decolonizing resources Indigenous community engagement service
Community Service-Learning has been awarded an Indigenous Initiatives Fund to produce a framework and resources for decolonizing community engagement and service-learning.

Community Service-Learning is developing a decolonizing framework and resources that will help service-learning practitioners and students work in more holistic and community-led ways with Indigenous community partners — from engagement and relationship-building to program closure and evaluation. Community Service-Learning is committed to using the framework and resources to decolonize our own community engagement practices and service-learning pedagogies, and hopes that the framework and resources will be useful to other service-learning practitioners, students and Indigenous communities who want to work together in good ways.
The decolonizing framework and resources will be produced in consultation with Indigenous community partners and University staff and faculty, and include other research activities, such as a comprehensive literature review. During the Summer of 2018, Community Service-Learning will be contacting and meeting with Indigenous communities and organizations, Elders and Knowledge-Keepers and University of Manitoba staff and faculty to gather input.

We are seeking:
  • assistance in connecting with other service-learning practitioners and Indigenous community partners;
  • opportunities to hear insights and experiences with community engagement and service-learning; and
  • guidance on Indigenous pedagogies and culturally appropriate evaluation models.
To contribute to the framework and resources, or learn more about this project, please contact:

Community Service-Learning knows that staff and faculty already working with Indigenous communities on service-learning initiatives can make invaluable contributions to this project, and invites their participation. In the Fall of 2018, we will be bringing University service-learning practitioners together to share early findings from the consultation process, and gather staff and faculty input on decolonizing community engagement and service-learning.

This event will help Community Service-Learning:

  • gather insights into the good ways in which the University community currently works with Indigenous community partners;
  • learn about the gaps or needs in University oversight for Indigenous community engagement, including culturally appropriate evaluation models;
  • understand how Indigenous perspectives and pedagogies are integrated within service-learning programs, and the extent to which Indigenous communities determine and deliver learning content to students;
  • learn about gaps or needs in Indigenous engagement training or supports provided to students, staff and faculty; and
  • facilitate collaboration and resource-sharing, including outreach for new community engagement training resources.

Decolonizing framework

The framework will present findings from a comprehensive literature review and consultations with Indigenous partners, Elders and Knowledge-Keepers, and University colleagues, as well as a comprehensive Indigenous community feedback process.

The framework will:

  • articulate guiding principles, goals and objectives, and areas for action to decolonize Indigenous community engagement and service-learning;
  • provide guidance to support efforts to integrate Indigenous pedagogies and infuse Indigenous knowledges into curriculum design and course content;
  • share wise practices to aid practitioners and communities in co-designing service-learning programs, with a focus on strength-based approaches that reinforce the existing capacities of Indigenous host communities; and
  • share Indigenous models and cultural protocols for building and maintaining relationships and initiating, implementing and closing service-learning initiatives in good ways.

Supporting resources

“What do we mean by decolonization? Start from an understanding of colonialism. When we talk about colonialism, we often think about a period. But, actually, it’s more a frame, an epistemological frame, like a way of looking at the world. So, colonialism is a way of thinking that continues today. You see it operating in all kinds of ways. Those very same assumptions, that underlying logic, could be at the foundation of our engagement with Indigenous peoples, and that is what we have to avoid.”

- Dr. Filiberto Penados, Yucatec Maya
Co-Founder and Engaged Scholarship & Service Learning Director, CELA Belize
Partner and local coordinator for Alternative Reading Week Belize

Students, staff and faculty need access to information about pre-contact, colonial and contemporary histories, as well as the present-day experiences of Indigenous people, communities and Nations. Community Service-Learning is working with the Department of Native Studies to develop content and curriculum for an online training module, as well as exploring a partnership with a local First Nation community to deliver a land-based education module.

The module will:

  • share foundational knowledge, values and practices of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in Canada, particularly Manitoba, as well as Indigenous communities abroad;
  • help students, staff and faculty to situate themselves within colonial history and contemporary Indigenous issues; and
  • share wise practices for engaging Indigenous communities and honouring Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.

In collaboration with colleagues and community partners, Community Service-Learning will produce a culturally appropriate evaluation framework to assess community engagement and service-learning initiatives offered in partnership with Indigenous communities and organizations.

Community Service-Learning will work with University colleagues and Indigenous community partners to form an Indigenous-led advisory committee, which will act as a resource for University practitioners interested in strengthening their Indigenous community engagement practices, and learning from their experiences working with Indigenous communities.

Community Service-Learning is using a relational approach for its consultation strategy, which recognizes that research brings people together (Wilson, 2008) and highlights “the imperative to develop reciprocal and respectful relationships in the research endeavor” (Johnson, 2008). We will work with the Indigenous communities and organizations with whom we plan to consult to ensure that the consultation strategy:

  • meets community- and Nation-specific strengths and Indigenous research methods;
  • follows culturally-appropriate codes of conduct and protocols; and
  • honours Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.

Community Service-Learning will adjust research methods, as needed, based on community needs and context, and make appropriate community-specific modifications that demonstrate respect, reciprocity and responsibility (Wilson, 2008). This approach means that the University stakeholders and individual Indigenous communities that we consult will help us identify additional stakeholders and resources, establish the question set and further develop our methods. This can be as simple as asking: who should we talk to, what should we talk to them about and how should we talk to them?

The consultations, both internal and external to the University, and other project activities will prioritize Indigenous voices and centre Indigenous knowledges. In her comprehensive literature review, Berry (2012) notes that prominent themes in decolonizing methodologies include centering Indigenous knowledges, reclaiming history and privileging Indigenous voices. Martin and Mirraboopa (2003) affirm, “Indigenist research occurs through centring Aboriginal Ways of Knowing, Ways of Being and Ways of Doing in alignment with western qualitative research frameworks.” Indigenist research, in Rigney’s view, “gives voice to Indigenous people” and “contribute[s] to that struggle by unmasking some of the overt and brutal racist oppressions, which have been and continue to be part of our reality, and also by unmasking some of its continuing and subtle forms.” The information gathered from the consultations, literature review and other activities will be used to create a framework and resources that will help practitioners work in good ways with community and recognize when and how we can work in better ways.

The Sacred Hoop methodology and our approach to the consultations is based on Indigenous research methods developed by Bagele, 2011; Fontaine, 2010; Johnson, 2008; Martin & Mirraboopa, 2003; Rigney, 1999; Smith, 1999; and Wilson, 2008. It describes our approach and expected timeline for the consultation project, whereas individual communities may define their own research methods.