History of Indigenous education in the Faculty of Education

by Aliki Marinakis and Onowa McIvor  (revised Feb. 2015)

Indigenous Education has had an official presence in the Faculty of Education for over fifteen years, marked by the creation of a First Nations Education Advisory Board for Teacher Education, established under Dean Bruce Howe in 1999.  The board included Faculty members, such as Dr. Margaret Robertson (then Director of Elementary Teacher Education Programs), Dr. Gloria Snively, Dr. Robert Anthony, Dr. Bill Zuk, and Dr. Ted Riecken as well as community stakeholders, and led by co-chairs Janice Simcoe and Nella Nelson, who continue to lead the board today.

In this newly created context, Mary Longman was hired in a limited term Faculty position. Under the direction of the Board two courses in Aboriginal Education were created and discussion began for a strand of courses focused on Aboriginal Education. These projects continued under the leadership of Dean Budd Hall, as well as a new focus on community programming initiatives.

A First Nations Advisor/coordinator position was created in 2002 to help support and recruit students of Indigenous heritage to the faculty. Wendy Edwards, being first to fill this role, worked with Mary Longman, Dr. Robertson & other faculty to develop and support a language teacher education program initiative in Campbell River (called the Developmental Standard Term Certificate.)  This was the pre-curser to the Bachelor of Education in Indigenous Language Revitalization. In 2002, Dr. Peter Cole replaced Mary Longman in a new limited-term position in First Nations Education. In 2004, Dr. Lorna Williams began as the first regular faculty position in the role of Director, and First Nations Education became Aboriginal Education, which grew to include two additional staff members: a secretary and a temporary program coordinator. 

Under the direction of Dr. Williams, the influence of Aboriginal Education expanded throughout the faculty. New programming initiatives began, including the very popular “Learning and Teaching in an Indigenous World” course, in which students, staff, faculty and community members created a welcome pole, a textile hanging, stories and songs which were then gifted to the Faculty. Another milestone in the history of Aboriginal Education was the creation of a required course in 2008 for all teacher education programs at UVic -- a first for Canadian university teacher education programs.

Over the last decade, the Faculty of Education and the programs within have begun to reflect the needs of Indigenous students. In addition, many members of the Faculty of Education have demonstrated efforts to create significant space for Indigenous students, staff and faculty within its walls and structure and within the communities and schools with whom we work.

In 2008 Onowa McIvor joined the unit as the new Director, allowing Dr. Williams to take up her recently awarded Canada Research Chair in a full-time capacity. Under the leadership of Dean Ted Riecken, two other faculty members joined the unit: in 2010, Dr. Carmen Rodriguez de France, and in 2013, Dr. Trish Rosborough. Dr. Williams later retired December 2013 and the whole university celebrated her achievements in a retirement event. Many of those are visual reminders of the Indigenous spaces that now exist in our faculty.

In July 2009, as part of a strategic plan developed in collaboration with Faculty members and the Advisory Board, the unit changed its name to Indigenous Education. The 2009 Strategic Plan goals included Language Revitalization programming. In May 2010 the Faculty and later the UVic Senate (May, 2011) approved four new academic programs, administered through Indigenous Education: and undergraduate Diploma and Bachelor of Education in Indigenous Language Revitalization, and a Graduate Certificate and Masters Degree in Indigenous Language Revitalization, developed and delivered in partnership with the Department of Linguistics. (The partnership between Indigenous Education and the Department of Linguistics has a long history dating back to the 1970’s and 1980’s with the Native Indian Language Diploma Program.)

Four years later, Indigenous Education, along with its partners, have five community undergraduate partnerships (three cohorts established, and two poised to begin in September 2015) and are in the midst of the second delivery of the Masters program in Indigenous Language Revitalization. Graduates of our programs are establishing and teaching in immersion language schools and other impactful contexts around the province and country.  UVic is recognized provincially for their commitment and success in Indigenous Language programming.

As the academic unit emerged, the faculty supported and applauded. In 2010, as part of the Language Program approvals, the Faculty supported Indigenous Education with their own academic status, course pre-fixes and control over the content and teaching of their courses.  This was an important step toward self-determination and the “Indian Control over Indian Education”.

In 2014 the faculty welcomed a new Dean, Dr. Ralf St. Clair, and the Advisory Board ratified a new Strategic Plan for Indigenous Education.  The strategic plan seeks further growth in the numbers of Indigenous students and faculty, as well as further Indigenous program development at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. St Clair comes with experience working with First Nations communities in Manitoba and Quebec and brings new ideas and directions for Indigenous Education as well. 

Looking back at the past 15+ years, we honour the past and present staff, faculty, Directors and Deans within the faculty who have worked hard to create a place of welcome and inclusion for Indigenous UVic students.