The Office of Indigenous Initiatives and Western is working to create an intercultural teaching, learning and gathering space that shares and centres Indigenous epistemologies and pedagogies.
The purpose of the space is to facilitate and coordinate services and programming for the Indigenous community at Western as well as the wider community at Western and the Deshkan Zibi territory. The space will serve as a touchstone for Indigenous Graduate and Undergraduate students, as well as faculty and staff.
In addition, the space will exist to welcome on-campus Indigenous engagement and initiatives and seek to engage local Indigenous communities in partnership.
In the context of increasing efforts to Indigenize Canadian universities, Western University launched an Indigenous Strategic Plan in 2016 outlining eight strategic priorities including the need to create and expand on existing Indigenous spaces on-campus.
After a community engagement process (October to December 2018) led by Candace Brunette-Debassige, Special Advisor to the Provost (Indigenous Initiatives), it was announced in July 2019 that the distinctive circular library at the John. G. Althouse Faculty of Education Building will be repurposed into an Indigenous Learning Space. 2019 to the present has brought many obstacles due to Covid. The process of planning and construction has delayed the opening of the Indigenous Learning Space but Western University and the Office of Indigenous Initiatives are committed to creating an innovative Indigenous space opening in the spring of 2022.
The Indigenous Learning Space will act as:
- A home-place for Indigenous initiatives (e.g. Indigenous student groups and Indigenous programming);
- A venue that supports and advances Indigenous ways of knowing and Indigenous pedagogies across disciplines;
- A touchstone for Indigenous peoples and communities to engage with Western through ongoing community engagement and knowledge mobilization activities;
- A place of connectivity among all people at Western who share a common interest in advancing Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation - fostering a sense of community around diversity.