“This strategy acknowledges the university’s participation—historical and persistent, overt and subtle—in colonialism and reflects the university’s conviction to decolonize,” said Vice-Provost Indigenous Engagement Jacqueline Ottmann. “This strategy is powerful because it is honest, not tokenistic. It required courage to write. It requires courage to read. And, most importantly, it will require courage to implement.”
From the beginning of the process there has been a focus to ensure that the work was ‘done in a good way.’ The University Plan 2025 included meaningful engagement with Indigenous Elders, Traditional Knowledge Keepers and Language Teachers, and there was a conscious effort to continue the work in an inclusive and respectful manner with the subsequent creation of the Indigenous Strategy.
That work began with the Elder’s Summit where Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and Language Teachers helped to guide and support the process of creating this strategy. These advisors openly and honestly shared their knowledge, feelings and teachings about the future direction of Indigenization, decolonization and reconcili-ACTION at USask.
Protocol was followed as the members of the Office of the Vice-Provost of Indigenous Engagement (OVPIE) met with Indigenous students, staff, faculty, and community members in the fall of 2018 and throughout 2019/2020.
On May 6, May 13, and May 22, 2020, several Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Language Teachers who have a long history of supporting the work of the university came together online in virtual gathering circles to provide feedback on the document, to gift a name for the strategy, and to advise on appropriate ceremonial processes for gifting the Indigenous Strategy to the university.
The May 6 virtual gathering was the first time that many of the Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Language Teachers had met with one another in several months, in light of the COVID-19 group gathering restrictions. For many of them, it was the first time they had engaged in an online Zoom meeting platform. It was unlike anything they had been asked to participate in previously during their time advising and supporting USask.
The name of the Indigenous Strategy chosen by Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Language Teachers will be revealed to the broader community during a ceremony that is scheduled to take place online sometime this summer as the document is formally gifted to the university and received by President Peter Stoicheff.
This year the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some unprecedented challenges for everyone. Many of the events planned have been altered with concerns for community safety because of COVID-19. However, the gifting of the Indigenous Strategy to USask will continue in adaptive and creative ways, as organizers are in the midst of creating an online celebration that includes a lineup of speakers and performers who are participating from around the province and across the country.
The online celebration of USask’s Indigenous strategy is an example of how distinct this strategy is from others in the province or country. Indigenous Peoples of this land have come together in an act of self-determination to reimagine the path forward for all our children, including ‘those not yet born seven generations into the future’ through this plan, which serves as a roadmap to reconciliation for the university’s leadership, faculty, staff, and students. USask’s Indigenous Strategy was created by Indigenous people, and is presented as a gift to all.