Indigenization in Universities and Its Role in Continuing Settler-Colonialism


  • Brock Thorbjorn Pitawanakwat York University,
  • Celeste Pedri-Spade Queens University



Indigenization, decolonization, Truth and Reconciliation in Universities


Following the release of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC): Calls to Action report, many Canadian universities raced to Indigenize their institutions. While the TRC report implicates post-secondary institutions in the work of educating society about the legacy of Indian Residential Schools, many universities have expanded this call to include various efforts aimed at increasing Indigenous presence across their respective campuses. Yet, the consequences of said work do not always match their stated goals. In this essay, the authors discuss a myriad of ways that settler colonialism is carried out within universities, often under the auspice of advancing Indigeneity. They first provide a short history of some of the milestones and key challenges related to advancing Indigeneity in the academy from 1960 to 2015. They then turn their attention to more recent advances and struggles, providing examples of how the avoidance of and/or failure of universities to reflect local Indigenous cultural values and protocols is often justified through the espousal of Indigeneity to neoliberal organizational politics and practices. This section offers critical reflection on advancements in Indigenous education vis a vis a reconciliatory framework that emphasizes Indigenization as a commitment to add Indigenous bodies and their knowledges within existing architectures that simultaneously contribute to their erasure. Through this process the authors expose the kinds of harms experienced by Indigenous peoples and communities. Moving forward, the authors call for a commitment to decolonize outlining key considerations for universities, which emphasize processes of destabilization and redress.

Author Biographies

Brock Thorbjorn Pitawanakwat, York University,

Associate Professor,Department of Humanities,

Coordinator, Indigenous Studies Program

Celeste Pedri-Spade, Queens University

Associate ProfessorQueen's National Scholar in Indigenous StudiesGlobal Development Studies &  Languages, Literatures and CulturesQueen's University



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