Working toward an indigenous strategy for York University

Vari Hall in the sunshine
Vari Hall in the sunshine

The following message comes from the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost:

York University is situated on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. The University acknowledges other indigenous nations who have longstanding relationships with this territory, such as the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee and the Métis nations. York’s relationship to this land and to First Nations continues to evolve through growing commitment and greater understanding.

The recent launch of a new web portal by the Council of Ontario Universities, Let’s Take Our Future Further, which is focused on the experiences of indigenous learners at Ontario Universities, offers vivid testimony on the transformative power of university education. This launch coincides with a wide array of activities at York University that are devoted to kindred themes.

Most recently, the University’s Glendon College hosted a Colloquium on Indigenous Language Policy implications of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report. The event took place Feb. 9 and explored the various calls to action specifically directed to indigenous languages and access to language education in postsecondary institutions.

In April, Osgoode faculty will meet to explore the TRC Call to Action on all Law Schools to institute courses of study on residential schools, treaties, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, inter-cultural competencies, anti-racism and more. The University is also looking ahead to the opening of Hart House this summer as a reimagined ceremonial and community space for indigenous community members at York. The historic building is located on the University’s Keele campus.

York University is also embarking on a process to develop a University-wide strategy to address the needs of indigenous students, staff and faculty, and the importance of indigenous engagement to the future of the University. This initiative will include various kinds of responses to the TRC Report, and the broader questions of reconciliation and indigenization at York.

The development of York University’s indigenous strategy is being led by the Provost’s Office with guidance from York’s Aboriginal Education Council, and will involve input from the Centre for Aboriginal Student Services as well as all Faculties, divisions and communities at York University.

This strategy will build on the University’s distinct values, traditions, history and vision, the many ongoing initiatives dedicated to making York University a more habitable place for indigenous community members, as well as insights from the various approaches that have been taken at peer universities. The goal is to engage, to listen, to consult and to act. The strategy that flows from such a process will include but not be limited to addressing:

  • the recruitment and academic success of indigenous students;
  • the curricular offerings and content which explore indigenous life, culture and traditions;
  • research that is relevant to indigenous life and that respects indigenous approaches to knowledge and learning;
  • collaboration with indigenous communities to enrich the learning process;
  • programs to recruit and retain indigenous staff and faculty; and
  • spaces for indigenous cultures and community within the University.

Future posts will highlight some existing and emerging initiatives that advance one or more of these goals at York University.