Honouring the knowledges of Indigenous leaders in education

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Whitford, Rina
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The horrific history of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples has no doubt left deep wounds and scars which continue to perpetuate systemic colonial racism and continue to oppress arguably the most marginalized and disadvantaged group of peoples in Canada. The role Indian Residential Schools have played in the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples has left a devastating legacy of a deeply damaged relationship with an education system engrained with Westernized Eurocentric hegemony. It is no surprise that the academic achievement of the Indigenous population is well below the national average of the non-Indigenous population. Inevitably, there lacks any representation or acknowledgment of Indigenous knowledges which could inform educational practices in all facets to better reflect the growing population of Indigenous peoples. We must interrogate, revisit, and redesign current practices and preparation of educational leaders to better equip them to meet the needs of our changing demographics in Canada. Senator Murray Sinclair (2014), Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) states, “education has brought us to the current state of poor relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country, but education holds the key to making things better” (p.7). This research puts emphasis on exemplifying the knowledges of Indigenous leaders in education to inform leadership practices to create a shift that puts Indigenous ways of being, doing, and leading at the forefront of leadership theory and practice. I sat with and listened to the journeys of Indigenous leaders in education and documented the strengths that emerged within themes of refusal, resistance, resilience, and resurgence, as well as articulated specific leadership nuances congruent with Indigenous ways of knowing. Through story and connection, I unveil the knowledge Indigenous leaders carry within their leadership role, and work to shift the deficit paradigm that plagues the way Indigenous people are often viewed. A true valuing and acceptance of Indigenous knowledges can, and should, inform leadership foundations for the future of education in Canada for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
Indigenous leadership