A crowd of people mostly dressed in red gather in a circle while a woman speaks.

We are committed to using the framework and resources to decolonize our own community engagement practices and service-learning pedagogies, and we hope 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.

Phase 1: Consultations and literature review (completed)

We are producing the decolonizing framework and resources in consultation with Indigenous community partners and University students, staff and faculty. This includes other research activities, such as a comprehensive literature review. 

We have met with our Indigenous community partners; other Indigenous organizations in Winnipeg, northern Manitoba, Belize, Chile and Ecuador; and numerous Knowledge Holders, students, staff and faculty at the University of Manitoba.

During our consultations, we were grateful to receive:

  • assistance in connecting with other service-learning practitioners and Indigenous community partners
  • guidance on Indigenous pedagogies and culturally appropriate evaluation models, and knowledge of how Indigenous perspectives and pedagogies are integrated within service-learning programs
  • insights into the good ways in which the UM community currently works with Indigenous community partners, including the extent to which Indigenous communities determine and deliver learning content to students
  • learnings about gaps or needs in Indigenous engagement training or supports provided to students, staff and faculty

Phase 2: Analysis, writing and review (completed)

We have translated the insights gathered from consulting with Indigenous community partners, staff, faculty and students into a framework guide: Working in Good Ways. The framework introduces eight principles for working in good ways (literacy, reflection, relationship, reciprocity, protocol, humility, collaboration, and system change) that should guide the different ways in which universities engage with Indigenous communities. 

The framework has been designed as a pedagogical tool--a guide--to be used by community engaged educators, staff and students who choose to work with Indigenous communities locally and internationally. Following principles of Indigenous education, each principle in the framework is explored through the use of stories, quotes and reflective questions. 

To ensure that the framework reflects the interests and perspectives of Indigenous peoples and communities, we shared the final draft with a review committee made of stakeholders from the different Indigenous communities we consulted. The final version of the framework has been informed by the insights and feedback we received from the review committee. 

Phase 3: Decolonizing framework and resources (ongoing)

Decolonizing framework

The framework will present findings from a comprehensive literature review and consultations with Indigenous partners, Elders and Knowledge Keepers, and University colleagues, and will include 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 community engaged learning programs, with a focus on strength-based approaches that reinforce the existing capacities of Indigenous host communities
  • share Indigenous models and cultural protocols for building and maintaining relationships and initiating, implementing and closing community engaged learning initiatives in good ways

Supporting resources

Indigenous community engagement training

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. We are working with the University’s 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
  • share wise practices for engaging Indigenous communities and honouring Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing

Tools for assessment and critical reflection 

Community Engaged Learning will produce a tool to assess the health and wellbeing of the relationships that ground university-community partnerships. Unlike tools for evaluation that target program outcomes, the approach we have called relational assessment seeks to engage community engaged learning practitioners and Indigenous community partners in constructive conversations that build or strengthen their relationships. 

Lunch and Learn Series

The UM community is invited to join us for 10 lunch and learn sessions where our team will present the principles in Working in Good Ways. These interactive sessions will also give participants the opportunity to learn and test the different tools that we've developed to supplement the framework. To see the schedule and learn more, visit our website. 


“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 and service learning director, CELA Belize
Partner and local coordinator for Alternative Reading Week Belize

Our decolonizing methodology

We are using a relational approach for our consultation strategy. This approach 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.

We 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 centering 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.” 

We will use the information gathered from the consultations, literature review and other activities 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 and Mirraboopa, 2003; Rigney, 1999; Smith, 1999; and Wilson, 2008. It describes our approach and our expected timeline for the consultation project, whereas individual communities may define their own research methods.