Indigenous Education Protocol
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Indigenous Education Protocol for Colleges and Institutes

Colleges and Institutes are key providers of applied postsecondary education for Indigenous communities across Canada. They are often the only postsecondary institution present in remote northern communities and many of them have been working actively to create curriculums that respect indigenous values and cultures.

Colleges and institutes respect and recognize that Indigenous people include First Nation, Métis and Inuit people, having distinct cultures, languages, histories and contemporary perspectives.

They recognize that indigenous education emanates from the intellectual and cultural traditions of Indigenous peoples in Canada. They also believe that Indigenous education will strengthen colleges’ and institutes’ contribution to improving the lives of learners and communities.

In order to reaffirm the importance of Indigenous education, Colleges and Institutes Canada, in consultation with its members and partners in indigenous communities has developed an Indigenous Education Protocol. This important document underscores the importance of structures and approaches required to address Indigenous peoples’ learning needs and support self-determination and socio-economic development of Indigenous communities.

This protocol is founded on seven principles that aim to guide the institutions who will agree to sign on to this aspirational document.

List of Signatories

Signatory institutions agree to:

1. Commit to making Indigenous education a priority.

Exemplary practices for implementing this principle include:

Embed the mandate to serve Indigenous learners and communities in colleges’ and institutes’ strategic plans to ensure Indigenous learner needs are considered in institutional planning and decision-making.

2. Ensure governance structures recognize and respect Indigenous peoples.

Exemplary practices for implementing this principle include:

Ensure Indigenous representation on college and institute Boards of Governors, Program Advisory Committees, Student Associations through delegated seats for First Nation, Métis and Inuit leaders, and allow for parallel Indigenous Advisory Councils and Elder/Métis Senator Councils.

3. Implement intellectual and cultural traditions of Indigenous peoples through curriculum and learning approaches relevant to learners and communities.

Exemplary practices for implementing this principle include:

Transition and upgrading programs:

  • Build linkages and partnerships between K-12 and post-secondary education systems, including the availability of dual-credit options between colleges/institutes and high schools;
  • Integrate Indigenous-focused upgrading programs or modules into standard provincial upgrading programs;
  • Offer flexibility in the delivery of transition programs to allow adult learners to pause and restart programs as required due to family, community or work obligations; and
  • Use culturally relevant assessment tools, which may differ for First Nation, Métis and Inuit learners.

College and institute curriculum:

  • Capture and reflect history, including oral history, as understood by Indigenous peoples, across curriculum;
  • Promote and support the preservation of Indigenous languages;
  • Embed intellectual and cultural traditions of Indigenous peoples;
  • Combine educational pedagogy and epistemology infused with Elder/Métis Senator knowledge;
  • Confront the legacy of residential schools, recognizing the challenge of institutional settings and supporting healing and reconciliation; and
  • Recognize that Indigenous knowledge can benefit all learners (e.g. environment, justice) and have processes for two-way sharing (e.g. both scientific and traditional ways).

Learning Approaches:

  • Offer flexibility in program and course delivery and allow for stop-out and start-up options;
  • Develop and deliver community-based education and training programs that are aligned with the economic, social development and labour market needs of Indigenous communities, recognizing that First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples are distinct and that their communities will differ in terms of the education programs required;
  • Legitimize traditional knowledge by giving post-secondary credits for this knowledge, as for other skills and areas of expertise.

4. Support students and employees to increase understanding and reciprocity among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Exemplary practices for implementing this principle include :

  • Acknowledge the territory and land on which colleges and institutes are located and serve and integrate the use of Indigenous language at events, ceremonies and meetings.
  • Include traditional ways of doing and being in the processes associated with institutional functioning (e.g. Elder/Métis Senator opening words/prayers, feasts, drum dancing, healing circles / sharing circles, storytelling).
  • Create an environment where everyone has responsibility for Indigenous issues by adopting a cross-accountability rather than a silo structure.
  • Offer staff and faculty training on Indigenous history, inter-cultural training for all (faculty, administration, support staff, facilities), including experiential, hands-on learning activities, and land and place-based learning. 

5. Commit to increasing the number of Indigenous employees with ongoing appointments throughout the institution, including Indigenous senior administrators.

Exemplary practices for implementing this principle include :

  • Improve frontline services for Indigenous students by allocating resources to ensure regular access to services from Elders/Métis Senators from the community or in residence.
  • Establish targets for hiring First Nation, Métis and Inuit employees at colleges and institutes, at all levels.
  • Ensure institutional hiring and human resource development strategies identify goals and approaches for increasing the number of Indigenous staff and faculty.

6. Establish Indigenous-centred holistic services and learning environments for learner success.

Exemplary practices for implementing this principle include :

  • Initiate recruitment with Indigenous students earlier than grades 7 to 10 to expose youth to college/institute programs and related career opportunities, and link them to prerequisites they need in high school.
  • Offer culturally relevant assessment services :
    • prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) services to recognize traditional knowledge base and life experience of learners;
    • English/French and math skills assessments must recognize the English or French gap for Indigenous language speakers, and allow more time to complete to support success.
  • Change the symbolism that exists throughout the institution so that it is more respectful and inclusive of Indigenous ways and increases visibility of Indigenous culture through gathering spaces, gardens, signage, art work and ceremonies.
  • Move from a safe space to a safe campus approach by ensuring that culture, language and Elder/Métis Senator involvement is not compartmentalized and is visible and viable across all aspects of the institution and students’ experiences.
  • Offer Indigenous-centred support services to address the needs of learners holistically and guided by the wisdom and leadership of Elders/Métis Senators, including:
    • Elder/Métis Senator services from the community or in residence;
    • housing, childcare and transportation;
    • tutoring and learning supports;
    • health care and mental health counselling;
    • mentorships and role models from alumni and graduating students;
    • career and employment counselling; and
    • activities structured around family.
  • Ensure support services are multi-pronged to meet the diverse needs of Indigenous people: urban, rural, Status, Non-Status, First Nation, Métis and Inuit.
  • Integrate systems and provisions to eliminate financial barriers for Indigenous students including:
    • sponsored seats;
    • funds for participation in upgrading programs;
    • financial assistance, including bursaries and scholarships;
    • partnership funding to host visits, meetings and events;
    • base funding allocation by the institution to minimize dependency on soft funding;
    • waive tuition for children in care;
    • differentiated funding models within institutions to account for smaller enrolment.

7. Build relationships and be accountable to Indigenous communities in support of self-determination through education, training and applied research.

Exemplary practices for implementing this principle include :

  • Formalize college and institute partnerships with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, Indigenous institutes of higher learning and Indigenous organizations such as Friendship Centres and Métis Community Councils, recognizing the equal partnership status.
  • Identify community needs in an open and genuine consultation approach including :
    • how the community wants to work with the college/institute;
    • the content of the education and training programs; and
    • delivery approaches and locations.
  • Ensure college/institute partnerships with Indigenous communities are responsive to economic development and labour market needs by:
    • Fostering opportunities for community-college-industry engagement and joint projects; and
    • Supporting entrepreneurship and business development in Indigenous communities.
  • Develop and share curriculum on governance of Indigenous communities and build a deeper knowledge, understanding and appreciation around self-governance and self-determination.
  • Support Indigenous community sustainability by offering community-based programs that address industry and environmental concerns.