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About Indigenous Resurgence

The Faculty of Community Services developed the position of Strategic Lead, Indigenous Resurgence to action Dean Barnoff’s commitments to equity and inclusion and the University’s stated commitments related to supporting Indigenous students, staff, and faculty. Lynn Lavallee was appointed to this position in January 2019.

Message from the Strategic Lead, Indigenous Resurgence

Lynn Lavalle - Strategic Lead, Indigenous Resurgence, Faculty of Social Work

I’m often asked, “What does Indigenous Resurgence have to do with our professions– Child and Youth Care, Disability Studies, Early Childhood Studies, Midwifery Education, Nursing, Nutrition and Food, Occupational Health and Safety, Public Health and Safety, Social Work and Urban and Regional Planning? Indigenous resurgence in the academy is often positioned within fields such as Indigenous studies, political science, sociology and history. When I position Indigenous resurgence within the Faculty of Community Services and our professions, I position the right to self-determination and sovereignty related to Indigenous health and well-being while simultaneously emphasizing that our professions need to address anti-Indigenous racism.

Indigenous Resurgence must be the approach used in our schools to “Indigenize” our curriculum. This approach recognizes, first and foremost, that our professions, as well as our academic institutions, perpetuate colonialism and contribute to the anti-Indigenous racism that is literally killing Indigenous peoples. Brian Sinclair and Joyce Echaquan (external link)  are two people whose names we know because of the egregious inaction of the health care system and the ability to ‘go live’ and make public neglect coupled with an onslaught of anti-Indigenous racism and gendered violence. Many more have died as a direct result of anti-Indigenous racism deeply rooted in our health care system.

Indigenous children and youth are over-represented in child welfare and face extreme violence in these systems; for example, the recent headlines on the young 14-year-old boy from northwestern Ontario (external link)  who is left with a permanent disability because of the neglect within the system. When you read your cereal box or feed your baby pablum you can - Thank an Indian! The lauded physician, Frederick Tisdall (external link)  at Sick Kids in Toronto and his colleagues found the perfect “live laboratory” in residential schools for which we have to thank for the knowledge attained related to fortification with nutrients such as thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. The Inuit high arctic relocations (external link)  in the 1950’s placed Indigenous peoples in the far north so Canada could lay claim to that land. To this day, the cost of healthy food in the north remains one of the greatest food insecurity issues in Canada while the knowledge about the forced relocations remains hidden. Indigenizing our curriculum with an Indigenous resurgence lens brings these hidden truths to light and places a mirror on the future practitioner to recognize the role they play in combatting the stereotypes they hold that contribute to the ill-health of Indigenous peoples.

As physician Barry Lavallee noted in his talk at Toronto Metropolitan University/York University - Disrupting Anti-Indigenous Racism in Education and Health Care (external link)  – anti-Indigenous racism is embedded within the “hard drive” of settler Canada and education systems must disrupt future practitioners. The mirror test - examining your own positionality and recognizing how your positionality ensures the status quo, ensures the supremacy of whiteness, and contributes to the death of Indigenous people is critical for the future of our professions. 

The focus on Indigenous Resurgence is intentional as a way of resisting the terminology that many in mainstream academia are now accustomed to - reconciliation, Indigenization, and decolonization. This intentionality refocuses efforts in academia, first with the clear statement that academic institutions are colonial structures that perpetuate systemic anti-Indigenous racism. Following that, Indigenous Resurgence at the Faculty of Community Services focuses on supporting Indigenous peoples. Many Indigenization and reconciliation efforts in universities have placed a significant burden on Indigenous peoples to increase reconciliation and Indigenization efforts while failing to focus on supporting Indigenous students, staff and faculty.


Indigenous Resurgence is terminology that has its roots in community activism globally and emerged in academia some time later. Putting the Indigenous community first is vital, particularly while we ride this wave of wreck W-R-E-C-K-on-silly, S-I-L-L-Y nation (as Ryan McMahon as stated)! That’s where Indigenous Resurgence comes in. Using the terminology Indigenous Resurgence is a resistance to the tokenism we often see when the starting point is reconciliation, Indigenization and decolonization. These terms are rarely defined when people use them in the academy yet are the buzzwords that attract positive public relations to the institution with little, if any focus on advancing Indigenous knowledge and supporting the success of Indigenous students, faculty and staff within these colonial walls.

While some critique Indigenous Resurgence as being pessimistic or divisive, the work of Indigenous Resurgence at the Faculty of Community Services is quite the opposite, honoring the diversity within the Indigenous community and not stating that Indigenous people participating in the state, or in this case, academia are co-opted. Conversely, the intentionality of stating the academic is colonial is to recognize the harms these institutions can place on Indigenous learners and try to have positive impacts overall. Indigenous learners want and often require these degrees to further their professional careers. Indigenous Resurgence at the Faculty of Community Services is focused on ensuring the academic journey does not further harm and allows a place for Indigenous students and faculty to come together to discuss challenges and opportunities. There is a place for everyone in Indigenous Resurgence at the Faculty of Community Services to support Indigenous learners.

In addition, Indigenous Resurgence at the Faculty of Community Services is community facing and activities are linked to community needs. Lynn Lavallee draws upon teachings from the late Elder Vern Asin Harper to further understand how she defines Indigenous Resurgence at the Faculty of Community Services. Elder Harper often shared that we have not lost our identities, knowledge and relation to the land. He would say we have intentionally been defeathered. He said this to emphasize that when you lose something you often put blame on yourself, “I was forgetful!”or “I misplaced something”. But systematic and on-going colonization has been intentional in stealing Indigenous identities, land and knowledge. So Vern would say, we have been defeathered. Indigenous scholar Emma Larocque wrote a book in 1975 - Defeathering the Indian - which spoke to the anti-Indigenous racism and colonization in the academy and how that separated Indigenous people - often quite violently - from land, self and community. Indigenous resurgence just as Vern Harper and Emma Larocque noted, is intentional in stating that colonization has and continues to defeather us and resurgence is about gathering those feathers and our bundles, strengthening ourselves, our families, our communities, our languages, our knowledge, our relation to the land, our ceremonies and our identity. Indigenous Resurgence is a process that does not shy away from identifying on-going colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism.

So how does Indigenous Resurgence translate at the Faculty of Community Services? Indigenous Resurgence has been happening since colonization began. Indigenous leaders and warriors have been helping their communities by protesting government, policies and practices since the dawn of the first settlers on Turtle Island. Elder Vern Asin Harper said, we were never idle. So Indigenous Resurgence started in community and continues in community and continues the work - we were never idle.

In the academy we often hear Indigenous Resurgence discussed from a theoretical and policy perspective in disciplines such as Indigenous Studies, Political Science and Sociology but Indigenous Resurgence is vital to the practices and disciplines at the Faculty of Community Services, and all academic disciplines for that matter. So for the Faculty of Community Services, Indigenous Resurgence not only recognizes how colonialism and anti-Indigenous racism impact our practices of Disability Studies, Midwifery, Nursing, Social Work, Nutrition and Food, Child and Youth Care, Early Childhood Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, Occupational Health and Safety, Public Health and Safety. All of these disciplines are not free from anti-Indigenous racism and/or perpetuating colonial systems, but all of these disciplines can and are contributing toward Indigenous Resurgence. But we first have to recognize how anti-Indigenous racism and colonial systems play out. The practices within the Faculty of Community Services all can contribute to the positive health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and this is how Indigenous resurgence aligns with the Faculty of Community Services.

Visioning in some Indigenous cultures speaks to the teachings of the winged ones, particularly the eagle and hawk. The eagle flies the highest and the hawk sees the overall perspective and how specific actions can lead to achieving accomplishments. The vision for Indigenous Resurgence at the Faculty of Community Services is that the nine schools will be the place to be for Indigenous students, staff and faculty.