Saturday, March 7, 2020

Aligning with UBC's Indigenous Strategic Plan - guidelines for academic units

UBC's new Indigenous Strategic Plan contains 8 goals and 43 specific action items.  I have discussed the implications and importance of this plan at the level of the overall university, this commentary looks at specific actions items that academic units and departments might focus on. I am doing this from the vantage point of my own department, Anthropology at UBC-V.

Our department describes it self has having a caring, inclusive 'culture.' 

This underlying context should set the department up for a strong and effective engagement with implementing the Indigenous Strategic Plan. It doesn't however, address the historical complicity that anthropologists and anthropology have had with colonial dispossession of Indigenous peoples.

Anthropologists have a long history of 'collecting' Indigenous belongings under problematic contexts. The core data and substance of anthropological theory making of anthropology has been built out of Indigenous knowledge and tradition. Our department at UBC has a long history research in Indigenous communities and, more recently, with Indigenous communities. Any action moving forward should reflect an awareness of our departmental and disciplinary history, our need to redress our past, and a reworking of our practices and policies to reflect the future oriented vision of the Indigenous Strategic Plan.

Among the strategic plan's action items are at least ten that a department might have some capacity to act upon and effect local changes over.  I label these 'potential areas of growth.'  There are three additional action items that UBC Anthropology has already met or exceeded.

This year the department of anthropology at UBC-V set up a special working group to identify ways of realigning and improving departmental practices and policies to bring them into compliance with the TRC's Calls to Action.  As part of this process the department is holding a workshop Monday March 9th (open to faculty, staff, & graduate students) to identify three priority areas to work on in the coming year. This summary and grouping of action items is prepared as a resource for the workshop.

The action items from the Indigenous Strategic Plan are listed below under two headings. The numbers beside each item corresponds to the action items' number in the plan.

Potential areas of growth

2. Ensure that all faculties and cross-university strategies identify Indigenous engagement and the advancement of Indigenous peoples’ human rights as a specific strategic area of focus and commitment.

6. Complete a public report on the findings of an institution-wide study that identifies UBC’s participation in the implementation of Crown colonial policies.

14. Provide Indigenous peoples who are engaged in research with equitable and timely compensation that recognizes the significant value of their participation to the research process and outcomes.

15. Undertake a university-wide curriculum review to ensure Indigenous histories, experiences, worldviews and knowledge systems are appropriately reflected across faculties and programs and are fully compliant with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action

17. Provide equitable and timely financial compensation to Indigenous people who support the Indigenization of curriculum.

21. Dedicate spaces for Indigenous students, faculty and staff to practice and celebrate their cultures.

23. Implement an Indigenous procurement strategy which prioritizes the provision of goods and services from Indigenous businesses and vendors.

25. Develop an Indigenous representative workforce and advancement policy, which identifies targets for annually increasing Indigenous faculty and staff on both campuses.

27. Integrate competence in teaching Indigenous content and working with Indigenous students and colleagues into all university job descriptions.

38. Review all university policies and operational practices to ensure they support the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ human rights, and the equity and inclusion of Indigenous students, faculty, staff and community members.

Meeting or exceeding

13. Co-develop research protocols and community-specific ethical research guidelines with interested community partners to ensure students and faculties are approaching research opportunities with communities in a respectful and formalized manner. This includes the imperative of free, prior and informed consent and protocols on the ownership, control, access and possession of Indigenous data.

16. Ensure all academic programs, undergraduate and graduate, include substantive content in at least one course which explores Indigenous histories and identifies how Indigenous issues intersect with the major field of study of the faculty.

18. Partner with Indigenous communities locally and globally to develop accredited post-secondary Indigenous knowledge programs that can be delivered in communities and on-campus.