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Goodleaf sees hope in new Concordia position

Donna Goodleaf lends her extensive teaching career to a new position as Concordia University’s first Indigenous curriculum and pedagogy advisor. (Jessica Deer, The Eastern Door)

Kahnawa’kehró:non Donna Goodleaf began her new role at the beginning of January as Concordia University’s Indigenous curriculum and pedagogy advisor.

It’s a new position created through the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

“It’s a wonderful feeling. I’m really happy to have been hired for this position,” she told The Eastern Door.

“I’m very optimistic and I see there’s a lot of opportunities for myself, for the university, and for our communities to be able to look at ways of how to develop relationships and partnerships that really serve our communities.”

Goodleaf is one of the university’s newest hires as it continues to make efforts towards reconciliation.

“Concordia, like all universities now, are looking at ways of how to really respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with regards to education systems’ responsibilities to address issues of Indigenous education, address the needs of Indigenous communities with regards to education,” said Goodleaf.

“Universities have a very important role and to do to be accountable to the communities to make sure they’re developing programs are based and driven by community needs.”

Her main tasks will be to provide faculty across their two campuses with anti-colonial and decolonization training, as well as to help frame their courses and/or programs to ensure they are inclusive of Indigenous perspectives.

She said the experience has already been very positive so far.

“I’m getting invitations to meet with whole departments to sit with their faculty, have a conversation about their program and ways how I can work with them to begin to re-conceptualize their courses and provide them with the tools and resources that would enrich their courses and make it more inclusive in terms of giving students diverse Indigenous perspectives in the themes or courses that they’re teaching.”

Goodleaf said her advising will not only address content of courses, but how faculty can approach the material in the classroom to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students – for example, as a way to curb students from being tokenized in the classroom.

“It’s a real experience and it’s important to validate the experiences that Indigenous students are facing on campus. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere, so as a university, we need to be committed to looking at these issues,” said Goodleaf.

“That’s why it’s important to work with faculty in helping to reframe their thinking and address issues of racism, institutional racism, and how do you deal with those issues of tokenization of Indigenous students? Because those are real issues.”

Goodleaf has a teaching career that has spanned three decades in academia and community-based settings in Canada and the United States, including being a former executive director at the Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center.

She also taught as a part-time faculty member in Concordia’s First Peoples Studies program in 2017, teaching a course on the Haudenosaunee.

“That was a wonderful experience because it allowed me to step into the university that is close to home and be community-based,” said Goodleaf.

“It was great to see students from home in the course, as well as getting really a lot of positive feedback by non-Indigenous students who also took my course.”

While Goodleaf was hired on a two-year contract, she hopes the position will eventually become a permanent fixture within the university.

“We need to be in these positions, not just on a short-term basis, but also to be more permanent within these institutions,” she said.

“It’s also important for the university to be very open and committed to creating positions at all levels, not just within faculty positions, but as well as in higher senior management position, so we can have a voice and say in terms promoting the vision and direction that we want to see happen within Concordia.”

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