Collectively transforming the education system and governance for Indigenous self-determination needs

November 15, 2022

Dr. Amy Parent, Nox Ts’aawit (Mother of the Raven Warrior Chief), is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education (FoE) and newly awarded Canada Research Chair. Guided by Indigenous values and principles, her research aims to support Indigenous governance and education, strengthen rematriation processes and create a local exemplar for Indigenous control of Indigenous research in B.C. 

Recently, she sat down for a conversation with FoE Communications and Marketing to discuss her goals, dreams, along with the systemic changes needed to transform education systems and governance to better support the self-determination needs of Indigenous nations. 

“Decolonization is both a goal and a process, and it is not something that can be finished at the end of the day and probably not even within our lifetimes,” she notes. “It requires a significant relinquishing of power and supporting Indigenous communities in terms of their aspirations for self-determination, as well as our needs for language and culture revitalization.”

Dr. Parent says she has always been drawn to Indigenous metaphors and ways of thinking, and the proposed CRC research supports four commitments, rather than objectives, which are more reflective of relationship values that are embedded in Indigenous ways of being. 

The first commitment is to strengthen BC Indigenous Nation-to-Nation relationships while creating new and ongoing matriarchal led Indigenous community alliances, thus providing a powerful model for solidarity and cultural resurgence for Indigenous control of Indigenous research. Second, this work will create a treasure box of strategies informed by Indigenous principles in research that would be relevant and accessible to Indigenous communities. The third commitment is to support Indigenous research excellence through professional development and mentorship opportunities for university faculty, staff, graduate students and Indigenous professionals. Finally, this research will advance university policy and practices with SFU stakeholders to assist in lessening the dual workload experienced by Indigenous faculty (and allies) engaged in Indigenous community-based research. 

The research will support a collective vision for the creation of an Indigenous Governance and Educational Research Institute in the cultural interface of diverse Indigenous Nations and communities in B.C.  

“It is important to continue addressing the colonial violence created by research colonialism while sharing a treasure box of research strategies that our communities can engage so that Indigenous research can enhance the lives of our people.  I want to see research jurisdiction for BC First Nations,” she says. “This is both a scholarly and a community vision.” 

There is also a need to support stronger self-governance practices that include the voices of women, as well as more matriarchal-led Indigenous community alliances.

Dr Parent notes that many northwest coast Indigenous cultures, including her own, are matriarchal where women have and continue to be a living giving presence. However, they have also been negatively impacted by the imposition of white supremist heteronormative Christian forms of patriarchy that have left a negative legacy for Indigenous women, men, children, hereditary leadership, and entire Indigenous communities as a whole.

“I am honoured and proud to have been mentored by strong matriarchs in my community and in the academy despite the on-going patriarchal legacies that we continue to challenge in all aspects of our lives as Indigenous Peoples,” she concludes. “I, therefore, have a reciprocal responsibility to continue recognizing and uplifting the powerful matriarchal leadership, teaching and decision-making responsibilities that are integral to bringing balance into our governance structures, including research jurisdiction to enhance our educational systems for our children and future generations.”