning and teaching (pp. 102–129). Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                          Zembylas, M. (2015). “Pedagogy of discomfort” and its ethical implications: The tensions of ethical violence in social justice education. Ethics and Education, 10(2), 163–174.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                            Additional Resources

                                                                                                                                                            Books and Articles

                                                                                                                                                            Barrington, J. M., & Beaglehole, T. H. (1974). Māori schools in a changing society: An historical review (No. 52). Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                              Bishop, R. (2003). Changing power relations in education: Kaupapa Māori messages for “mainstream” education in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Comparative Education, 39(2), 221–238.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                Deloria, V. (1988). Custer died for your sins: An Indian manifesto. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                  Government of Canada. (1996). For seven generations: An information legacy of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. [CD ROM]. Ottawa, ON: Libraxus.

                                                                                                                                                                  Hornberger, N. H. (2010). Can schools save Indigenous languages? Policy and practice on four continents. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                    Miller, J. R. (1996). Shingwauk’s vision: A history of Native residential schools. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                      Phillips, J., & Whatman, S. (2007). Decolonising preservice teacher education—reform at many cultural interfaces. In The world of educational quality: 2007 AERA annual meeting (pp. 194). Chicago.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                        St. Clair, D., & Kishimoto, K. (2010). Decolonizing teaching: A cross curricular and collaborative model for teaching about race in the university. Multicultural Education, 18(1), 18–24.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                          Vizenor, G. (2008). Survivance: Narratives of Native presence. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                            Online Media

                                                                                                                                                                            Alberta Education. (2003–2017). Walking together: First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives in curriculum.

                                                                                                                                                                            CAUT Aboriginal Working Group. (2016). Indigenizing the academy.

                                                                                                                                                                            Marshall, A. (2004). Two-eyed seeing. Institute for Integrative Science & Health.

                                                                                                                                                                            United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2008).


                                                                                                                                                                            (1.) In very basic terms, this phrase encompasses the mindful, respectful action which involves consideration of “those that have come before us,” humanity in the present, and “those children not yet born.”

                                                                                                                                                                            (2.) As a point of comparison, the total Indigenous population in Canada was approximately 799,000 in 1996, while in the late 1860s it was likely closer to 130,000 (Aylsworth & Trovato, 2012; Statistics Canada, 2010).

                                                                                                                                                                            (3.) We hear echoes of traditional Indigenous modes of education in policy innovations such as those emerging within the (Canadian) Alberta context. The recognition, or not, of these similarities will be most revealing in terms of intentionality toward true reconciliation.