Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre Librarian ready to help bring Indigenous knowledge into the classroom
By Leah Hopton
Ashley Edwards joined the SFU Library last year as the Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre (ICRC) Librarian, a role dedicated to creating the ICRC. Working closely with Indigenous Initiatives Librarian Jenna Walsh, Edwards aims to shape the ICRC into a space—both physical and online—that offers guidance to SFU instructors about Indigenizing and decolonizing their curricula and pedagogy.
Creating the ICRC at SFU Library is in direct response to SFU’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council’s final report Walk this Path With Us, which calls for establishment of an Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre (Call to Action #21) and asks the SFU community to actively work with Indigenous Peoples in developing content that supports and facilitates Indigenizing curricula (Call to Action #12).
The ICRC will eventually be housed on the fourth floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library, but until the physical space is complete and while the SFU community continues to follow physical distancing measures due to COVID-19, Edwards is working to develop a web presence and digital materials. The online ICRC resources are curated specifically to assist faculty, instructors, and TA/TM/RAs with understanding how and why to decolonize and Indigenize their curricula and pedagogy, as well as offering relevant resources for their classrooms.
A personal and professional journey
Edwards’ deep passion for advancing Indigenous cultures and Indigenous ways of knowing is both personal and professional. Growing up in Chilliwack on Stó:lō territory, Edwards notes a lack of education in her K-12 classes about Stó:lō people and culture. After becoming a Library Technician, Edwards began working at the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, and her understanding of the local culture deepened.
“Cataloguing cultural materials like a basket or an adze was so new to me. It stretched my professional skills and piqued my interest in local Indigenous history,” Edwards says.
Impelled by her love of helping others find information, Edwards’ interest in becoming an academic librarian also grew. After three years with Stó:lō Nation, Edwards joined SFU Library as a Library Technician in 2013. She completed her Master of Library and Information Studies in 2020.
Throughout her adulthood Edwards has also been on a personal journey to learn more about her own Indigenous heritage. While she had always known of her Indigenous ancestry, she learned through genealogy work that her family is Red River Métis, a fact that had been suppressed by the racism her family members faced over time.
“Finding out was powerful and emotional,” she says. “It solidified my identity in a way that I didn’t realize wasn’t solidified before.”
Support and guidance for Indigenizing curricula
Edwards sees the ICRC as having a role in interrupting historic patterns of repressing, negating, and ignoring Indigenous knowledge that continue to play out in education systems today.
“We still prioritize Western ways of knowledge and knowing. The ICRC is a way to help faculty bring in Indigenous content. It’s one step towards challenging the status quo,” she says.
When asked what she hopes instructors gain from the ICRC, she says, “I hope faculty see this as an amazing resource, because Indigenizing curricula can be daunting. If that’s not something you’re familiar with, it might be hard to start. I hope that the physical and online ICRC provides useful support and guidance.”
Edwards also notes the value of the ICRC to students, particularly those in the Education program. “If we graduate students who are going out and teaching [with an understanding of how to incorporate Indigenous knowledge] think of how that could impact Indigenous—and non-Indigenous—students,” she says, “I really want students of the future to have a better experience than I did.”
Explore the Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre on the SFU Library website, and learn how it can support you with Indigenizing and decolonizing your classroom.