University of Saskatchewan > College of Education > Dr. Marie Battiste

Decolonizing Education in Canadian Universities: An Interdisciplinary Indigenous Research Project

M. Battiste, Primary Investigator with Dr. Len Findlay and Dr. Lynne Bell.
SSHRC Interdisciplinary Grant. 2001-2004

World Indigenous People's Conference in Education
(2002) Morley, Alberta


"Displacing systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples created and legitimized by the cognitive frameworks of imperialism and colonialism remains the single most crucial cultural challenge facing humanity. Meeting this responsibility is not just a problem for the colonized and the oppressed, but rather the defining challenge for all peoples. It is the path to a shared and sustainable future for all peoples."

(Erica Irene Daes, United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples at the UNESCO Conference on Education, July 1999) 


Summary of Proposed Research

Despite several decades of work on educational equity, building cultural studies and courses, and bridging and access projects, Aboriginal peoples’ achievements, knowledges, histories, and perspectives remain virtually ignored, rejected, suppressed, marginalized, or under-utilized in the university. The experience of these projects reveals deeper assumptions and practices which, in effect, reaffirm Eurocentric and colonial encounters in the name of excellence, integration, and modernity. Making post-secondary education accessible to Aboriginal peoples through the decolonization of the university’s assumptions, content, structures, and processes and enabling post-secondary education to be transformed by Indigenous peoples’ participation and inclusion is the challenge of this research project. The investigators are Dr. Marie Battiste, primary investigator and professor in Indian and Northern Education Program in the Department of Educational Foundations; Dr. Lynne Bell, Professor of Art and Art History; and Dr. Len Findlay, Director of the Humanities Research Unit and Professor of English.

This project seeks to build Canadian capacity for valuing and learning from the knowledges and educational practices of diverse Aboriginal peoples; develop and refine strategies for identifying and overcoming anti-Aboriginal, racist resistance in academic teaching, research, and community service; develop education, humanities, and visual culture as decolonizing sites within Canadian universities for a subsequent, broader investigation and improvement of Indigenizing across disciplines, across Canada, and internationally; develop non-appropriative, collaborative protocols and practices for ethical research, learning, and teaching, especially where such research and learning involve Aboriginal knowledges, languages, and cultures; and support and enrich Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal graduate students, and future faculty, in understanding their commitment to decolonizing education in the university.


Research collaborators meet to discuss the decolonizing project.
Left to right: J. Youngblood (Sakej) Henderson, Lynne Bell, and Len Findlay


The project develops, records, and most effectively shares successful decolonizing practices across disciplines, institutions, and regions, pursuing the project via archival and applied research, discourse analysis, community dialogue, pedagogical innovation, and policy formation. We recognize collaborative, interdisciplinary, and intercultural in method and seek diverse research outcomes: in curriculum design, teaching education, capacity building, cultural theory, and modes of dissemination.

Our primary focus is on scholarship of teaching and education, understood as a fundamentally interdisciplinary site reshaped continuously by cultural theories, directive curricula and teaching, institutional self-understandings and practices, and training needs. In each of these areas, we use the research data, testimony and recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) as standards for evaluation of the Canadian university education, analyzing responses to RCAP since 1996 in its administrative efforts, curricula, visual imagery, and mission statements. Our interpretation and application of RCAP will include mapping new and necessary capacities for postcolonial research, teaching, training, and public education. We draw on our experience of working together in a variety of combinations, formats, and fora, such as Aboriginal talking circles, participation action research (PAR), interdisciplinary dialogues developed by Bohm (Nichols, 1996) and Isaacs (1999), and collaborative archival projects.

Dr. Marie Battiste, Professor
Educational Foundations
College of Education
University of Saskatchewan
28 Campus Dr.
Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X1