Indigenization at Waterloo

Indigenization is a major topic of discussion at universities across the country and Waterloo is no exception. 

What you need to know

  • The traditional territory we’re on. The University of Waterloo (including the Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge campuses) is situated on the Haldimand Tract, land promised to the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River, and is the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg, and Haudenosaunee peoples. Six Nations is the largest reserve in Canada and is just 60 km from the University. (Here’s why we think you need to know this.)
  • What the University is doing. Waterloo began work on an Indigenization Strategy in 2017. Five working groups drafted recommendations, which will be considered and developed into an Indigenization Strategy by a Director of Indigenous Initiatives once that position is filled.
  • What FAUW is doing. The goal of our Indigenization working group (also started in 2017) is to help faculty members take action. We’re working on self-education and relationship building, and are in the early stages of planning workshops for our members. We are also running a monthly reading circle on Indigenization at universities. Contact Laura McDonald if you’re interested in joining either group (or sign up for our mailing list in the sidebar).
  • There are Indigenous people at Waterloo. As of 2017, there were approximately 135 self-declared First Nations, Inuit, or Métis (FNIM) students at Waterloo and 38 employees, including some faculty.

Where to find information

Indigenization and resources at Waterloo

Indigenization at other universities and elsewhere

Who to talk to about Indigenization 

  • To hire an Indigenous student as a research assistant, contact Cheryl Maksymyk at the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre.

  • To provide input on the Indigenization Strategy, contact the Office of Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion.

  • For support with your own efforts at Indigenization and decolonization, or to share what you’re already doing, contact a member of the FAUW Indigenization Working Group.

  • Indigenous faculty can connect with Lori Campbell, director of the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre.

Respecting Indigenous people's time

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre and the Indigenous Students Association are resources for Indigenous students. They, unfortunately, don't have the capacity to support non-Indigenous faculty with Indigenizing their courses, or to help a lot of students with their projects or research. What can you do instead?

  • Tell the University you'd like to see an Indigenous curriculum advisor at Waterloo—a role that exists at other universities.

  • Direct students to conduct research on their own. It’s a better (and more respectful) use of everyone’s time for them to get their first-hand Indigenous perspectives from the plethora of existing sources rather than one-on-one interviews. (Read Craig Fortier’s blog post on how to avoid burdening marginalized people and social movement organizers.)

  • Join our Reading Circle and Indigenization mailing list (in the sidebar) to discuss these issues with your colleagues (and to find out about our upcoming workshops).

Your role in Indigenization

There are no quick fixes. You'll need to put in the long, slow work of learning and building relationships. Here's what non-Indigenous faculty can do to learn more, raise awareness, and support your Indigenous students, colleagues, and community members:

Key links

FAUW Indigenization mailing list

Indigenization news and events from FAUW and elsewhere.

What is Indigenization?

The authors of "Reconciliation within the Academy: Why is Indigenization so Difficult?" (PDF) put it this way:

"Indigenization is the process of creating a supportive and comfortable space inside our institutions within which Indigenous people can succeed."

Camosun College's Indigenization plan (PDF) provides this definition:

“Indigenization is the process by which Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing and relating are incorporated into educational, organizational, cultural and social structures.”

Adam Gaudry and Danielle Lorenz argue that the word is used in three distinct ways:

Indigenous inclusion is about "increasing the number of Indigenous students, faculty, and staff in the Canadian academy....largely by supporting the adaptation of Indigenous people to the current (often alienating) culture of the Canadian academy."

Reconciliation indigenization "locates indigenization on common ground between Indigenous and Canadian ideals, creating a new, broader consensus on debates such as what counts as knowledge."

Decolonial indigenization "envisions the wholesale overhaul of the academy to fundamentally reorient knowledge production based on balancing power relations between Indigenous peoples and Canadians."