I attended the Think Indigenous conference on March 14-16, 2018 in Saskatoon. It was a fantastic professional development opportunity.
It started with a choice of three, all day, free pre-conference offerings. I attended the Think Indigenous “Celebrating Indigenous Knowledge in the Academy”. This was a chance to hear seven female Indigenous scholars speak about the importance of Indigenous knowledge. These scholars included: Dr. Gail McKay, Dr. Verna St. Denis, Dr. Karla Williamson, Dr. Maggie Kovach, Dr. Alex Wilson, Dr. Marie Battiste and Dr. Jackie Ottman. The topics included: land based education, decolonizing education, language revitalization, Two Spirit ways of knowing, Indigenous research methodology, anti-racist education, Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous leadership. It was a very interesting and informative.
On March 15 and 16, the conference had a mixture of international and national keynote speakers. I was so pleased to hear Leroy Little Bear speak. I had read some of his work but did not ever expect to be able to hear him in person. He spoke about how everything is interrelated and interconnected.
I attended a session called Embedding Indigenous Knowledges: The Australian Context. Anna Grace Darling, Monash University, Victoria, Australia. She spoke about the mandated inclusion of Indigenous knowledges and culturally responsive pedagogies into their teacher education program, Indigenous education units and school curriculum. There was a lack of clarity and or direction about how this process was to be achieved. She spoke about how the impact of policy and practice and how they worked collaboratively to towards these objectives.
Another session I attended was called Re-Thinking Indigenous Community-Based Research Approaches. It presented by three professors from the University of Toronto from three different departments. They spoke about how they responded to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action. They spoke about identifying challenges, barriers and opportunities. They described teaching strategies including: the power of learning in the community, the significance and importance of Indigenous ways of knowing, storytelling, active listening and how, as allies, to use their position to make the situation better.
I was moved by the powerful message by Chante Speidel. She is a 16 year old youth living in Saskatoon. Chante is the 2017-2018 Manito Ahbee Youth Ambassador. This title honours the murdered and missing Indigenous women. Chante decided that she would wear a ribbon skirt every day for a year in honour of these women who were taken before their time. She spoke eloquently with courage and convictions and touched the hearts of all who heard her.
There were so many powerful and important messages in this conference. I have only included a few highlights. It was an amazing experience. I would encourage interested individuals to listen to the Think Indigenous pre-recorded podcasts. These can be found by searching under Think Indigenous.