Indigenous Education Week with the Faculty of Education

September 25, 2023

We welcome all Education students, faculty, and staff to learn more about Truth and Reconciliation and explore the invaluable resources offered by the Office of Indigenous Education. Learn how we can collectively support Indigenous students and the broader community. 

Message from the Dean

Dan Laitsch, Dean, Faculty of Education

Indigeneity is one of the core values for the Faculty of Education, and we firmly believe that each of us has a responsibility to reflect on and work toward decolonizing education and respecting Indigenous ways of knowing and being. The Faculty of Education is committed to respecting Indigenous cultures, building relevance in our curriculum, teaching and research, and ensuring reciprocal relationships that allow us to grow as an institution and support communities with their unique needs and interests. We take responsibility for shifting our culture to one in which all of us can thrive.

In advance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the Office of Indigenous Education will be hosting Indigenous Education Week – an opportunity to review our individual and collective commitments towards meaningful reconciliation. How are we tacitly resisting Indigenous rights in the individual actions each of us takes and in the silences we hold? As educators, are we helping students learn about Indigenous peoples and working to address centuries of colonialism? And as leaders, are we pushing for change hard enough?

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was a direct response to the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Yet it is just one of the 94 calls to action, and as noted on the CBC web site, Beyond 94, work hasn’t even started on 18 of the 94 Calls to Action. The Yellowhead Institute identifies only 13 recommendations as being completed after seven years of work. Change must be more than symbolic. Relatively simple gestures are resisted, such as publishing annual reports on education funding and educational and income achievements or repealing the law allowing educators to use forceful punishment to correct the behaviour of young children. Active resistance to even basic Indigenous rights continues through court challenges at the local, provincial, and federal levels.

Indigenous Education Week is also an opportunity to come together and learn. This year, we will hear from Crystal Phillips, residential school survivor, St. Mary’s Mission, and Chas Coutlee of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. As well, the Office of Indigenous Education is working collaboratively with the Office for Aboriginal Peoples, the Beedie School of Business, the Indigenous Student Centre and the Indigenous Student Association to organize a special event to acknowledge the work of Phyllis Webstad and the impact it has had across Canada. Her Orange Day Story, when her bright new orange shirt was taken away on her first day at residential school, inspired a special day when we wear orange to commemorate the lives lost in residential schools and honour those who have survived.

As Phyllis said in one of her videos, “Reconciliation aims to create a new legacy for Canadians that supports the healing journey and sees a respectful resurgence of cultural traditions, [and] the only way to achieve Indian Residential School Reconciliation is to acknowledge the true history and to learn from it, no matter how difficult.”

Change of this magnitude is a generational issue. Centuries of colonialism and genocide can’t be undone in a few years, but the scope of the challenge can’t be used as an excuse for the inaction and resistance we often see. Addressing the evils of the past, and the present, is a choice that we as a society decide to make or avoid making, and everyone has a part to play in this process. We hope that Indigenous Education Week will inspire more reflections but, most importantly, action.


  • September 27, 2023

    September 27, 2023

    On Wednesday, September 27, Education faculty, staff, and students united for Sacred Fire Talks, engaging in discussions, storytelling, and exercises with survivors of Indigenous Residential Schools as part of Indigenous Education Week, in advance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Orange Shirt Beaded Pin Workshop

On Monday, September 25, Education faculty, staff, and students came together to create orange shirt pins in honour of Indian residential school survivors and their families. 


Crystal Phillips

Crystal Phillips is Memetkwo from Sts'ailes. Her English given name is Crystal Phillips. Crystal is of Aboriginal ancestry from St'sailes and Boothroyd, BC. She was raised with the St'sailes teachings. Crystal has worked with the Aboriginal Communities both off and on reserve since 1989.

She has had the pleasure of practicing her cultural/spiritual practices and the opportunity to experience other cultural/spiritual practices from other communities. She has been in the field of helping our people become healthy individuals as well as a healthy community. In her current workplace, Crystal deals with many life experiences affecting our communities, such as domestic violence, addictions, mental health and the ability to parent. She works with all age groups and with many people from the larger multicultural groups in the Vancouver area. For the past 12 years, Crystal has been a Child Protection Mediator.  

Chas Coutlee

Chas Coutlee is a mixed-race woman. She is Nlaka’pamux on her mother’s side and a Lower Nicola Band member. She is a third-generation Irish settler on her father’s side. Chas is a MMIWG2S Coordinator for the Vancouver Coastal Region and has worked with the Indian Residential School Survivors Society since 2019.  

Chas has been on a healing journey since 2010. During her journey, she has connected culturally and uses this foundation of wholistic wellness for her daily living. Chas has worked with people recovering from substance use and involved in the justice system. Chas recently completed her Master of Social Work degree in Indigenous Field of Study through Wilfred Laurier University. Her passion is to be a good relative to the people she gets to work with and walk alongside. Her most sacred role and responsibility is being a mother and grandmother.


In honour of Orange Shirt Day, the Faculty of Education will have the official limited edition 2023 “Every Child Matters” Orange T-Shirt for sale.

100% of the profits from your orange shirt will be donated to the Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA).

The shirt design was donated by artist KC Hall who had this to say about it: "Behind the slogan is a human spirit that represents not only our living children but the ones who never made it home."

Reserved shirts may be paid for in cash and picked up in person at the Indigenous Education Gathering Space on the following dates:

  • Sept 20 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM 
  • Sept 21: 11:15 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Sept 22: 12:00 – 1:00 PM
  • Sept 25: 1:00 – 2:30 PM
  • Sept 26: 1:00 – 2:00 PM
  • Sept 28: 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM


Government of Canada – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Across the country, hundreds of local activities are taking place that commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools. Learn more about these activities and the history of residentials schools in Canada.

SFU Indigenous Student Centre

Wholistic Wellness Programs that encompass physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. Learn more.

Orange Shirt Day Resources and Events. Learn more.

SFU Library – Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre (ICRC) 

The ICRC collects books, articles, websites, and audio-visual materials on Indigenizing curriculum and Indigenous pedagogy, in addition to post-secondary curriculum resources.

These materials centre Indigenous approaches to teaching and learning, and support the work of Indigenizing and Decolonizing curriculum at SFU.

Access these materials

SFU Office for Aboriginal Peoples

The mandate of the Office for Aboriginal Peoples (OAP) is to take the lead on implementing the Aboriginal Strategic Plan at Simon Fraser University. Their website also provides various resources such as:

Reconciliation at SFU (and beyond)

2023 Truth and Reconciliation event listings