Student support service spotlight: The Indigenous education network

*This post was written by Viel Tolentino, a MEd student studying Adult Education & Community Development.

While I was completing my course about Indigenous Knowledge: Implications in Education, I began looking at ways in which OISE is able to infuse indigenous education into our faculty. There are many support services for indigenous and non-indigenous students who are looking for insight and guidance from the indigenous community in improving educational practices. We are so lucky to be a part of a faculty and a university that strives to ensure that indigenous students are able to find support in a meaningful and authentic ways, while working within faculty members to help bridge relations with non-indigenous students, as well. So, in searching for these OISE-based initiatives, I stumbled upon the Indigenous Education Network (IEN).

The IEN is housed on OISE’s fifth floor. They have their own meeting space and as well as a few services that indigenous and non-indigenous students can access throughout the year. They also plan out events and socials that OISE students can take part. It is a great way to learn about the ways in which indigenous worldviews can be applied into the scope of the teaching practice.

Found on the fifth floor, the Indigenous Education Network provides services not only for indigenous, but also for non-indigenous services in conjunction with the First Nations House. Here are some of the services that they offer to OISE students:

1) Academic Advising: This service, which is in partnership with UofT’s First Nations House, students can speak with an academic counsellor. In terms of what services they offer, they can give you both academic and financial advice, as well as give support and referrals to other services on campus.

First Nations House: 563 Spadina Avenue, 3rd Floor

2) Networking: This is a great opportunity to meet and mingle with Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, and as well as other community members. These types of meetings will help you to establish relationships and sometimes, there’s even food! It’s a great way to know the various support services for indigenous students and get to meet leaders in the community.

3) OISE Elders: Students, faculty, and other community members are able to meet with an indigenous elder. I was fortunate to meet with Elder Jacqui and speak with her about indigenous culture and how non-indigenous people can become allies within the university and in the greater community. It was such a wonderful experience in speaking with her and I look forward to meeting with her again. If you would like to meet with an Elder at OISE, you can visit them on a walk-in basis or if you would prefer to do so, you can also make an appointment! Her availability is usually on Wednesdays from 1 to 5 pm.

4) Indigenous Graduate Student Collective: This is a group dedicated to Indigenous students. This collective organizes events and provides support throughout the academic journey.

From my previous experience at OISE, we were introduced to the Deepening Knowledge Project, which is an initiative started by Jean-Paul Restoule, a former professor at OISE. In terms of what this project entails, it is basically a toolkit in which teachers can use within their teaching practice. I think that this is an important step to pave the way towards Reconciliation.

This OISE initiative is also part of a larger effort in indigenizing education through research, collaboration with indigenous faculty and community members, and as well as the implementation of Indigenous collaborative programs and courses across the various departments at OISE. In participating in my first Indigenous education course, I have learned so much about resources and services that OISE and UofT offers for both indigenous and non-indigenous students, and as well as indigenous worldviews that I can infuse in my practice.

There are so many ways in which OISE is indigenizing their way into educational practices and methods. If you’re interested in learning more about indigenous education, visit the IEN during your time at OISE!