The History of the Indigenous Voices Program

From 2011 Onward

In 2011, the University of Saskatchewan supported collaborations between the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning and the College of Education and formed the BEADWORK Committee. The focus of this collaboration was to develop a program that could support faculty and staff to be better prepared to decolonize and indigenize their classrooms through learning opportunities about Indigenous histories, cultures, worldviews, and ways of knowing and living.

Tremendous effort was put into the development of this program to ensure that it was created and offered in a good way; informed by Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing. Four seasonal gatherings with additional ceremonies were held with Elders to properly guide everyone involved in the program development. Additional research was done through environmental scans, consultations with Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty, staff, and community members, and a campus community needs assessment.

We wish to acknowledge:


  • Danny Musqua (Saulteaux)
  • Mary Lee (Plains Cree)
  • Freda Sakebow (Plains? Cree)
  • Maria Linklater (Plains Cree)
  • Walter Linklater (Ojibwe/Anishinabe)
  • Darlene Speidel (Lakota)
  • Mike Maurice (Métis)
  • Fred Nulamaloak (Inuit)

Knowledge Keepers:

  • Dora Yooya (Dene)
  • Delvin Kanewiyakiho (Plains Cree)
  • Don Speidel (Lakota)

University Supports:

  • Dr. Cecilia Reynolds (Dean, College of Education)
  • Dr. Jim Greer (Director, University Learning Centre)
  • Brad Wuetherick (Program Director, the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness)
  • Stan Yu (Research and Program Evaluation Specialist, the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness)
  • Christine Anderson (Program Manager, the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness)
  • Corinne Fasthuber (Assistant, the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness)
  • Jae-Anne Peace (Director of Resources, College of Education)
  • Iris Kalyniuk (Dean’s Secretary, College of Education)
  • Connie Kocsis (Support Staff – Dean’s office, College of Education)

The BEADWORK group, College of Education

  • Dr. Karla Jessen Williamson
  • Dr. Marie Battiste
  • Dr. Tim Claypool
  • Dr. Linda Wason-Ellam
  • Dr. Geraldine Balzer
  • Dr. M.J. Barret
  • Dr. Maggie Kovach
  • Dr. Marcia McKenzie
  • Dr. Tim Molnar
  • Orest Murawsky

Gathering Development and Facilitation:

  • Rita Bouvier
  • Carmen Gillies
  • Lamarr Oksasikewiyin
  • Sylvia McAdam
  • Tracey Robinson

Graduate Student Assistants:

  • Wenona Partridge, (Philosophy), working out of the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness
  • Chris Scribe (Department of Educational Administration, College of Education)

The Indigenous Voices pilot program was launched in 2012 with faculty and staff from the College of Education and Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning. Based on initial assessments of participants, the program started from the beginning by building “Shared Ground,” in order to establish a common foundation of knowledge and understanding. Participants were introduced to terminology (the naming of Indigenous peoples, and how Indigenous peoples name themselves), the Indian Act, residential schools, and common myths and misconceptions. Subsequent gatherings built on this knowledge with sessions with academic faculty and community knowledge keepers who instructed the gatherings.

The pilot program was an overwhelming success. Evaluations revealed that not only did participants’ knowledge increase, but many of these people reported having professional and personal transformational experiences. Capitalizing on success of the pilot project, the Indigenous Voices program was opened to the broader campus community with nine 3-hour gatherings and four full-day gatherings. Again, the feedback was tremendously positive.

Lesson learned from the delivery of these to versions of the Indigenous Voices programs informed several key elements that are found in the current programming. First, programming was found to be more effective, with greater transformational impact, when it was delivered to a cohort. Shared experiences helped participants to develop stronger and more diverse understandings, deeper knowledge, and appropriate language. Furthermore, the social norms developed in the cohort were more easily transferred to participants’ work units or departments after the programming. Thus expanding the programming impact to secondary sites. Second, programming was enhanced by project-based activities that helped turn intellectualized learning into pragmatic understandings. These projects were best received and supported by participants when they aligned with work initiatives or personal interests.

Indigenous Voices has improved over the years, yet it maintains the original name and goals that were decided upon by the Elders in 2011. Adherence to the guidance, teachings, and principles of the Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and community members who helped build this program supports the voice we hope to have in supporting the University of Saskatchewan’s indigenization initiatives to build reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.