Indigenization a focus this fall at U of S
- Angela Hill | September 18, 2018
When the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) launches their university plan in October, it will have Indigenization prioritized.
“It’s emphasized in a way that every aspect of the university, all 17 colleges and schools, have to reflect Indigenization and reconciliation, and engage in decolonizing activities because the university plan really does enforce that,” said Jacqueline Ottmann, vice-provost Indigenous engagement at the university.
The foundational documents for the institution communicate “the importance of the three goals – uplifting Indigenization, experiencing reconciliation, and embracing manacihitowin,” she said.
The plan was gifted an Indigenous name during a ceremony on Sept. 5. The Cree name Nīkānītān Manāchitowinhk, which means Let’s Work Together, reflects the language around the importance of the university working alongside Indigenous Peoples, Ottmann said.
“It’s been inspiriting for me to be part of a community that really strives to embrace Indigenous Peoples and support Indigenous People in different ways.”
Ottmann started her role as vice-provost Oct. 1, 2017. While she said she has seen successes within her first year, there is still a lot of work ahead. Indigenization will go beyond the academic areas of the U of S and look at all units including areas such as procurement.
“All of that will take time, in order establish and get going that transformational, systemic change that we are working towards,” she said.
In the years since Indigenous Studies professor Priscilla Settee arrived on campus in 1996, there has been improvements of Indigenization on the campus, she said.
“It’s been a slow start,” she said. “In more recent years it’s picked up the pace.”
While her department has seen growth in professors and research chairs, Settee said now there needs to be support on the personal side for students and academics. She talks about issues like daycare for mothers, access to housing, food and transportation. Settee also talks about Indigenous academics and allies supporting one another.
“It’s the faculty who change the pedagogy and curriculum, and make it user friendly,” she said.
Settee is pleased with the changes she is seeing on campus, but added “it didn’t come out of nowhere.” She and others have been pushing for change for a long time. Having a vice provost Indigenous engagement is another positive step.
“It’s good to have a figurehead such as herself,” she said.
Ottmann knows there is a sense of urgency with her work on campus and she said she finds it motivating.
“I really do see the University of Saskatchewan leading the way,” she said.
As she moves into the second year of her position, Ottmann said she wants to make sure successes and Indigenous contributions are being shared.
She said they are working on a communications strategy with a multimedia approach, including an artistic timeline that will fill the tunnel that leads between the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Center and the health sciences building.
“I think success means the narrative at the University of Saskatchewan will change even more,” Ottmann said.
There have been changes already, she said.
“We’ve moved from why should we indigenize, reconcile, decolonize … to how should we and now what,” she said. “Ultimately, I think Indigenous Peoples will tell us when we are successful.”